Lagos Governor Fashola’s deportation of Nigerians within their country is a cruel, unlawful absurdity
By Ken Okorie
USAfrica, Houston: On Wednesday, July 24, 2013 the Lagos State government in the Southwest of Nigeria led by its Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) deported 72 Nigerian citizens of Igbo origin and dumped all of them at a location near the Bridgehead in Onitsha, Anambra State in South eastern Nigeria around 3 o’clock in the morning. The deportees are said to include beggars, petty traders, the aged, women and children and the
physically challenged, who were rounded up and driven in nine Lagos State buses across several state lines to Onitsha where they ware abandoned.
Governor Fashola and several of his top aides have variously explained that what happened was not deportation, but is a Social Welfare Intervention, involving several homeless destitutes and other psychiatric cases roaming the streets and some living under the bridges in Lagos. The governor explained that these people were taken in and treated and cared for by the Lagos State Government free of charge and thereafter needed to be reintegrated with their families (emphasis added).
To say the least, this whole saga is indeed very disturbing. Deportation of Nigerians within their country is a cruel and tormenting reminder of the legally untenable notion that citizens could abandon their property within the country that claims their allegiance. What manner of absurdity is Nigeria?
A nation’s right to the allegiance of its citizens is only as good and valid as its resolve to protect and preserve their rights, interests and safety.
To my mind, it is difficult to determine which is more egregious, the inhumane violation of constitutional and human rights meted out to these citizens or the shameful explanation, especially as provided by the Governor Fashola himself!
Frontally, one must bear in mind that the deportees are citizens of the federal Republic of Nigeria and were deported within their own country. Next, Governor Fashola himself is a lawyer that enjoys the status of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the highest level of designation and accomplishment in Nigeria’s legal profession. If a lawyer and leader of government can trivialize and trample on the rights of citizens in this manner, what hope is there for Nigeria? This is serious cause for concern!
On July 31, 2013, a strongly worded letter of protest was reportedly sent by the Governor Peter Obi of
Anambra State to the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. In the letter, posted by Elombah.com, Governor stated that:
“No amount of offense committed by these people, even if deemed extremely criminal, would justify or warrant such cruel action by a State authority and in a democracy. Even refugees are protected by the law. Furthermore, the extant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution states: “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part, thereof, and no citizen shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom”.
In my view, Governor Obi is acutely right on all the points attributed to him. The constitution of Nigeria and Internationally guaranteed human rights of citizens supersede all other state law and considerations. Accordingly, enforcement of any local or state law should be done with full deference to, and safeguard of, these rights.
Also, the letter to Aka Ikenga, the Lagos-based socio-cultural group of Igbo professionals, from Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige (the Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District in the Nigerian legislature and himself a former governor of Anambra State) conveyed this curious explanation given to the Senator when he personally met with Governor Fashola over this issue on July 29, 2013:
“At the meeting, the Lagos State Governor disclosed that contrary to claims, the issue in question has nothing to do with deportation, but a Social Welfare Intervention, involving several homeless destitutes and other psychiatric cases roaming the streets and some living under the bridges in Lagos. These people were taken in and treated and cared for by the Lagos State Government free of charge and thereafter needed to be reintegrated with their families.
After this rehabilitation the affected people disclosed their true identities and the disclosure revealed that 14 of them were from Anambra State. For the purpose of reintegration with their kith and kin back home (most of them had nobody in Lagos) and for further social support and care, Lagos State Government communicated the Anambra State Government as well as other affected state governments to come forward and identify and take over their people….
On receipt of this communication, Anambra State Government requested for the identities of those claiming to be from the state… The list was promptly supplied to them by Lagos State for immediate and urgent action….
With further contact and pressure Anambra State Government preferred that the handing over be done at bridge head and Lagos State obliged but found no Anambra State Government Representative on arrival at the agreed date and was hence forced to leave the people at a government office they found at the Niger Bridgehead.
The Lagos State Government further explained that this kind of exchange of destitutes occur between states, as she recently went to Akwa Ibom State to take back two of her rehabilitated citizens….”
I have a feeling that someone might by trying to pull a fast one on Ndi-Igbo and all of Nigeria. Could Senator Ngige, a member of Fashola’s ACN political party be letting partisan sentiments override legitimate concern for fellow citizens, (Ndi-Igbo at that) who have been maltreated by his political benefactors in Lagos? This needs exploring.
