Despite the outrage that trailed the assault on a Nigerian diplomat serving in Jakarta, Indonesia, experts in international affairs and diplomacy have posited that no matter how unacceptable the ill-treatment might have been, the unabated assault on Nigerians abroad might have been self-inflicted.
On Monday, news filtered in following a video that went viral about a Nigerian diplomat almost being strangled by Indonesian immigration officials for allegedly moving in the streets without identification.
The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and the public were horrified at this development and raised serious objection to the ill –treatment. The Indonesian Ambassador to Nigeria Dr. Usra Hendra Harahap has been summoned to which he promised that his country will investigate the issue. The Nigerian Ambassador to Indonesia, Usman Ogah has also been invited home for more consultation.
But speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend, a retired Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and one time Nigerian envoy to Ethiopia, Ambassador Bulus Lolo, described the action of the Indonesian officials as ‘barbaric’, adding that it is a wakeup call for Nigerian government and Nigerians.
He however, suggested that apart from the diplomat that was assaulted, there are a deluge of situations where other Nigerians have been so treated probably because of how some Nigerians behave outside the country.
“Our behavior must be such that people will respect us but where we also choose to misbehave outside, you are already inviting others to disrespect you. So, there is a way we should conduct ourselves once we are outside the country.
“These days on social media you see Nigerians attacking diplomats themselves. Now if they see you attacking your own, the foreigners will just join you,” he said.
He also attributed the maltreatment of Nigerians to the desperate economic situation that has driven people away from the country in search of the proverbial greener pastures, adding that some Nigerians trooped out of the country without requisite skills and sometimes may become a problem to the host nations.
“A situation where people troop out for the so called greener pasture whether or not the pasture is really green is a challenge to us. Some go want to go out ill-prepared, they have no work, no skill, they simply say they want to go and try their luck. What is that luck? If you meet hard times you turn around and blame someone else. So, that is the challenge we face,” he said.
He charged Nigerians to be good ambassadors in order to add value to the nation’s image even as he called on the government to look inwards and handle issues of governance in a manner that people are catered for and opportunities created for people to work at home and add value to themselves rather than rush abroad where they will be molested.
“Our foreign policy is an extension of our domestic policy. A Nigeria that is strong, a Nigeria is vibrant, a Nigeria that is booming with opportunities will be a Nigeria that people will like to come in and do business. But if you have so many activities of fraud, people not working but want to live a good life someone is paying the price somewhere.
If we take a bad image out there they might conclude that Nigerians are crooks. But we are not the only country with crooks; others are just managing theirs better.
Ambassador Ogbole Ode, former Nigeria’s Acting High Commissioner to Singapore, said that Nigeria use to have a robust foreign policy in the 60s and 70s but over the years, the economy has deteriorated so much to drive many Nigerians outside the shores of the county especially during the dawn of democratic rule in 1999 as the standard of living is on the downward spiral.
“So, what that translates into our foreign policy posture is that our foreign policy has been on the decline in terms of formulation, execution and consequences. We are increasingly becoming irrelevant compared to the 60s and 70s,” he said.
He however, said that that was not an excuse to manhandle the Nigerian diplomat, adding that Indonesia refused to abide by the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and consular relations, which the two countries are signatory to. He said that if the Indonesian authorities do not provide satisfactory answers to this assault, much as he does not advocate a precipitate action, Nigeria must apply the same measures to Indonesia.
He noted that irrespective of the fact that some Nigerians engage in some misdemeanors and in some cases outright criminal activities, there are still very many decent Nigerians doing legitimate businesses and contributing to the development of their host communities. He however, acknowledged that those with bad behavior are bringing bad reputation to the country’s image.
Also speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend, International Constitutional Law Expert, Livingstone Wechie, said the manhandling and torturous treatment meted on the Nigerian diplomat is a most provocative development that grossly falls short of the standard of treatment deserving of a Nigerian not to talk of a Diplomat or any other human being.
He said the situation raises too many concerns and questions about the fast degenerating state of Nigeria’s diplomatic image and value in the international plane.
He said “Nigerians abroad have continued to be subjected to extreme dehumanising conditions by people that can be described as lesser dignity characters in foreign states and this is most unfortunate. Incidentally it is not unconnected to the disdainful treatment that Nigerians and indeed other Africans are subjected to by their home State on all fours. It has become normal that the way a state treats her citizens is a mirror and a reflection of how foreign states will treat such citizens.
“However, the action in Indonesia against the Nigerian Diplomat as shown in the viral gory video is a clear breach of Articles 29 and 30 of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”.
Article 29 provides that the person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect, and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.
Article 30 provides that the private residence of a diplomatic agent shall enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the mission. His papers, correspondence and, except as provided in paragraph 3 of article 31, his property, shall likewise enjoy inviolability.
Wechie noted that the combined effect of Articles 29 and 30 is that the right of the Nigerian diplomatic agent, his property, premises and documents have breached, as well as his right of inviolability and immunity, adding that these are grave international and diplomatic crimes both against the diplomat and the Nigerian state.
He called on the Nigerian government to wake from her slumber beyond the usual rhetoric to impose strong sanctions against Indonesian government to protest these growing and escalating injustices.
“If the Indonesian authorities can show such reluctance in quickly bringing those Immigration officials to justice then it is left for Nigerian authorities to express faith in its diplomatic rights and privileges by imposing serious and far- reaching restrictions on them.
“Until the Nigerian state begins to show some strength and take steps to assert itself with a view to ensure the respect of its Sovereignty and international Diplomatic rights, more treacherous states like Indonesia will continue to undermine the diplomatic and consular potentials and encroach on Nigeria’s profile,” he said.