AIDOGHIE PAULINUS, who was in Jakarta
The Nigerian Ambassador to Indonesia, Amb. Hakeem Balogun, has said a total number of 407 Nigerians are serving various jail terms in the Indonesian prisons.
Aside the number, Balogun also said that more than 400 Nigerian immigration law violators are currently in Indonesia immigration detention centres.
The envoy also disclosed that 14 Nigerians are on death row out of the 136 sentenced as a result of drug-related cases.
Balogun, however, said that since 2017 when he assumed duty as the Ambassador of Nigeria to Indonesia, drug peddling by Nigerians had become non-existent, but replaced with cybercrimes.
He listed other crimes committed by Nigerians and figures to include: “419/Yahoo Yahoo: 53; Immigration offences: 213; Rape: 5,” bringing the total number to 407.
Balogun also disclosed areas Nigeria can learn from Indonesia, particularly the Indonesian model of fighting corruption.
How is your experience so far in Indonesia?
I must say it has been interesting since my arrival here in September, 2017.
What are the similarities between Indonesia and Nigeria?
Nigeria and Indonesia have enjoyed a constructive and substantial bilateral relationship since the two countries established diplomatic relations more than four decades back. The bilateral relation between the two countries is further heightened by their shared commitments to strengthening democratic values, economic re-vitalization and youth empowerment, as well as their like-minded approach to a broad range of global issues. Although we are on different continents, we have shared similarities, which include multi ethnic/religious characteristics, food, weather etc. The two countries also happen to share common views and interest at various international fora such as the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, World Trade Organization (WTO), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Developing Eight Countries (D-8) and other international organisations. We are also members of theAfrican, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries with preferential trading relations, as well as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Is Nigeria’s diplomatic ties with Indonesia fruitful?
Certainly. Nigeria and Indonesia have a long history of friendship. Indonesia attained independence in 1945 while Nigeria gained its independence 15 years later in 1960. As a follow up to the independence of the two countries, bilateral ties were first established in 1965. Indonesia extended diplomatic relations to Nigeria in 1967 when the Indonesian Embassy was opened in Lagos. The Nigerian Embassy in Jakarta was thereafter established in 1976 to boost existing relations. It is also on record that Nigeria was the first sub-Saharan African country that established a diplomatic mission in Indonesia and Indonesia recognizes the significant importance of Nigeria in Africa. Presently, there are over 15 Indonesian companies operating in Nigeria such as Indorama, PT Indofood, Kalbe Farma, PT Mayora, PT Nutrifood and Sayap Mas Utama etc. These companies also use Nigeria as a base to explore the economies of other countries on the African continent. In a bid to ensure a more balanced trade relation with Indonesia, we are making concerted efforts to encourage Nigerian companies to establish and operate businesses in Indonesia.
So, the question of shutting down the Embassy should not arise?
I would say with the level of official interactions and engagements between Nigeria and Indonesia, the question of shutting down the mission should not even arise. It will interest you to know that Nigeria is currently the number one trade partner of Indonesia in West Africa and Indonesia also has a trade office in Lagos, which promotes and coordinates trade and investment activities between businessmen/women of both countries. The Embassy of Nigeria in Jakarta also performs its statutory functions of maintaining economic and political relations with Indonesia, including promotion of trade and investment, protection of the interest of Nigerians living in Indonesia, prompt issuance of visas to business persons and other officials, as well as coordination of consular and immigration matters, etc. Evidently, with all the activities highlighted above, it can be confidently said that the relations between the two countries have been fruitful and progressive to a large extent, except for some consular and immigration irritants.
What is the volume of trade between both countries?
Nigeria and Indonesia are both emerging economies and have grown to become major economic hubs in the West Africa sub-region and Southeast Asia respectively. Both countries are richly endowed with human resources (Nigeria’s population is about 180 million people, while Indonesia has more than 260 million people). Whereas Nigeria embraced regional trade liberalization and global competitiveness with a view to encouraging foreign direct investment, Indonesian policies are intended to protect its local industries and strengthen domestic manufacturing with a view to growing its economy. However, as part of President Widodo’s second term agenda, the president has expressed his commitment to create bureaucratic reforms which will simplify investment bureaucracy, relax strict labour rules, open up more areas to foreign investors, speed up trade agreements and transform Indonesia’s economy. It is, therefore, hoped that in the coming years, Nigeria will match Indonesia’s investments and the trade volume between our two countries will double with mutual benefits. Sequel to the economic policies between Nigeria and Indonesia, as well as the good relations the two countries continue to enjoy, there have been significant flows of Indonesian businesses into Nigeria. The volume of trade between Nigeria and Indonesia increased from US$3.18 billion in 2012 to about US$4 billion in 2014, but presently, it has drastically reduced to around $1.73 billion in the recent past, perhaps due to fall in oil prices and global financial crisis. Indonesia exports products such as footwears, detergents, electronics, food/beverages, garments and pharmaceuticals to Nigeria, while it imports crude oil from Nigeria through third parties. Like I said earlier, currently, there are over 15 Indonesian companies operating in various sectors in Nigeria including: Indofood (producer of the popular Indomie noodles), Indorama (major shareholders of Eleme Petrochemical Refinery), Kalbe Farma, (in a joint venture with Orange Drugs Nigeria), Wings Group (producer of Klin Detergent), PT. Timah, (mining and smelting company), PT. WIKA (energy procurement and construction company). On the other hand, we do not have any serious Nigerian business concern in Indonesia. Realistically speaking, we do not have any product in Nigeria, apart from oil, that we can come and introduce into the Indonesian market. Consequently, our citizens here are itinerant business people who, all they bring in here are Nigerian consumables for the Nigerian citizens living here.
