COVID-19: CLO Insists FG, NiDCOM Abandoned Responsibility of Protecting Citizens Abroad

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The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has said maintained that the Nigerian government and her agencies, including the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) has failed to protect citizens in the diaspora.

The CLO was reacting to a rejoinder to its earlier statement by NiDCOM.

In a statement signed by the Executive Director of CLO, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ohabuenyi Ezike, the human rights body said it’s in custody of a rejoinder statement by NiDCOM, captioned, “Evacuation of Stranded Nigerian Travelers Due to COVID-19: Not our Responsibility”.

The CLO therefore said the MiDCOM’s rejoinder “was a response to ours which dealt with our refusal to accept the unconvincing explanations of the Federal Government on its failure to evacuate stranded Nigerians across the world back to our country since the global lockdown against COVID-19 began.

“Our report was published on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, while NIDCOM’s response was published, Thursday, April 30, 2020.

“NIDCOM, in a statement signed by its Head, Media & Publicity, Mr. AbdulRahman Balogun, among other misrepresentations, accused the CLO of ignorance of its Mandate to the Nigerian people, absolving itself from facilitating the evacuation process of Nigerians in Diaspora because it (NIDCOM) wasn’t a member of the Presidential TaskForce on the implementation of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, (which it said was a novel pandemic affecting the entire world) and lastly, that CLO accused it of not executing cases of human rights violations that occurred before it was established.

“The Commission also claimed that the CLO had not officially contacted it, for any reason whatsoever, before accusing it”, the CLO explained.

However, in its response, the CLO said that it is not ignorant of the mandate of NIDCOM, saying that the Commission’s “major mandate among others, include protecting and promoting the rights, welfare and well being of Nigerian citizens in foreign lands. This is its major mandate. Any other mandate is secondary.

“In paragraph 11 of its statement, NIDCOM accepted this role as its responsibility to Nigerians living in overseas.

“Therefore, accusing CLO of the ignorance of NIDCOM’s responsibilities is just a mere masturbation of grammar.

“NIDCOM refusing to do its legitimate duty simply because it is not a member of a mere Presidential TaskForce executing the anti-COVID -19 pandemic project in Nigeria is an acceptance of its ignorance of its legal mandate and should be held culpable by Nigerians for failing to discharge its main responsibility.

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“The duties of a TaskForce cannot deny NIDCOM of its generic duties and mandate which is the protection and promotion of the rights of our citizens in foreign lands.

“On the issue of alleged accusation against NIDCOM by us for not addressing events that took place before it was midwifed, we again see this as a conspicuous misunderstanding of the semantics of historical background or reference in grammatical constructs.

“How could we be so primitive to accuse NIDCOM whose mother had not been married before those events in Singapore, Gabon, Germany and Holland took place of not addressing them?

“Doing so would mean that CLO is suffering from mental disorder. We did not accuse it as alleged.

“What we did was that we accused the Federal Government of Nigeria, both in the past and present, of gross neglect, insensitiveness and abuse of the rights of Nigerians both at home and in Diaspora.

“And in doing so, we had to present facts to corroborate our argument that what is happening to Nigerians in foreign lands did not start today but had a historical background – that is that they have happened in the far and near past as it is still the situation today.

“This was the anchor upon which those pathetic issues were mentioned. It was not to indict NIDCOM but the entire Nigerian system.

“NIDCOM accused the CLO of not having officially communicated it for any issues in the past and it didn’t implement the report.

“We think that this does not arise at all. Must public agencies and officers wait until they are communicated officially on issues of human rights, especially those of critical importance before they intervene?

“Any issues that are in the media are for public consumption and they are there to be appropriated by these institutions and officers for prompt actions and interventions”, the CLO stated.

Reminding the Commission and the public of its antecedents, the CLO observed that “it seems that most Nigerians are forgetting, in a hurry, who the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) is.

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“We are the first, largest and foremost human rights organisation in Nigeria with cordial working relationship with the major human rights organisations in the World such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

“Founded on October 15, 1987, we started researches and publications on human rights violations and abuses in Nigeria and used the outcome of such research works on human rights to fight for the enforcement, protection and enhancement of human rights and civil liberties of Nigerians and residents alike.

“Our works cover freedom for pre-trial persons remanded in custodies across Nigerian prisons and abandoned by our defective justice system, workers who were either sacked or suspended without due process of the law, students who are arbitrarily expelled or rusticated and wives, children and less privileged whose rights are incessantly repressed and abused among others.

“Our scope also extended to fighting for justice for Communities and institutions that are oppressed and getting freedom and respite for them.

“And finally, we collaborated with sister organisations to form pro-democracy coalitions that worked in fraternal alliances with other democratic forces in the country to return Nigeria to civil rule in May, 1999.

“These struggles for human rights, justice, equity, freedoms and democracy were not tea parties but ones that took the lives of some of us, made the prisons and other gulags our homes, caused our sack from our jobs, expelled us from the universities and the likes.

“If a credible, respected and lawful organisation which did all of those, still does them and has become popular in championing the cause of the people, could be dismissed by less than two year old Commission as ignorant, we wonder who then is conscious, aware and informed”, the CLO explained.

The civil rights group then noted that “In view of the aforementioned issues, CLO, without fear of favour or contradiction, still maintains our position that the Federal Government of Nigeria including NIDCOM has woefully failed in their responsibility to protect and promote the welfare, well being and the civil liberties of Nigerians trapped by the COVID-19 global lockdown, especially the visiting business men and women in Guangzhou, China.

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“We recall that while Nigerian authorities remain lackadaisically impotent in addressing the grave issues affecting our citizens overseas, other countries of the world including Togo, Bene Republic, Ghana, Canada and America were busy evacuating their nationals.

“The basic duty of any responsible government, throughout the world, is the welfare and security of its citizens.

“The attitude of Nigerian government towards her citizens overseas more so those trapped in Guangzhou, who have their return tickets, is suspect.

“Already, as at yesterday morning, these victims were tested for Coronavirus with the results being awaited.

“Similarly, the Ethiopian Airlines that took these Nigerians to China is said to be charging the same passengers with return tickets a whopping N800, 000.

“The government should intervene to rescue these Nigerians from the devouring hands of Ethiopian Airlines.

“It is the duty of our government to intervene on behalf of these Nigerians and ensure that they are not unnecessarily exploited by the Airlines.

“NIDCOM should not shy away from this responsibility whether they are part of the TaskForce executing the anti-COVID-19 pandemic project or not. While they settle this, all of them – the Federal Government, the National Assembly, the TaskForce and NIDCOM must join hands to together to ensure that our trapped kinsmen and women overseas are evacuated immediately.

“CLO enjoins other civil society organisations, the Nigerian women and Nigeria Bar Association etc to join us in this campaign for the enforcement of the rights of our people in foreign lands”, the statement concluded.

The CLO had earlier call on the Federal government of Nigeria to urgently evacuate the over 300 stranded Nigerian in the city of Guangzhou in China. 

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