The Ordeal Of Blacks And Nigerians In Russia

by Bode Eluyera


The embassy turned a blind eye and deaf ears to the plight of Nigerians who were prosecuted or had one problem or the other with the Russian authority because majority of them are southerners. Moreover, almost for the past 15 years, the embassy has being headedby ambassadors from the north. In addition, the embassy officials have so much compromised themselves by engaging in illegal or immoral activities which makes it very difficult for them to challenge/confront the Russian authority when the need called for it in order to defend Nigerians or ensure that they got a fair trial. Consequently, many Nigerians who were unlawfully arrested for drug trafficking or other crimes in the past had denied their Nigerian citizenship, since the Nigerian embassy was basically not rendering any support in any form whatsoever. Moreover, admitting that one was a Nigerian could even make things very worse.


I met John (name changed) from Imo state recently, who told me about his gruesome experience in the hands of Russian law enforcement. John admitted to me that actually he was involved in drug trafficking, but when the police broke into his house and searched his house for a whole day and could not find anything to implicate him, nevertheless, they charged him to court for ‘the intention to sell’. John further told me that the only thing the embassy did was to provide a letter that he was a Nigerian, and he was told point blank that the embassy was not interested in his case and did not turn up at his trial. John spent ‘7 good years’ the average prison term for drug trafficking, in the terrible Russian prison! He served his term in Mordova; a very cold region thousands of kilometers from Moscow, which takes about a week’s journey by train from Moscow to reach. The purpose of this is to make it practically impossible for a Nigerian serving his jail term to receive visitors, seek any form of legal assistance/consultation or complaint about the violation of his rights. After all, out of sight is out of mind. He told me about the terrible prison conditions; very bad food, very cold rooms, lack of hot water in very cold winter to take bath, very wicked prison warders who often beat Nigerians to unconsciousness or to death in some cases. As a result many often fell sick and did not make it out alive.


The Russian prison system is neither designed to convert an offender into a good and law abiding citizen nor simplify his integration into the civil society after serving his term. Instead, it is designed to destroy the offender either physically or mentally. If you go to Russian prison, in most cases you have two options: either you don’t make it out alive or you are mentally derailed after your release and can not integrate into the civil society any more as a ‘normal citizen.’ The prison has inflicted an almost irreversible damage to your brain. Your psyche has been changed. It has undergone almost a permanent ‘metamorphosis’ from ‘normal’ to ‘abnormal.’ or ‘very abnormal.’ You are like a ‘living dead’ after your release from the Russian prison.


John was lucky to make it out alive. When John was eventually released last year, he discovered that his mother had died while he was in prison, and the father now is paralysed and suffering from high blood pressure. The family could not tell his father about John’s misfortune in Russia to avoid worsening his health. Although, John is just 35 years old now, but he already has grey hair because of the harsh prison condition and the stress he went through in the prison. Almost all Nigerians that were jailed have grey hair at the end of their jail terms. John as well told me that at least a third of Nigerians whom he met in the prison were not involved in drug trafficking but were just rounded up like cattle in the streets or in their (friends’) apartments. He claimed they were those who either did not have the amount the police demanded for or were used as sacrificial lambs by the police to get promotion. I found it very difficult controlling the tears rolling down my cheeks after John had finished telling me about his and other Nigerians predicaments who went through the Russian prisons.


In my opinion, it is very important that The federal government, especially the foreign ministry investigates the activities of the Nigerian embassy in Moscow within the past 15 years, whose inactiveness, nonchalant attitudes and unprofessionalism have led to the imprisonments and lost of lives of uncountable number of innocent Nigerians in Moscow. The federal government must confront the Russian government, since our embassy is not keeping this record, to provide the correct number of Nigerians that have died in their prisons or are still in prison.

Unfortunately, many parents whose children left Nigeria for Europe or Russia are not aware that their children are either serving long jail terms; some for offences they did not commit, or are long dead. According to the Yoruba proverb: ‘Omo mi ku san ju omo mi nu lo.’ Which means ‘A dead son is better than a lost son.’ When you know that your son is dead, though it is a very sad news, but at least you know the true situation of things. You have a rest of mind because you don’t have to spend money and go through the stress of lookingfor him all over the world. At least, they deserve a befitting burial from their parents; if they can afford it, and choose to do so.


Though, to be fair, the new ambassador – H.E. Ambassador Dan Suleiman is doing his best to help Nigerians and improve the image of the country.


A United Nations human rights investigator has just completed a week-long visit to Russia to probe a growing wave of racist killings and beatings.

Doudou Diene, UN special rapporteur for contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance met officials and activitist groups in Moscow and St. Petersburg during the trip.