So, the trade volume is in favour of Indonesia?
The volume of trade, no doubt, has been mainly in favour of Indonesia. Unfortunately, trade relations between the two countries have been lopsided and to the advantage of Indonesia. As said earlier, it is regrettable to note that Nigeria does not currently have any known registered company operating in Indonesia.
How many Nigerians are living legally in Indonesia?
According to records available in the Embassy, there are about 5,000 Nigerians living in Indonesia. This figure may be just a fraction of the total number of Nigerians, as most Nigerians in Indonesia are unskilled and mostly undocumented and, therefore, remain in hiding. Less than three per cent of the total known number live legally and are engaged in legitimate businesses in the country.
What do they engage in, in terms of occupation?
It is a pity that a greater percentage of our citizens living in Indonesia are not gainfully employed, but are engaged in vices. Drugs used to be associated with our citizens, but that has drastically reduced now. In fact, we can say it is non-existent. Since my arrival, I can only recall one or two Nigerians arrested on drug-related offence. However, the attention has shifted from drug-related crimes to wire offences. The common social vice you will find a good number of our citizens now is cybercrimes, which I dare say is done in collaboration with the local indigenes. Despite the large involvement in crimes, we still have some Nigerians living in Indonesia who are itinerant traders engaged in petty trading and other business activities. We also have a handful of Nigerians who are in highbrow vocations.
In recent years, we witnessed the execution of some Nigerians by firing squad as a result of drug-related offences, with the Nigerian government expressing its displeasure. Even though the Indonesian government had always insisted on the law taking its course, what effort has the government made in that direction to ensure that our citizens don’t go through that horrible experience?
The government of Nigeria, through the instrumentality of its successive representations, has, to some extent, reined in on Nigerian drug peddlers while it continues to engage Indonesian authorities at the level of government-to-government to explore other punishments for drug offenders, including the possibilities of transferring/exchanging Nigerians serving prison terms in Indonesia to complete their jail terms in Nigeria. Fortunately, since my assumption of duty in September 2017, there has been only one or two reports to the Embassy on drug cases involving a Nigerian. What I have been saddled with most, are immigration law offenders. I am working with the head of the Immigration Department to see how to reduce immigration violation to the barest minimum, if not completely stopped. I recently met with the Director General of Immigration to discuss the existing immigration irritants, especially extortion of Nigerians at Indonesian airports, high handedness of immigration officials and inhuman treatment of Nigerians in Immigration detention, which allegedly has led to the death of two Nigerians in recent times. I believe that very soon, the outcome of that meeting will bring relief to the more than 400 Nigerian immigration law violators currently in Indonesia immigration detention centres.
Is it true that Nigerians are not allowed directly into Bali as a result of damage caused by drug peddling?
To the best of my knowledge, any Nigerian with a valid visa and immigration clearance can travel to Bali or any part of Indonesia. However, where you have cases of people not being allowed into Bali or any other part of the country could very much be attributed to the issue of non-clearance of visas granted to such travellers by local immigration. The approval of the visa has to be done by the relevant authority before such persons arrive the point of entry. It, therefore, means that even when a visa is granted, it does not guarantee entry for such travellers if it has not been cleared by local immigration. To avoid cases such as this, we usually advise every Nigerian coming to Indonesia to ensure visas granted to them are cleared by the Indonesian immigration before they embark on their journey.
Is the Nigerian government going to reciprocate?
Well, every country has its own immigration laws, which must be respected. Indonesians travelling to Nigeria also have to abide by our own immigrations regulations. In my two years in Indonesia, I have received and I also know that several Nigerians, both government officials, civil society practitioners and private individuals visit Bali for various reasons. So, it is untrue that Nigerians are not allowed to visit Bali for whatever reason. In this regard, there is nothing for the government of Nigeria to reciprocate.
How many Nigerians on death row in Indonesia?
There are 407 serving prison sentences as follows: Drugs: 136 (14 on death row); 419/yahoo yahoo: 53; Immigration offence: 213; Rape: 5, bringing the total to 407.
What legacy do you want to leave behind in Indonesia?
My ultimate goal is to engage with relevant government authorities, both in Nigeria and in Indonesia, to fast-track free flow of mutually-beneficial economic activities between our two countries by ensuring that both governments remove all impediments to bilateral trade. Secondly, I am also committed to improving the image of Nigeria in Indonesia by engaging all the parties to ensure that the narratives about Nigeria in Indonesia are changed for good and Nigeria as a country, as well as Nigerians in Indonesia, can be respected and treated with the dignity they deserve.