By Emmanuel Onwubiko
One area of lacuna in the administrative style of President Muhammadu Buhari is his lack of a workable strategy to provide formidable buffers to secure Nigeria and Nigerians at home and in foreign jurisdictions to such an extent that critical thinkers are beginning to conclude that Nigeria has virtually become a failed State.
The Nigerian Constitution has made it unambiguous that Security of lives and property of the good people of Nigeria and their Welfare is the centre-piece or essence of Nigeria having or putting in place a government. This primary duty and responsibility of government is yet to be met by the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari since coming to office more than five years ago.
The State of insecurity in Nigeria is notorious but this piece is meant to talk about the declining powers of Nigeria outside of the Country, which is signposted by series of violent attacks targeted both Nigerian citizens and the Embassies of Nigeria all over the World with Ghana becoming the latest place whereby the diplomatic complex of Nigeria was demolished by a certain businessman in Ghana.
Imagine! small Ghana with less than 30 million people demolishing the Embassy of Nigeria with well over 200 million people and the self-acclaimed giant of Africa. Has Muhammadu Buhari turned Nigeria to a giant with a clay foot? The President has also diminished the respectability of the Country by behaving as if we are so weak to reciprocate the diplomatic blow unleashed on us by the Ghanaians.
In South Africa, dozens of Nigerians have been killed by black South Africans who waged series of Xenophobic violence since few years back. In all of these, Nigerian government has demonstrated unbelievable degree of weakness and a total lack of strategy on how to safeguard the respectability that Nigeria ought to enjoy from those foreign entities as a Sovereign State and indeed a nation that prides itself as the giant of Africa.
Muhammadu Buhari even travelled to South Africa in the wake of the vicious Xenophobic attacks against Nigerians by Black South Africans to meet the South African President when he could have approached the African Union and the United Nations to report these violations and genocides.
These incessant attacks against Nigerians abroad are happening at the same time that over 26, 000 Nigerians have lost their lives through terrorism at home and organised violence by armed Fulani herdsmen; Kidnappers and armed bandits of all categories. To state that Nigeria has become generally unsafe is almost like an understatement because globally, boko haram terrorists and other Islamic extremists carrying out bloody rebellion in the North East of Nigeria are known to be the third deadliest terror gangs internationally.
What however shocks this writer about the violations of the diplomatic immunity of Nigerian Embassies as have happened in Ghana and Indonesia and a similar issue of controversy linked to the Nigerian Embassy in Congo, is that the President who should speak for Nigeria and Nigerians and defend our Sovereignty which is violated, has chosen to maintain undignified silence but rather asked the Foreign Minister to be at the forefront of making the position of Nigeria known to the aggressors and in the case of Ghana, it was the mere Special Assistant on Media to the President that spoke for Nigeria and stated comically that Nigeria wouldn’t retaliate to the humiliation that Nigeria suffered in Ghana when a part of her Embassy was bulldozed to the ground by a private individual of Ghanaian origin.
The President of Ghana that allegedly apologised added a caveat to the effect that Nigeria has no papers for the part of the Nigerian Embassy that was violently demolished. The shock being expressed here is how the diplomatic immunity of Nigerian Embassies is being violated with reckless abandon by other citizens and the President is actively asleep on his duties to Nigeria.
A researcher who wrote on Diplomatic immunity, in international law, stated that these are immunities enjoyed by foreign states or international organizations and their official representatives from the jurisdiction of the country in which they are present.
Extraterritoriality Immunity on the other hand is the inviolability of diplomatic envoys which has been recognized by most civilizations and states throughout history. The writer stated that, to ensure exchanges of information and to maintain contact, most societies—even preliterate ones—granted messengers safe-conduct.
Traditional mechanisms of protecting diplomats included religious-based codes of hospitality and the frequent use of priests as emissaries. Just as religion buttressed this inviolability, custom sanctified it and reciprocity fortified it, and over time these sanctions became codified in national laws and international treaties.
Historically, the writer said that during the Middle Ages in Europe, envoys and their entourages continued to enjoy the right of safe passage. A diplomat was not responsible for crimes committed before his mission, but he was answerable for any crimes committed during it.
The writer said that during the Renaissance permanent—rather than ad hoc—embassies developed, and the number of embassy personnel, as well as the immunities accorded to them, expanded. When the Reformation divided Europe ideologically, states increasingly turned to the legal fiction of extraterritoriality—which treated diplomats, their residences, and their goods as though they were located outside the host country—to justify diplomatic exemption from both criminal and civil law.
The researcher recalled too that “The doctrine of quasi extra territorium (Latin: “as if outside the territory”) was developed by the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) to sanction such privileges.”
“The position of diplomats and the public respect they enjoyed declined substantially in the 20th century. This development, combined with certain other factors—including the explosive growth in the number of new states after World 11.
Despite these developments, from the late 20th century diplomats and representatives of international organizations continued to be subject to prosecution and officially sanctioned harassment in some countries, a situation perhaps best exemplified by the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehrān, Iran, in November 1979 by supporters of the Islamic revolution in that country and the holding of more than 50 American diplomatic personnel as hostages for 444 days” (Linda Frey Marsha L. Frey).
As can be seen from the above scholarly presentations, attacks on diplomatic immunities became rife with the second World and the emergence of many other nation’s but the fact is that nations whose extra territorial diplomatic immunities are violated by their host Countries usually adopt strong retaliatory action or make the case internationalize. Nigeria under Muhammadu Buhari has been unable to defend Nigeria when violated abroad.
