Chukwudi Akasike, Adelani Adepegba, Solomon Odeniyi, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole and Abiodun Nejo
11 August 2021
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NIGERIANS, including ex-diplomats, expressed their anger on Tuesday over a trending video showing some Immigration officials assaulting a Nigerian diplomat in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.
This was as the Federal Government announced the recall of Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Asian country, Usman Ogar, due to the ugly incident.
The diplomat, who was apparently in pain while the unyielding Indonesian immigration officers pinned his head to the seat of a car, was heard shouting “I can’t breathe.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who announced Ogar’s recall for consultations at a press briefing in Abuja, on Tuesday, also stated that the government would review the bilateral relations between Nigeria and the Asian country.
Ex-diplomats berate Indonesia
A former Nigerian Ambassador to Mexico, Ogbole Amedu-Odeh, described the attack as a violation of the Vienna Convention, adding that it was too early to know the reciprocal action the FG would take.
He stated, “The (Foreign Affairs) minister has already come out firing from the hip; so, the Indonesians know they need to do the needful because what their officials have done against the Nigerian foreign service officer is antithetical to the letter and spirit of the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic and Consular Rules of 1961 which state expressly that the person of a diplomat is inviolable.
“For them to subject the diplomat to such act is against the letter and spirit of that convention which is essentially the bible of diplomacy. Nigeria is treading cautiously by calling for a marching intervention of the Indonesian authorities or else, Nigeria may be compelled to take measures.
“What measures? We do not know. The recall of our ambassador to Indonesia is a flowery way of registering our dissatisfaction with the way and manner the issue has been handled by Indonesia. Let us watch and see what would happen.”
Another retired diplomat and former Director of Trade and Investment, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rasheed Akinkuolie, also faulted the assault on the diplomat, noting that the first step to take in this case was for Nigeria to protest strongly to Jakarta which had been done.
According to him, though it might be too hasty for Nigeria to break diplomatic relations with Jakarta, the FG needed to have all the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident before taking a hard-line posture against Indonesia.
FG to decide on next steps
But speaking to journalists on the incident, Onyeama said when the ministry saw the video of the diplomat who was being restrained by Indonesian immigration officers in a moving car on social media, it immediately contacted the ambassador in Indonesia, who gave a verbal account of what transpired.
The minister added that the envoy confirmed that the video was indeed of a Nigerian diplomat in Indonesia, noting that the illegal action took place during a round-up by Indonesian immigration officials searching for irregular migrants in the country.
He said, “What we have decided to do is to recall for consultations immediately our Nigerian ambassador in Jakarta, in Indonesia, and we will have full consultations at the highest level and decide what next step to take, including a review, of course, of our relations with Indonesia.”
Onyeama stressed that the action of the immigration officers was a clear breach of the Vienna Convention, adding that it was “an act of egregious international delinquency.”
“The Nigerian government also requested that the Indonesian government take severe and appropriate sanction against the immigration officials that were involved in the act of brazen criminality,” he added.
CSOs ask FG to sever ties with Indonesia
Also, civil society organisations on Tuesday called on the Federal Government to ensure that actions were taken to address the attack on a Nigerian diplomat in Indonesia.
The groups made their positions known in separate interviews with The PUNCH.
The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Dare Ariyo-Atoye, called on the Federal Government to follow the matter up with all manner of seriousness.
He described the development as embarrassing.
Ariyo-Atoye said, “The Federal Government should escalate this to the United Nations and to other international organisations who deal with diplomacy. The Foreign Affairs Minister should also summon the Indonesian ambassador in Nigeria. The ambassador here should understand that Nigeria would not take such disrespect.
“But the Nigerian government has always presented her citizens as worthless before other countries and that is why we are disrespected across the world. Let them (Indonesia) unmask the perpetrators, or if possible, we should sever diplomatic ties for the time being.”
Also, the Convener of Initiative for Global Change, David Owaboye, said Nigeria should sever relationship with Indonesia to serve as a deterrent to countries where Nigerian citizens are being treated with disdain.
Action forbidden in international law, says Odinkalu
Meanwhile, former chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, said, “What happened to him (diplomat) is at least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, if not outright torture. It is a forbidden form of treatment under international law.
“Nigeria has a right and prerogative of diplomatic protection under international law. But if there are no consequences for abuse of your (Nigerian) citizens, then it is likely to happen again.”
In a related development, a group, the Stakeholders of Nigerians in Diaspora in Asia, has condemned the manhandling, torturing and handcuffing of the diplomat.
The Coordinator of the group, Kingsley Nwankwo, who called for sanctions for the Indonesian immigration officers involved, urged the President, Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd), to set up a delegation “to look into the rationale behind the continued maltreatment, inhuman and xenophobic attacks on Nigerians across the Asia continent.”