As Governor Obi rightly claims, even if the deportees committed crimes (and there is no suggestion that this was the case) it would not matter. Under no circumstances should citizens be treated in this manner anywhere, much less in their own country.
Governments transfer and exchange criminals and other citizens for various reasons all the time. Persons so transferred or exchanged are not simply dumped at the border or doorstep of the receiving jurisdiction. For example, when the US deports foreigners, agents of the American government accompany the deportees and duly hand them over to officials of the receiving government before returning home to the US.
When Britain deported radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada to Jordan on July 7, 2013 after more than a decade-long battle to remove the man British prosecutors described as a key al Qaeda operative in Europe and who was charged in the US for the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, a private jet flew him from the Royal Air Force base at Northolt to Jordanian capital of Amman, where he was handed over to Jordanian officials.
Senator Ngige’s letter to Aka Ikenga suggests that there was prior communication and agreement between Lagos and Anambra governments to deliver the deportees to Anambra State. Assuming such prior arrangement was made, why did the buses that carried the deportees from Lagos not take them to Anambra State capital of Awka? If going to Awka was not feasible, why did the Lagos State buses and officials not wait until their counterparts from Anambra State government were present or summoned to the Bridgehead location for proper and official hand-over of their human cargo? How can anyone verify the actual number of deportees or their safety? What guarantee exists that the number of deportees that left Lagos was the same as arrived the Bridgehead, since these folks (admittedly including mentally challenged individuals) were abandoned in the darkness of night and left on their own? For that matter and given Governor Fashola’s explanation, what manner of “reintegrating [of these folks] with their families” occurred or could have occurred at the Bridgehead where they were abandoned at night? Legal responsibility for the lives, safety and welfare of the deported citizens never shifted from Lagos State because there was no proper or official hand-over or transfer.
It is instructive that Governor Fashola reportedly told Ngige that representatives of Lagos government recently went to Akwa Ibom to take delivery of destitute citizens of Lagos State. One can assume that the Lagos government officials did not simply pick their citizens on the roadside in Ikot Ekpene or elsewhere in Akwa Ibom State! Why treat the citizens of other states with such ignominy?
When examined closely, the reasons given by the Governor for the campaign against destitute persons make the whole thing even more absurd and disturbing. The referenced publication of Governor Fashola’s reaction includes his government’s explanation that the deportation is “part of preparing the Lagos metropolis as a modern mega-city able to attract tourists and genuine business interests from all over the world”. We must not forget that Lagos remains the premier business center for all of Nigerian, and the primary major aggregation point for all ethnicities going back to the amalgamation of all the protectorates and colonies that formed Nigeria into one country in 1914. It was the nations political capital for over 60 years before the military conceived Abuja, the current national capital, in the mid seventies.
It is not far-fetched to mirror this rounding up and deportation of Nigerians of Igbo heritage to Hitler’s “clean up” of Jews in Nazi Germany? How does a State have the power to decide which citizens can or cannot be seen in public areas? Even the federal government lacks the legal authority to engage is such dehumanizing treatment of persons. If, as Governor Fashola suggests, interstate destitution is such major problem in Nigeria, it makes sense that the federal government should formalize the protocol and process for handling such situations to ensure that the dignity and human rights of citizens (even if deportees) are preserved.
Fashola’s warning to Governor Obi suggests that he, Fashola, needs some educating on the history of the barbaric and genocidal experience of the Igbo in Nigeria, including parts of Lagos and other sections of the current Southwest, who joined the North in the pogroms that led to Biafra and the 1967-1970 war. It is thus relevant to also remind Governor Fashola that his meeting with Senator Ngige occurred on the 46th anniversary of July 29, 1966 when soldiers of the Nigerian Army, led by Major Theophilus Y. Danjuma, arrested and killed Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Head of the first military government in Nigeria following the military coup earlier on January 15 of that year. General Ironsi’s murder (also an Igbo) exacerbated the crisis that was ignited by the military coup, led to the pogrom against Ndi-Igbo in the North and parts of Western Nigeria, and culminated in the civil war that consumed more than 2 million Biafran lives between June 1967 and January 1970.
While they may seem politically and selfishly disorganized at the present time, it should never be forgotten by anyone that Ndi-Igbo are always the willing horse until they are backed into a corner. At that point, they naturally will recoil and the disaster will be nationwide. This was the message of the late Biafran leader, His Excellency General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, to the 1994/1995 Abacha National Constitutional Conference, when he reminded that the last time he “walked out on Nigeria”, things did not go well for the country. He made this statement when the Conference attempted to deny former Vice-President of the Republic, Chief Alex Ekwueme, an opportunity to speak. The Ikemba Nnewi may be dead, but Governor Fashola, and indeed all of Nigeria, would be well advised to heed his caution.
