Friday, November 14, 2008

Nigerians on death row in Indonesia

The recent failure of the Nigerian delegation to Indonesia to obtain clemency for 18 Nigerians on death row for drug trafficking in that country is, undoubtedly, a bitter pill for Nigerians.

The efforts of the delegation, which was led by Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Ojo Maduekwe, came to nothing as the Indonesian president, Susilo Yudhoyono, rejected Nigeria’s plea for clemency for the offenders, based on the fact that even Indonesians who are arrested for similar offences are also executed.

Two Nigerians, Hansen Anthony Nwaolisa and Samuel Iwuchukwu Okoye, who had earlier been executed in June for the same offence, were the first set of drug offenders to be executed in Indonesia in four years. With the failure of Nigeria’s appeal for clemency, the fate of the 18 Nigerian convicts now depends on reviews of their cases by the courts.

The prospect of the loss of as many as 18 of our compatriots to Indonesian executioners is painful. It is a sad reflection of the sorry fate of Nigerians who fall into crime in the desperate effort to make a living in foreign lands.

The attempt by President Yar’Adua to stop the execution of Nigerians who have run foul of the law in Indonesia is appropriate and commendable. It is the duty of responsible governments all over the world to intervene whenever the lives and interests of their compatriots are at stake. The failure to obtain clemency for the Nigerians in this instance should therefore not discourage such efforts to help other Nigerians in similar situations in the future.

Now that the clemency appeal has failed to move the heart of the Indonesian authorities, the best the nation can demand for is a judicious review of the peculiar circumstances of each case, to ensure that the guilt of each of the offenders is established beyond every reasonable doubt, to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice.

The plight of the condemned Nigerians should also serve as a lesson to other Nigerians with the proclivity to traffic drugs to foreign lands. Our people need to be warned against drug trafficking and other infractions of the law, more especially when they are in foreign lands. They need to be made to understand that drug trafficking is a serious offence that is taken seriously in many parts of the world with grievous penalties for persons convicted of the crime, unlike Nigeria where drug traffickers get away with a slap on the wrists.

Beyond the admonition to Nigerians to avoid running foul of the laws of the countries that they traverse is the need to nip the desperation of our compatriots to make money by all means, fair or foul, in the bud. The government should address the increasing involvement of Nigerians in drug trafficking and other illegal means of earning a living by making it easy for all to live by honest labour.

This administration must work very hard to turn Nigeria’s economy around so that there can be gainful employment for the people and the propensity to engage in the risky venture of drug trafficking is reduced. The nation also has to work towards the re-orientation of our value system to enthrone respect for hard and honest work, while discouraging the propensity for dishonesty and get-rich-quick schemes that all too soon get our compatriots into trouble outside the country.

Above all, the culture of plundering of our national resources by our leaders which leaves inadequate funds for the productive sector of the economy, with attendant soaring unemployment rates and growing despondency and desperation of our youths, should be addressed.
For so long as Nigerians cannot be empowered to make a worthwhile living in their own country, the desperation to get rich by any means possible in foreign lands will be a constant temptation, with attendant deleterious effects on our national image whenever the long hands of the law catch up with them.