The recent assault on Nigerian travellers transiting through the Gnassimgbe Eyadema International Airport in Lome, Togo, is one that calls for serious action to preserve the integrity of the country and guard against her being taken for granted by its neighbours. According to reports, the unacceptable incident occurred when Nigerians travelling from the United States (US) to Lagos on Ethiopian Airline arrived in Lome, Togo, and were told that their connecting flight, Asky Airline, was full and that they could not continue their journey.
Infuriated by the development, some of the passengers protested but were beaten, handcuffed, and manhandled by Togolese security and airline personnel. In a viral video, some of the passengers were seen with their hands tied behind their backs. In a particular scene, uniformed men believed to be Togolese airport security guards were seen assaulting a Nigerian lady on the floor. Different accounts have been rendered on the ugly incident.
Good enough, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Nigerian Embassy in Togo, waded into the matter promptly and evacuated the stranded passengers. This notwithstanding, we call for a thorough investigation of the incident. It is commendable that the Nigerian Embassy in Togo registered its displeasure with the host country over the maltreatment of Nigerians. The assault meted out to innocent Nigerian travellers, who were not accused of breaching any known law or committing any crime, is barbaric, inhuman and against international best practices.
We commend the House of Representatives for mandating its Committees on Foreign Affairs, National Security and Intelligence to liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate the incident. The investigation should be carried out with a great sense of urgency. If the action of the Togolese airport officials is left unquestioned, it will give security personnel in other countries the impetus to treat Nigerian travellers with disdain, disrespect and further brutalisation. There is need for the Federal Government to send a strong message to the Togolese authorities over the unwarranted incident.
The untoward action by the airport officials against Nigerians is against all known bilateral and multilateral relations among nations. In particular, it is against the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on free movement of citizens, goods and services. Togo and Nigeria are incidentally foundation member states of ECOWAS. Besides, both countries have had long period of diplomatic and cultural relations. Citizens of each state, except on proven cases of malfeasance, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The highhandedness of the Lome airport officials against Nigerians is a slap on the sovereignty of Nigeria. This is especially when no proven allegation of violating the laws of the host country has been established against them.
We urge the government and relevant agencies not to treat this incident with levity or sweep it under the carpet. Assault on Nigerians by their host countries has become the norm, lately. The Togo episode is one in the series. Ghana, some time ago, shut out Nigerians from certain businesses or forced them to pay exorbitant fees to remain in operation. At the time of xenophobic attacks against foreigners in South Africa, Nigerians were the prime targets. In Indonesia, a Nigerian Consular official was also manhandled by the country’s security officials. These veiled acts of aggression against Nigerians must stop.
We find the attack on Nigerians in Togo unacceptable. Government should invoke all the necessary instruments in state relations to seek redress. Nigeria deserves unqualified apology from Togo for the unfriendly treatment against its citizens transiting through the country. If the Togolese authorities dither in taking appropriate actions to remedy the situation, the government should explore all options in state relations, including invoking the principle of reciprocity in registering its grievances against the action.
Notwithstanding how the government and Togo resolve the matter, we enjoin Nigerians resident in other countries to obey and respect the laws of their host countries.