By James Ezema
The Federal Government of Nigeria has reacted to reports on lamentations by Nigerians in Tanzanian prisons.
Sequel to the reports circulating in the media on the matter, the Nigerian authorities noted that it became expedient to clarify the issues at stake.
In a statement issued by the Head, Media and Public Relations Unit, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, at Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), the federal government explained that “ever before Covid-19 pandemic, the Nigerian Mission had been working on repatriation of Nigerian prisoners in Tanzania..
“The Ambassador, Dr Sahobi Isa Gada OFR, mni was actually in Nigeria in January 2020, specifically for this purpose , after having successfully secured a release of 60, out of 73 Nigerians, in various prisons in Tanzania.
“Arrangements were then being made by the Ambassador for their repatriation”, the Commission said.
The statement further explained that most of Nigerians in Tanzanian prisons “were arrested for alleged drug related offences, while a few of the offences bothered on immigration.”
Despite securing repatriation for 60 out of the 73 inmates, the mission in the country sent a team out to ascertain if there were more Nigerians in Tanzanian prisons.
“While the mission has joined other countries in making a plea for amnesty for Prisoners during this Covid19 period, the mission remains optimistic the Tanzanian Government would respond positively , while the mission will continue to work on repatriation, which was affected as a result of Covid-19.
“For each of the 73 Nigerians in the Prison, the mission had paid 330.000 shillings as court fees for each of the them, and was always represented in court. The mission had also successfully negotiated repatriation for 60 prisoners.
“It was true that a British citizen working with an NGO did visit the office of the SSA Diaspora to the President then, with a complaint and verdict about the very slow nature of the Tanzanian judicial system which sees trials dragging on for too long.
“The Nigerian mission, after tireless diplomatic interventions , succeeded in getting retrieve for 60, out of 73 inmates.
“While reiterating the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to protect the welfare of Nigerians, we appeal to Nigerians to obey the laws of other countries and be good ambassadors wherever they live.
“For instance, it is disheartening to note that while the mission successfully sought retrieve for 60 inmates, a Nigerian returning to Nigeria after working in Tanzania for three years was caught with hard drugs at Zanzibar and has since been charged to a Zanzibar High Court for possession of illegal drugs.
“While the mission makes regular visitation to the prisons, it must be noted also that no person is allowed into any prison during this Covid-19 and movement of people from one point to another is highly restricted”, the statement read.