Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Austria plans to deport 1,000 Nigerians

A controversial agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Austrian government, allegedly signed last week, to deport 1,000 Nigerian asylum seekers from the European country has received knocks from stakeholders who questioned the propriety of the treaty.

But Nigeria's foreign affairs ministry yesterday distanced itself from the said treaty allegedly signed in Abuja. The ministry's spokesperson and acting director (public communication), Ogbole Amedu-Ode, told LEADERSHIP that his office was not "formally" aware of the development.

Going by a monitored report, the Nigerian ambassador to Austria, Maria Oyeyinka Laose, allegedly led an Austrian high delegation to Nigeria and signed the purported treaty. The report citing the Austrian Press Agency and Austrian newspapers added that the agreement was signed last week in Abuja by the Austrian vice-chancellor and foreign minister, Michael Spindelegger, and Nigerian foreign affairs minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru.

In a swift reaction to the development, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the committee will make concerted efforts to peruse the contents of the said agreement to ensure that the interests of Nigerians in Austria are protected.

Dabiri-Erewa however stated that she has not had the opportunity to go through the details of the document and cannot make any informed statement on it.

"I cannot make any informed commentary if I don't know the details of the agreement. However in all we do, the interests of Nigerians should be paramount," she said.

A report by Uzoma Ahamefule, a Nigerian living in Vienna, Austria, entitled "Austria: Hurting Nigerians through diplomacy" states that Nigerian communities in Austria are calling on President Goodluck Jonathan and members of the National Assembly to come to their aid.

The report reads in part: "The Nigerian people and government officials should go through the report again and envision in whose interest the treaty is trying to serve. What is the gain of the entity called Nigeria in this kind of treaty if not abuses, humiliations, pains and sorrows for her citizens?

"This kind of embarrassing bilateral agreement only tramples on the rights of Nigerians."

Ahamefule said on May 23, 2012, the father of a two and a half-year-old boy was reportedly arrested at his apartment in the morning, and, by night, he was on a plane back to Nigeria.

"Neither the ambassador nor any of her officers got in contact with the man to ascertain what he might have done," Ahamefule said.

Meanwhile, a Nigerian, Anthony Esikalm Ndidi, faces the possibility of a death sentence after he was arraigned before a Malaysian court for alleged involvement in trafficking in methamphetamines in the country.

Suspects standing trial in some Asian countries including Malaysia are usually sentenced to death by hanging if convicted. Hundreds of convicts are on death row over involvement in drug-related offences.

Ndidi was charged with Emma Louise L'Aiguille, an Australian nurse, two weeks after police said they were arrested in possession of one kilogramme of the illicit drug.

Anyone found to be in possession of at least 50 grammes of methamphetamine is considered a trafficker.

The court heard L'Aiguille has been in and out of Malaysia on tourist visas since 2009 and was arrested in downtown Kuala Lumpur on July 17 in the driver's seat of a parked car. A kilogramme of amphetamine was found under a rear seat.

The court heard that two other passengers - both Nigerian citizens and one believed to be L'Aiguille's boyfriend - escaped arrest.

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