Another incident happened around the same time that the Nigerian Embassy in Ghana was partly demolished and this was a coordinated attack on the Nigerian Embassy in Indonesia and this time around the attackers were said to be Nigerians protesting the death of some two Nigerians who jumped to their death from a skyscraper following their attempt to escape from being arrested by the Indonesian Immigration Officers who were searching for alleged illegal immigrants in Indonesia.
In a video clip obtained by SaharaReporters, some persons believed to be Nigerians were spotted carrying placards with various inscriptions.
The media Recall that a 41-year-old Nigerian fell from a nine-storey-building trying to escape from Indonesian immigration officers.
His fall, however, sparked protest amongst Nigerians, leading to the destruction and vandalisation of the country’s properties in the embassy.
Reacting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs; Geoffrey Onyeama, via his twitter handle, condemned the act, noting that those involved in the destruction of the country’s properties would be caught and dealt with.
His words, “Absolutely deplorable and disgraceful criminal behaviour by Nigerian hooligans who without justification attacked the Nigerian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia today. Every effort will be made to identify them and see they are severely punished. Totally unacceptable behaviour.”
The minister was highly insensitive to have maintained conspiratorial silence on the death of the Nigerian or Nigerians whilst been pursued by Indonesian Immigration officers. Does the life of a Nigerian mean nothing but the Assets of Nigeria such as the Embassy much more important than the lives of Nigerians?
Whilst not supporting the barbarism of vandalizing the Nigerian Embassy in Indonesia but the failure of the Nigerian government to defend Nigerians under attacks by the Indonesian Immigration officers is reprehensible and outrageous.
The British Broadcasting corporation reports too that armed men reportedly stormed the High Commission of Nigeria in Ghana last week and destroyed a building under construction
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo has reportedly apologised to Nigeria after a building inside the Nigerian High Commission compound in Accra was demolished.
Mr Akufo-Addo has reportedly ordered an investigation, a statement from the Nigerian government said after his call with President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the BBC report, two people have been arrested over the incident. They have been charged with Unlawful Entry and Causing Unlawful Damage.
A businessman who had previously claimed that he owned the land where the building was being put up had led the demolition operation, according to an article posted on the Nigerian High Commission website in Ghana.
“The man showed up last week with some papers to support his claim and began to knock down the fence surrounding the building,” the article quotes a source at the ministry of foreign affairs as saying.
Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister; Geoffrey Onyeama said a bulldozer was used during the 19 June incident which destroyed two residential buildings. He called the demolition “outrageous and criminal” and urged Ghanaian authorities to protect Nigeria’s diplomatic buildings.
Nigerians living in Ghana held a demonstration on Monday to condemn the demolition. On its part the Ghana’s foreign ministry said it regretted the incident and guaranteed that an investigation would be conducted, adding that security had been “beefed up” at the facility.
The country’s former President; John Mahama, however, condemned the demolition and criticised his successor’s government. “It beats my imagination how such a violent and noisy destruction could occur without our security agents picking up the signals to avert the damage,” Mr Mahama tweeted.
BBC Nigeria reporter; Celestina Olulode stated that as the largest economies in West Africa, Ghana and Nigeria’s diplomatic relationship is crucial to the region and trade is a key part of that relationship.
He said however that recent incidents serve as a reminder that their diplomatic ties haven’t always been smooth.
Last year disputes over the status of foreign traders led to the temporary closure of some Nigerian-owned shops.
Another recent source of contention was Nigeria’s decision to close its border with Benin, which affected traders across the region, including Ghanaians.
Today, BBC recalled that both sides recognise the need for strong bilateral ties.
The BBC reported affirmed that few expect to see the type of tensions witnessed in 1969-70 and 1983, when both sides expelled large numbers of the other’s citizens, the BBC concluded.
Then Mr. Ferdinand Nwonye; the Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made it known in an interview with NAN in Abuja last year that the Embassy of Nigeria in Congo was not closed even when the contrary was the case according to some accounts.
The Embassy was said to also have issues about valid ownership of the land. However, the Nigerian Government rejected those narratives.
The Federal Government has said that Nigeria’s Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, has not been closed by the host country.
Mr Ferdinand Nwonye; the Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made this known in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja. “The Nigerian Embassy in Democratic Republic of Congo was not shut down. There was a dispute on one of the properties of the mission where officials were residing.
“When we reported the matter to the Congolese government, the country authorities intervened immediately and the property was handed back to the Nigerian mission. The mission bought the property but is still in the process of updating the documents, which are still under Zaire, former name of the country.
“The Head of Mission has written to the Permanent Secretary and we are on top of the situation. I can also confirm that activities were not disrupted in our embassy in Congo.”
NAN reports that a video went viral on social media platforms, showing the Nigerian Embassy building in Congo under lock and key by the Congolese government.
In the video, properties belonging to the embassy were allegedly thrown out of the building causing serious damage.
These incessant attacks against Nigerians abroad and the Embassies of Nigeria all over the place around the World goes to show the weakening position of Nigeria in the comity of nations.
But what does the Constitution say about the Nigerian foreign policy objectives and why is the current government too weak to stand for Nigeria and Nigerians when there are cases of breaches of both the diplomatic immunities of Nigerian Embassies and the universal human rights of Nigerians?
Section 19 of the Nigerian constitution provides thus: “The foreign policy objectives shall be – (a) promotion and protection of the national interest; (b) promotion of African integration and support for African unity; (c) promotion of international co-operation for the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination of discrimination in all its manifestations; (d) respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication; and (e) promotion of a just world economic order.”
Can we through the media tasked the Nigerian President to stop making Nigeria the laughing stock of the international community and to speak and take concrete reciprocal actions to defend Nigeria and Nigerians.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwanigeria.com;www.emmanuelonwubikocom;www.thenigerianinsidernews.com;firstname.lastname@example.org