“There has been a very serious rise in the number of racist attacks in the Russian Federation, including murders, especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and this will be the main subject of concern,” UN human rights spokes man Jose-Luis Diaz told reporters in announcing the visit. Diene also visited “several communities that are reportedly victims of discrimination.” Diene, who is from Senegal, will report his findings to the General Assembly in a few months.


A Moscow based English language daily summed up the end of Doudou Diene fact finding mission to Moscow with the following heading: ‘Doudou Diene is shaken after meeting Africans “scared to go outside”.’ Below is the excerpt of the newspaper report.

‘With attacks on the rise, the state must do more to combat racism and xenophobia, a United Nations official said Friday.

Doudou Diene, the UN’s special rapporteur on racism, said he would urge Russia, in a report to be filled with the UN in the fall, to track the growth of racist attacks, adhere to international standards on protecting minority rights and encourage tolerance.

Diene spoke at a news conference in Moscow after a weeklong trip to Moscow and St.Petersburg.

Today, racism is not an official policy, he said. But there are signs that the problem is serious: Political parties run on racists and xenophobic platforms; skinheads perpetrate violent crimes, with many going unpunished; and some police have been accused of attacking minorities.

Diene said he was especially shaken after meeting with Africans.

“I met with people who have lived in Russia for 20, 30 years, and they are completely isolated,” he said. “They are alone, frightened, and scared to go outside.”

Eighteen people have been murdered and 147 injured in racially motivated attacks since

the beginning of the year, said Galina Kozhenikova, deputy director of the sova center, which monitors extremist activity.

Kozhenikova, among the NGO representatives who met with Diene during his trip, said Sova registered at least two or three attacks every week.

The actual number of non-fatal attacks is probably three or four times higher than what the center registers, she said, because beatings of illegal migrants often go unreported.

Others who met with Diene included Supreme Court Chief Justice Vyacheslav Lebedev, Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev, head of the presidential council for civil society Ella Pamfilova, ombudsman Vladmir Lukin, and Justice and Foreign Ministry officials, among others, a Foreign Ministry spokesmen said.


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bill September 15, 2011 - 10:57 am

I don’t think black people are really wanted anywhere in the world, including Africa.

World traveller December 5, 2010 - 1:22 am

@ Clemmie, If I were you, I wouldn’t go to Russia at this time. These stories are real. Although I’ve never been to Russia, my husband and I (I’m Black and he’s White) were going to make a trip there this year and I decided to do some research. Needless to say, I took a trip elsewhere. I don’t understand why many white countries are this way towards Blacks.

We’ve traveled to many parts of Africa and I’ve never heard of Whites being attacked for their skin color. The fact that someone thinks their skin color entitles them to murder or maim another is something I will never understand. Take a trip to Ghana or let’s start patronising the continent of Africa and other Black countries.

bih September 25, 2010 - 7:07 pm

drug dealers or no drug dealers,they are still nigerians,whether u like it or not and u got to defend them.simple

Clemmie June 7, 2010 - 6:54 am

These comments are really scaring me. I hosted a Russian student, a brilliant young lady, she invited me to come and spend time in Volgograd, Russia this summer. I have changed my mind. I am an African American retired female educator. I do not need any of these racial problems. There are enough of them in the USA. Advice. Should I make the trip? You tell me.

Morens December 27, 2009 - 5:28 am

Omg! This is just so sad. I had tears in my eyes as I read this article about happenings in Russia. I live in Canada but I have few friends in Russia and they tell me about racism and all that but i never for one day wondered it was this bad. I send my prayer to all Nigerians and every other person from Africa living in Russia that God Almight guides them and bring them home safely. This is just too much. It’s sad people have to go thru all that. If our Country Nigeria was not corrupt, who will go to Russia for anything?

Bode thanks for sharing, doh this is really sad. God bless you

IF.......... September 30, 2009 - 6:27 pm

I’m a Nigerian scholarship student studying in saint Petersburg, what the writer said is absolutely true. Its only the almighty God that is guiding we foreigner here especially Africans. i have been a victim when a friend came from another city to visit me, i decided to take him to Hermitage one of the world biggest museum, on our way back we were attacked skinheads they were shouting “RUSSIA IS FOR RUSSIANS”, we ran over 200ms for our lives and many other sad sorries, just couple of months ago a Ghanaian student was stabbed 33 times, as God may have it, he survived it. my prayer is that God would be with us and grant me the few years left for me to finish , so i can gently go back to my lovely country and i would not advice any African to come here to study because here is not the place for us!!!!!

Omo July 14, 2009 - 1:47 pm

The case stated by Mr.Eluyera is gruesome and must say some of these things happened but do we blame the people over there in Russia or people trying to find a living there?

