NO PROTECTION FROM NORTHERN AMBASSADORS
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.
THE SAD STORY OF JOHN FROM IMO STATE
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.
YOU ARE EITHER DEAD OR MENTALLY DERAILED OR A LIVING DEAD
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.
THE NEED FOR AN INVESTIGATION
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.
UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS INVESTIGATION
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.
DOUDOU DIENE IS SHAKEN AFTER MEETING AFRICANS
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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