Until the recent excesses of his government, many people of Igbo heritage have praised Fashola’s achievements in Lagos during his term as governor. From sanitation to transportation to other infrastructure, proof of these accomplishments is evident. But considering their contributions in commerce, business, culture, the professions, and all other segments of state life and economy, it would be suicidal for Lagos State to disregard, overlook or take for granted Ndi-Igbo and other persons from Nigeria east of the Niger.
Finally, recurring patterns and occurrences like this confirm that Nigeria did not learn the lessons of Biafra. Certain landmark occurrences in the post-war period provide ample warning for caution that if things should burst again in the country, the disaster will be widespread in all fronts, not confined to Ala-Igbo, as was the case during the civil war.
It may be worth reminding that a one-day non-violent, stay-at-home strike by Ndi-Igbo that was championed by the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) on August 26, 2004 brought all of Nigeria to a suffocating standstill.
Nigeria has the space and resources co-exist, grow, and develop all of its peoples effectively. But a realistic assessment of its future must recognize that Ndi-Igbo cannot continually remain the carpet on which other Nigerians walk at will for narrow sectional interests and agenda. A nation’s right to the allegiance of its citizens is only as good and valid as its resolve to protect and preserve their rights, interests and safety.
•Okorie, attorney at law, is a columnist and editorial board member of USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. He served as first Secretary-General of the World Igbo Congress.
There’s a compelling political trinity to Nelson Mandela: the man, the messiah and the mystique. http://usafricaonline.com/2013/07/18/mandela-95-hearty-cheers-to-his-footprints-of-greatness-by-chido-nwangwu/
President Barack Obama, an inheritor of the global fruits of the multi-racial, progressive and inclusive works of Nelson Mandela (and others like Mandela), will never meet a very physically fit and totally aware Mandela. As a student of history, leadership and communications, I believe that Obama’s handlers made an egregious error, a critical, even if symbolic failure to have planned and scheduled and executed since 4 years for the 44th President of the United States, the first African American to hold the most powerful office in the world to engage and fraternize face-to-face, to meet the same great man that the 51-years old Obama said he spoke to on the phone, a couple of times, in seeking his wisdom on a few matters. I think they waited 4 years and more, too late…. ———
CNN International profiles USAfrica’s Founder Chido Nwangwu. http://usafricaonline.com/2010/06/29/cnn-chido-usafrica/
Also, see Tiger Woods is no Nelson Mandela!
Eight lessons of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. http://usafricaonline.com/2009/11/01/chido-8lessons-rwanda-genocide/
—— Forthcoming 2013 book: In this engaging, uniquely insightful and first person reportage book, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Footprints of Greatness, about two global icons and towering persons of African descent whose exemplary livesand friendship hold lessons for humanity and Africans, the author takes a measure of their works and consequence to write that Mandela and Achebe have left “footprints of greatness.” He chronicles, movingly, his 1998 reporting from the Robben Island jail room in South Africa where Mandela was held for decades through his 20 years of being close to Achebe. He moderated the 2012 Achebe Colloquium at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.”I’ll forever remember having walked inside and peeped through that historic Mandela jail cell (where he was held for most of his 27 years in unjust imprisonment) at the dreaded Robben Island, on March 27, 1998, alongside then Editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and later news chief executive of the CNN, Walter Isaacson (and others) when President Bill Clinton made his first official trip to South Africa and came to Robben Island. Come to this island of scourge and you will understand, in part, the simple greatness and towering grace of Nelson Mandela”, notes Chido Nwangwu, award-winning writer, multimedia specialist and founder of USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned U.S-based newspaper published on the internet, in his first book; he writes movingly from his 1998 reporting from South Africa on Mandela. http://www.mandelaachebechido.com/
Margaret Thatcher, Mandela and Africa. By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica, and the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com. Click for newscast video of London-based SkyNEWS, the global, 24-hour British international tv network’s interview with USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu on April 11, 2013 regarding this latest commentary http://youtu.be/G0fJXq_pi1c )
FULL text of this tribute-commentary at USAfricaonline.com click link http://usafricaonline.com/2013/03/22/long-live-chinua-achebe-by-chido-nwangwu/