Of 1,500 Nigerians in Italian Prisons and Greener Pasture Seekers

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The other time, we got wind of the UK government’s plan to build a special wing in the Kikiriki Prison in Lagos, so that Nigerians who are serving jail terms in different UK prisons could be transferred to Nigeria to complete their terms.

Similarly, the German government recently revealed that it was challenged on how to handle over 30, 000 Nigerians who are to be repatriated to Nigeria over illegal immigration and other related offences.

There are certainly more Nigerians, who are still languishing in immigration centres and prisons in different countries around the world for various infractions, whose circumstances would never get to the public.

So it didn’t come as a surprise when the Italian government, through its Ambassador to Nigeria, Stefanou Pontesilli, recently announced that there were 1,500 Nigerians in different prisons across Italy.

In fact, the Italians basically said that their capacity to keep these offenders was overstretched. As such, they asked the Nigerian government to come to their rescue.

But as much as the call from Italy may have stemmed from a place of sincerity and concern for the welfare of Nigerians, though prisoners, it is also, quite unfortunately, misplaced – going by the situation in Nigerian prisons.

According to the statistics revealed in March 2018, by Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, not a few prisons in Nigeria are grossly overcrowded.

“What I saw in Port Harcourt prison was gory because the prison has no rooms, but just serving as warehouse for the over 5,000 inmates accommodated in it instead of 800 inmates designed as capacity for the prison,” he lamented.
He revealed, in addition, that the Kirikiri Maximum Prison in Lagos, which was built to accommodate 956 inmates, was then home to 2,600.

Of course, this problem of overcrowding has led to many more like rapid deterioration of facilities, poor feeding, congestion amongst others.

But then, the problem probably wouldn’t be so intense, had the government been up to one of its major responsibilities, which is to ensure dispensation of justice within the shortest possible time frame.

According to a report, March 2018, by the New Telegraph, 68 per cent of the inmates in Nigerian Prisons nationwide at the time were awaiting trial. “Many of these have been incarcerated for a longer time than the time they would have served if they had been sentenced,” the report said.

This same disregard for a person’s right to fair hearing and timely justice is what the Nigerian government metes out on Nigerians in diaspora.

It’s indeed disheartening to reliably gather that many of the Nigerians in prisons abroad have found themselves behind bars over offences committed out of sheer ignorance and desperation to use illegal documents to eke out a living.

Their circumstances are usually compounded by the absence of support from Nigerian missions abroad, which, themselves, are suffering from lack of organisation to fight for good causes to benefit their citizens in foreign lands. Hence the stories, more often than not, end in sorrow.

However, that so much has been reported about the terrible experiences of many Nigerians abroad with little or no help from relevant government authorities from Nigeria doesn’t mean that Nigerians of good conscience and influence should cease to amplify the need for justice and help for hapless citizens abroad.

While it is well known that the Nigerian government presently has its hands full, not with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) running into millions amongst many other issues begging for its attention, it still needs to do something quickly about this unfortunate development in Nigerian prisons and the state of Nigerians serving terms in prisons around the world.

There must be renewed outrage through peaceful protest; and calls for relevant government authorities to wake up to their duties, and create better working relationships with foreign countries, where Nigerians reside and travel to, for the improvement of Nigerian missions and embassies in such lands to effectively serve its citizens in diaspora.
Also, as an essential proactive measure, government at various levels in Nigeria need to commence an aggressive awareness scheme to sensitize citizens on the danger of unplanned migration and the rules of foreign lands especially the countries most visited by Nigeria.

Finally, to those who still seek greener pastures overseas, make sure you seek the legitimate routes first and watch before you jump in order not to land in jail.