We have read about stories in other countries,it does happened even in France ,UK USA

I think one of the things Nigeria govt.have to do is to make their feeling be known .If you want to come to do biz in Nigeria ,russia should give account of our citizens over there and promise that they will be treated legally and be protected even from the govt.

I will raise a point here ,you Naijas also need to be law abiding .Stop proffing that you are smart and untouchable.

Lets make friends and not creating enemies.

Yes ,they do not like you then stay where you are suppose to be at least your office and campuses until the govt can make a point .If possible lets get our wishes known to the parliament in Moscow

Devushka September 26, 2008 - 3:31 pm

As an expatriate currently in Nigeria, I’ve also lived in the former Soviet Union. The racism and xenophobia in the FSU is very real; During my years there, I knew of African Americans who were beaten up and harrassed by people making monkey jestures at them. Its very sad and disturbing and I caution anyone of color (not just Africans but Asians too) when going to that part of the world to be extremely careful. And I’ve also gone as far as to caution some folks against working and studying there for the same reasons.

I have no doubt that Nigerians are targeted by the police and hooligans for harrassment. Nigerians are targeted elsewhere too. Unfortunately, Nigerians do not enjoy the best reputation overseas and naturally this is unfair to law abiding Nigerians. However, those who choose to go to another country and deal drugs should be punished- full stop. While I can be sypathetic to those who are harrassed due to race (the story of the young girl stabbed 9 times is particularly tragic), its hard to have similar sympathy for known drug dealers.

Your article would have had more credibility had you not included examples of Nigerian drug dealers. Any Nigerian dealing drugs in places like Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Nigeria, etc. etc. is asking for trouble and makes it difficult for fellow Nigerians who want to legitimately live and study in these places.

XXXXXXXXX September 24, 2008 - 4:56 pm

I lived in Saint Petersburg Russia with my grandmother, i am half Russian and half Nigerian, i worked there for a while, yes all that is said above is true, it is a very scary and dangerous place for anybody of color to be, its unbelievable how blood thirsty and extremely narrow minded those Russians are, i was there when the killings mentioned earlier took place and NO ONE CARED, there was also the stabbing of a 9 year old mixed girl 9 times in the head, it was never reported on the news, they are like visious blood thirsty animals, i was always afraid to go to work in the morning and to come home too, you never know who might be following you so i learnet all the ways in and out of my yard and i used a differnt one everyday as much as i could, its a feeling i never want o remember, its horrible.

Adeniyi September 8, 2008 - 12:16 pm

please bros dont scare me cos am intending to come to russia before the year ruins out

David September 7, 2008 - 4:48 pm

i find this article believable, but with limitations. If your lights could be law breakers, then what was exected. “Returning from night club he was shot dead, “what could have happned in the club, we cant tell. If we had evidences of innocent individuals, then i think the Embassy might intervene, but knowing they are involved in a critical social vice most dreaded, intervention by Embassy would paint black the nation even worse than we think it is. Its better to be careful, but dont be too carefull else you get yourself hyper. The greatest prayer someone will pray for you is “GOD BE WITH YOU”. Its my prayer for YOU.

deji August 7, 2008 - 3:54 pm

My nigerian brothers and sisters, how about we give this revolutionary and drastic step a try: DON’T DEAL IN DRUGS ABROAD, AND AT HOME, DON’T LOOT THE TREASURY AS PART OF THE PERKS OF PUBLIC OFFICE. Maybe then we too will have a country that’s not a stinking cesspit.

oyin August 12, 2007 - 10:02 am

well its a pity the only people you could mustar up are drug dealers but even drug dealers have a right for justice but what about the innocent nigerians and africans and sorry but some people dont understand that the nigerian government actually aid these students to study abroad in russia its a pity they are abondoned at the end i study in belarus i understand, nigerans dont like ourselves in nigeria how much more a foregin land.

Andrew Jones January 10, 2007 - 8:36 am

I stayed in Voronezh as a student 10 years ago. I met a very few African students while i was there but never got to know them well. I can say however that racism is evident even as a white English person. How much worse it must be as an African. I find the stories posted believable.Those that are in the position of living in Russia hopefully have positive stories of good people too. I do not want to give advice but i do feel that even when times are difficult we have to do our best to better the world. I hope that you feel that you are doing what you can to live your life the best you can.

tallon January 3, 2007 - 6:33 am

"shot dead at close range in the midst of his Senegalese friends on their way back from a night club in St. Petersburg."

Man me, una for there know say lynching dey happen, yet still una dey go nightclub. I tire ooo!

Anonymous December 31, 2006 - 2:15 pm

ala bekee is not by force. If Russia is really as bad as this article makes it sound for africans or blacks in general, why do people keep going there?

