By Emma Okafor
Following alleged extortion and discrimination targeted at citizens, Nigerians in Indonesia have appealed to the former Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka to intervene in issues affecting them in the country.
The immigrants had accused the country’s immigration and police officers of targeted raids and harassment, which they said led to the deaths of some of their compatriots, the last being the case of a 41-year-old Nigerian man who fell from a nine-storey building while attempting to escape from immigration officers.
The development led to a violent protest and destruction of properties at the Nigerian Consulate in Jakarta by angry Nigerians who equally accused the Embassy of doing nothing while its citizens were being targeted, harassed and sometimes killed.
In an online television programme, Citizens Forum hosted by Joi John, on Tuesday, Chidoka interacted with the immigrants who called to pour out their hearts during the phone-in programme.
The former minister who frowned at the development after listening to them, however pledged to assist those who wish to return to the country, but said it is of utmost importance to rebuild trust between the Nigerian Embassy and Nigerians in the country.
Chidoka said: “We will see how we can rebuild trust between the Nigerian Embassy and Nigerians living in Indonesia, because we need to get the Embassy on the same page, going forward.
“Do not lose hope, I am a supporter of immigration, we must find legal methods of immigration, we must promote actively our 200 million populations. We must promote actively for the world to lower the bars, allowing freedom of movement, so long as there is freedom of movement of goods. Otherwise, if you can’t move freely, then goods should not be moving freely too. There should be freedom of immigration, so that each country can be a good production area,” he said.
Chidoka however called for calm, advising the visibly angry immigrants to calm down and shun violence, while promising to engage the Nigerian and Indonesian government with a view to finding a lasting solution.
“Stay away from violence, and calm down from attacking the embassy and its officials, I believe that at the end of the day, we are going to find a way to give succor to Nigerians in Indonesia. I can see that the preponderance of the people here are Igbo young men. Just be ready, and I will make sure that I speak out strongly to ensure that the government does something to let those who want to go home go, and also engage the Indonesian government to respect Nigerians there, otherwise we request the Nigerian Government to retaliate against Indonesians who are working in Nigeria, if Indonesians do not follow basic human rights.
“Extorting Nigerians at the entry to Indonesia is wrong, entering people’s houses without warrants is wrong, not respecting human rights is against everything that is noble in human beings. Also the world has come to a point where migrants and itinerant workers have rights, and you must respect those rights.
The former Corps Marshal of the FRSC said he looks forward to getting back to them soon with some specific news on how to move forward.
The CEO of Peace Airlines, Chief Allen Onyema made a surprise appearance in the programme, when he obliged to an invitation by Chidoka to appear in the programme and make contributions towards evacuation of citizens.
Onyema who praised and thanked Chidoka for his intervention in the matter, equally condemned the violent nature of the protest by the angry Nigerians. He said “The images we saw are not something to be proud of. That particular act is wrong, and those who did it should apologize to the government of Nigeria.”
He however added: “When we receive information from the government to evacuate citizens, we will surely send our planes down.”
Earlier in the programme, contributors who mainly called in from Indonesia cried out over what they described as serious maltreatment of citizens by Immigration and Police authorities in the country.
Over 20 callers, out of the numerous who made attempts to speak were able to air their views about how much maltreatment they receive from the authorities in Indonesia on a daily basis. They also narrated tales of woe, where the Indonesian authorities who they accused of being heavily corrupt, took away their hard-earned money and beat them like animals. Some equally gave testimonies of how these authorities would raid their homes, tie them up like animals and steal their valuables, on a regular basis.
Some of them also blamed the Nigerian Embassy in the country for not standing up to assist them in times of challenges, and even called for the sack of the Nigerian ambassador to Indonesia, whom they said is useless since he and the entire consulate have not lived up to expectations.
They complained of rising lack of employment opportunities, and appealed to Chidoka to use his connections to help them leave the country back to Nigeria.
One of the contributors who identified himself as Emeka said: “They arrested me and took N780,000 (30 million rupia) from me. They took my wallet and all the money inside, took my watch, rings, best shoes, national ID card, they will come to raid our apartment, and tie us like goats. Then put us in their vehicle.
“Then they will come back and search our rooms and ransack our belongings, take them and never return them. I came to Indonesia with a business visa. They will take that money and never issue you a receipt. They will also steal your belongings, and ask you to move to another apartment. They don’t treat other African nationals like this, only Nigerians.
Another caller said “So many Nigerians are trapped here. Their passports are expired, and when they catch you, they will not allow you to return to Nigeria. If they arrest you and you tell them, there is no money, they will tell you to tell, your people in Nigeria to sell land and send money so they can bail you. It’s that bad. They use electric shock on us too.
“When our passports expire, and due to be renewed at the Nigerian Embassy, the Embassy denies knowing us, that we are criminals. They will tell you to go back to Nigeria to renew your passport. The Nigerian embassy will also demand for bribe from us.
“So many Nigerians have died in detention camps here because they keep getting beaten until they die. The others are also jumping down from skyscrapers, jumping to their death.”
Another, who identified himself as Kamara expressed himself in anger. He said: “I had my valid papers, and even a return ticket to Nigeria and they caught me last year. They beat the hell out of me, and I paid money to be bailed that night. The problem is that even with your paper, they don’t care. You must pay. Your paper expires every two months,
“They have also banned us from going to Malaysia to renew our papers.
Our embassy knows what is going on, and with your papers you are not free. Once they invade your house, they make away with anything that belongs to you.”
A caller, Davidson, disclosed that the man who jumped down from a nine storey building and died never intended to jump down, but that when the immigration came, they banged on the door with excessive force and they were all afraid. So he wanted to jump into his neighbor’s balcony but didn’t make it.
“When he fell, the police cordoned off the area, and he was not dead then. He was alive for three hours, but there was no assistance. They didn’t want us to help. They claimed to have called an ambulance but no ambulance was coming. I brought my own car for emergency, but they blocked us. The Asian women began to shout. They said they have oxygen but no one to operate it.
Adding “Can you imagine that someone at the Nigerian Embassy said that the man who died didn’t have a valid visa, and that the immigration didn’t tell him to jump. That’s what our Embassy said to us, and said that there was nothing they can do. That was the day I lost all confidence in our Embassy. They even said that if we want to pursue the case, that it’s not the business of the Embassy, that it is a personal issue of Nigerians living in the country.”