Nigerian inmates in Ethiopian prison seek repatriation
Nigerian inmates in Kaliti prison, a maximum security prison in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, have called on the Federal Government to facilitate their transfer to prisons in Nigeria.
The inmates are asking to be allowed to serve the rest of their jail terms in Nigeria.
The detainees said they suffer grave human rights abuses in prison.
There are over 200 Nigerians in the Ethiopian prison facility, some of whom are still awaiting trial.
In a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian embassy in Ethiopia, the inmates appealed to the Federal Government to come to their rescue.
They complained of starvation, lack of access to medical care, corporal and capital punishment, and overcrowding.
“The Nigerian inmates in Kaliti maximum prison Ethiopia are soliciting help from the Nigerian government; we ask that the government come to our aid urgently.
“We lack access to water, food and medical care.
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“We are asking the government to intervene so we can serve the rest of our jail terms in Nigeria. Many of us have fallen ill due to malnourishment, the health infrastructure is weak, and inmates are suffering from precarious health issues,” parts of the letter read.
The inmates said communication with families and friends outside Ethiopia is impossible.
They expressed remorse for their actions and appealed for a “second chance at rehabilitation”.
This is not their first appeal for a transfer to a Nigerian prison facility. In 2021, the detainees had decried their poor living conditions, begging for the Federal Government’s intervention.
Also in 2019, one Chika Nwachukwu raised the alarm over the horrible condition of Nigerians detained in the facility. However, their efforts did not yield the desired result.
There are multiple reports detailing the travails of Nigerians incarcerated in the Kaliti prison. The inmates are reported to be enduring conditions at odds with human rights standards.
In August 2019, a Nigerian detainee Odemu Efe reportedly died due to an undisclosed ailment at the facility.
The prisoners are in cramped and dirty quarters, with insufficient food allocations, horrible hygiene with little or no clothing and other amenities.
The government can push for the transfer of a prisoner from Ethiopia or any other country to Nigeria only through diplomatic means, according to AbdurRahman Balogun, spokesperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM).
The NiDCOM spokesperson was responding to enquires by The ICIR concerning the Nigerian inmates’ request for repatriation.
Balogun said the transfer or swapping of prisoners is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and involves memoranda that have to do with Diaspora prisoners.
He disclosed that the government had established a committee headed by the Ministry to draft the MOUs. He, however, could not ascertain how much progress the committee had made.
“I understand that some Nigerians have a difficult time in foreign prisons because of the condition of living. The government has set up a high powered committee headed by the minister of Foreign Affairs and minister of Internal Affairs, and chairman Diaspora Commission and the like.
“The transfer of prisoners to Nigeria is diplomatic and bilateral and is strictly in the hands of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Prisoner swapping is under Foreign Affairs, and as far as I know, the high powered committee is working on drafting memoranda that have to do with Diaspora prisoners.
“Nigeria cannot interfere in the internal affairs of another country except through diplomatic means. And the government can only do that if there is an important reason for it,” the NiDCOM spokesperson told The ICIR.
The NIDCOM spokesperson also noted that it is within the rights of Diaspora prisoners to raise the alarm and call for help from the government if their fundamental human rights are being violated or abused.
When The ICIR reached out to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry’s spokesperson, Francisca Omayuli, said efforts are being made to resolve the issue.
Omayuli said the Ministry was liaising with Ethiopian authorities on the matter.
He noted that the Nigerian prisoners’ requests can be achieved using legal frameworks.
“The Nigerian government is already engaging the Ethiopian authorities to ensure an amicable resolution of the matter.
“The plea for a transfer is practicable and desirable, but it requires a legal framework to be in place, and Nigeria is working towards that,” she said.