Why would anyone live in constant fear and with no dignity is a foreign land when they have a home in Nigeria?

Anonymous December 29, 2006 - 9:56 pm

You have provided very bad examples for your case. The picture you paint is not totally unbelievable however you have introduced some element of sentiments into it. Let us face the reality here for onces. If any citizen from any country breaks the law in another country and it is established to be so then his/her home country government will not intervene to save his/her skin. Intervention will only happen if that citizen is going to be subjected to a cruel and unusual punishment that has been outlawed in the home country. Now Nigerian embassy cannot intervene in Russia because the punishment meted out to these law breaker is not cruel or unusual by Nigerian standard. Don't you get it. Also remember that in the face of inadequate resources provided to the embassy the criminals or those that have been established to have criminal tendencies are on their own. You have been very uncharitable to the Nigerian embassy officials. You have drawn a very illogical conclusion that the embassy does not care for southerner because the ambassadors have been mostly northerners. Well I find that assertion a very prejudiced view in the same league as the skin heads having a prejudiced view of Africans. I can assure you that if the ambassadors were from the south they would equally find it more expedient to deal with the issues of the non-payment of their staff salaries than going to intervene unbehalf of people involved in shady activities. Indeed there are institutional racism in Russia but it does not help if many of our people are involved with criminal activities. This put the life of innocent people at risk and it is the innocent ones that you should fight for. If John were an american, his government would have intervened because his treatment by the russian will be a cruel and unusual punishment for an american. But for Africans our government treats us worse so why would such a government consider it important to intervene. Your view about the Nigerian embassy will sound more credible if you provide an instance in which an innocent Nigerian was not spoken for by the embassy.

Aminu Wouba December 27, 2006 - 6:03 pm

The only solutions to these problems is that Africans must control their populations and stop bringing people into the world that they cannot support at home and also develop their own lands.

prince kennedy Iyoha December 27, 2006 - 5:09 pm

Mr Bode Eluyera.

What a tragic story you just related. To my understanding, the government of Vladimir putin is aware of these crimes, and chooses not to do anything to remedy the situation? You are also making us to understand that the Nigeria representative in Russia is corrupt and therefore dont have the moral authority to confront the Russians? Or that the Nigerian ambassador to Russia is ineffective because he is from the northern part of Nigeria?

We have read in the European media of the activities of some ignorant members of the Russian community called the skinhead, and the effort of the Russian government to eradicate this unwanted set of people from its society, we have also seen images of the Russian police fighting against this groups. Your mention of the involvements of the Russian police in humiliating immigrants in general, is a thing to worry about, because if the police that are supposed to protect the lives and properties of citizens are involved in the harassment of persons on the street, it means the country is unsafe to live. Like Russia, and every other nations of the world, the possibility of having bad eggs in the police force is probably. But to accuse the entire Russian police as part of a plane to humiliate immigrants particularly African immigrants in Russia is a matter of concern.

Mr. Bode. I think there is a need for Africans resident in Russia to organize themselves, with a purpose to defending yourselves against the so called skinheads, and to try to improve the image of Africans in general, and Nigerians in particular. For an ambassador of a country to deny its own, means that he is ashamed of the actions and activities of Nigerians resident in Russia, not the reason you mentioned in your article, that he hails from the North of the country.

I cannot comprehend why some Nigerians fills they have right to go unto another mans country and destroy the fabrics of that society and then hope to go unpunished, the fact that easy money comes from dubious activities like drug trafficking, and other offences like farcifying documents and the traffic of fellow Nigerians for prostitution is not the only way to earn a living in Europe. The activities of this dubious Nigerians put the lives of other noble Nigerians in particular, and Africans in general at risk.

My Advice to you Mr. Bode is to try to put your house in order, organize our people resident in that country, and try to build a reputation for yourselves, help the police of that country to fish out the bad eggs among you, and see if your society will not gain respect from the ambassador of Nigeria, and the Russian authorities. I am convinced you have the capacity to do it. Helping to build Nigeria can be done in all level without waiting to be the president of the country. I am doing just the same in my location, and many Nigerians all around the world are doing one thing or the other to help promote the image and statures of our great Nation.

kpor2005 December 26, 2006 - 6:46 pm

I have friends studying in Russia and they corroborrate your story on the activities of the chauvinistic Russian skin-heads. However, I am disappointed in your article because the only two examples of victims of Russian persecution you gave are drug dealers. I mean confirmed drug dealers…there are many innocent Nigerians subjected to discrimination and persecution than the two drug dealers you want the Nigerian Embassy to go and defend. Please, don't perpetuate that myth of all Nigerians been drug-dealers. You should have sighted modest Nigerians who have been unjustly persecuted, which of course is true.


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