Authorities in the Indian city of Goa are coming to their senses after initially mishandling the killing of a Nigerian, Obodo Uzoma Simeon; a situation that has led to a diplomatic row between Nigeria and India.
The row was sparked by protests of the attack on a Nigerian community in Goa that led to the killing of one Nigerian.
About 200 Nigerians blocked a major highway to protest the killing, irking officials in Goa who then arrested several Nigerians under the pretext that they were illegal immigrants.
At the peak of the raids, some 50 Nigerians were in custody. But it is clear that the arrests were in bad faith, as the response of the Indian officials confirmed.
First, Indian authorities prematurely tied the murder to drugs. There were reports that it was a violent conflict between rival Nigerian drug cartels. In fact, it was almost concluded that the killers were Nigerians.
This has turned out to be false as the police have now arrested a Goan youth, Surendra Pal, in connection with the murder.
From the latest revelations, it is clear Goan authorities were only giving the Nigerian community there a bad name in order to hang it.
This is why the crackdown targeted Nigerian nationals, although Goa officials claim it was all foreigners in the city. Also, Indians were particularly discouraged from renting houses to Nigerians while several Nigerians were evicted from their homes.
Apart from the crackdown and the evictions, Goa officials took the dirty path of using racial slurs to describe. For instance, Goa’s Art and Culture Minister Dayanand Mandrekar, described Nigerians as a “cancer,” a statement he now claims to regret.
What is clear as day is that Nigerians have been deliberately mistreated in Goa. This is unacceptable and has clear implications for the relations between Nigeria and India.
We hasten to commend the Nigerian High Commission in India for the decisive manner in which it responded to the situation.
Although our officials did not act early enough to stop the harassment of Nigerian nationals in Goa, they left no Indian official in doubt about the consequences of such ill-treatment of Nigerians once they got their act together.
We particularly commend the consular attaché Jacob Nwadadia who delivered the message in clear terms.
“There are only 50,000 Nigerians living in India but there are over one million Indians living in Nigeria. Thousands of Indians living there will be thrown out on the streets if forcible eviction of Nigerians in Goa does not stop,” Jacob said.
It was a message well-delivered and woke Indian authorities to the reality of their hopeless position.
It was a declaration, like none other, that Nigerians at home would not sit idly by and watch their brothers and sisters maltreated anywhere in India.
It’s been a long time since our officials were so emphatic about the safety and welfare of Nigerians. This response gladdens the heart and reassures Nigerians everywhere of their safety and welfare.
But even as Indian officials are reviewing their blunders and making the much-needed amends, it is critical that Nigerian officials also review the Goa situation with the aim of preventing a recurrence.
It is also important that we meet our Goan hosts half way. If it is true that Nigerians in Goa are engaged in illegal activity and therefore constitute a nuisance to local residents, our officials must take urgent steps to bring the indicted Nigerians to book. They cannot be allowed to give Nigeria a bad image and, worse still, be shielded from justice by the Nigerian state.
Finally, it should not go unnoticed that there were no reprisal attacks on Indians in Nigeria. Nigerians at home must be commended for the peaceful manner in which they acted as the events in Goa unfolded. This should not be mistaken for inaction. Instead, it should be recognized as an act of maturity by Nigerians.