By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – CHAIRMAN, House Committee on Diaspora Matters, Rep Rita Orji has condemned the alleged lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Government towards the protection of Nigerians outside the country saying that the government paid more interest in remittance from citizens abroad and not their welfare and that no country has monopoly of violence.
The lawmaker said that even if the government decided to keep quiet in the midst of the incessant attacks on Nigerians especially in South Africa, she will not keep mute when Nigerians were being subjected to all forms of attacks and inhuman treatments.
Addressing journalists in Abuja Monday, Orji who represents Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State said that the government was not doing anything to protect her citizens in the Diaspora.
Reacting to the recent Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa said she was not going to be part of the “conspiracy of silence”, adding that Nigerians in Diaspora were only dear to the government of Nigeria because of the funds they remit to the country.
She also accused the government of over-protecting the businesses and interests of South Africa to the detriment of Nigeria. The government, she said, is not “taking a critical look at what Nigerians in Diaspora face in the countries that they are.
According to her, “Are they only important to us just because they need to contribute to National Development? Are we calling them ours because we needed to get hard currencies remitted by them? What about their health and their businesses, are they being protected? Are they being taken care of in the treaties we’re signing in this country?
“Have we taken any bold steps to make sure that incessant killings of Nigerians abroad unlawfully are being taken care of? These are pertinent questions that any Nigerian that loves life would ask. And why would this conspiracy of silence linger while blood is being shed, while Nigerians are being killed like chicken in various countries, while Nigerians are becoming endangered species.”
Orji recounted some of the gory murders of Nigerians in South Africa, Libya and other countries some of which she said her committee had investigated and given the report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with no visible action taken.
She flayed the recent South African violence against Nigerians in which their businesses have been burnt and their goods looted.
Warning that no country has a monopoly of violence, she said, “South Africa has a lot of business interests in Nigeria, MTN is there, Shoprite is springing up all over the place.
“Must we protect the foreign interest to the detriment of Nigerians. Now NCC is hellbent on reviewing upwards the price of data and voice calls in Nigeria to the detriment of Nigerians, even with the intervention of National Assembly, NCC is bent on doing that on their own, just to protect the interest of the foreigners.”
Representative Orji called on the Foreign Affairs to rise up and call for a full briefing from the Nigerian Embassy in South Africa “on how many Nigerians killed and how many houses were burnt and property looted.
“The South African Government should bear in mind that Nigerians know that they have interests, they have businesses here, they have South Africans here, they should not put their people in jeopardy.”
However, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim told the committee that though it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protect the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians abroad, funds were not made available to the Ministry until the present 2017 budget proposals.
According to the Minister, “it is estimated that there are up to 15 million Nigerians abroad. It is therefore a herculean task for the Ministry to provide protection and welfare assistance when no provision was made for that purpose in the Mission’s budget.
“Other countries make financial provision for repatriation of remains, lost income and loss of passport, funeral expenses, medical bills, amongst others, which our missions can’t, due to the paucity of funds. Yet, Nigerians expect, unrealistically, missions to offer these services.”
According to her, it is only in the 2017 budget that the sum of ( 400,000,000.00 ($1.3 million) was appropriated. “This is clearly inadequate to cover the sheer volume and complexity of the consular challenges facing Nigerian Missions abroad, including the strategic engagement with Nigerians in the Diaspora.”
She said the number of Nigerians in prisons abroad was 15,316 as at December, 2015, noting that, “The update for 2016 is not complete as the Ministry is awaiting updates from our missions abroad.
“Regrettably, some Nigerians are on death row in Countries like Indonesia, with about 13 inmates for drug related offences.”
The Minister said Nigerians in Diaspora remitted over $21 billion in 2015, and that in recognition of the huge potentials of Nigerians in Diaspora for National Development, the Diaspora Desks in Nigerian Missions abroad are now to be part of the Economic Section.
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