The Federal Government has ratified a prisoners’ swap deal with the Chinese government to enable it repatriate Nigerians serving various jail terms in China. This was disclosed to newsmen, last week, by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja.
For now, the arrangement is said to be for only Nigerian prisoners in Macau, an autonomous region in the south coast of China. But, with time, it will be extended to other prisons where Nigerians are serving jail terms in China.
The government’s decision to initiate the prisoners’ swap deal is, indeed, commendable. The sordid image of Nigerians in foreign prisons is not good for the Giant of Africa. And, it does not help our drive for foreign investments. Since China is now our major trade partner, the swap deal may further cement our bilateral relations.
We salute all those that championed the deal and urge them to ensure its hitch-free execution. After the Chinese swap deal, the government should go ahead and negotiate such deals with other countries where our nationals are suffering in their prisons.
These countries include Cambodia, Indonesia, Italy, Canada, Britain and India. It is sad that hundreds of Nigerians are currently languishing in foreign prisons mainly for overstaying their visas, drug trafficking and other crimes. Most of them are subjected to torture and inhuman treatment in these prisons.
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We think that bringing them to the country to serve out their jail terms will lessen their sufferings and give them a sense of belonging. It is estimated that about 170,000 Nigerians are in jails in foreign countries. About 600 Nigerians are in various prisons in Guangdong Province of China for different offences. Also, not less than 1,500 Nigerians are currently languishing in prisons in Cambodia while 96 Nigerians are in jails in Indonesia. About 3,719 Nigerians are held in Canada for sundry offences while over 750 Nigerians are in British jails. In Italy, there are 1,500 Nigerians serving various jail terms for various offences in its prisons.
We also urge Nigerians in foreign countries to respect the laws of their hosts. They should not indulge in criminal acts. Let our nationals avoid drug-related offences and other crimes that may land them in jail. There is no doubt that some Nigerians may be in jail in foreign lands due to conflict of laws.
Therefore, Nigerians intending to visit other countries must find out their immigration requirements and be ready to obey their laws. We enjoin Nigerians in foreign countries not to overstay their visas. Not quite long ago, the government mooted a prisoners’ swap deal with the United Kingdom authorities (UK). Up till now, it is not certain how much the government has accomplished in that direction. Government should therefore expedite action on it.
Recently, over 200 Nigerians in Nsawan Medium Prison in Ghana appealed to the Nigerian government to fast-track the signing of Prison Transfer Agreement with the West African country to enable them complete their prison terms in Nigeria. About 359 Nigerians are in various jails in Ghana for drug trafficking, human trafficking, armed robbery and other crimes.
Some Nigerians are in various prisons in other African countries. To stem the unbridled ambition of some Nigerians to travel abroad, where they think that the grass is always greener, the government must create the enabling environment for gainful employment.
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The rising unemployment among the youths is apparently fueling the penchant of Nigerians to migrate to other countries by all means. It is also behind their engagement in drug trafficking and other crimes to make a living. Nigerian youths should be made to understand that they can make it on our shores if they persevere. The picture of things being so rosy in foreign countries portrayed to them is never a true reflection of the situation abroad.