A lawmaker and a government agency give contradictory reasons for the return of some Nigerians from Gabon
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has criticised the illegal and inhuman deportation of over 200 Nigerian fishermen from the Republic of Gabon.
In a statement in Abuja on Monday, Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa described the deportation as “unwarranted hostility against Nigerians doing legitimate businesses in Gabon by the Gabonese Government.”
She further described the action as “insensitive and un-African.”
The legislator said that she was not against the deportation of any Nigerian who breached the law of any country, but “definitely not those doing legitimate businesses.”
She said those deported were involved in legitimate businesses in Gabon and wondered why such people should be humiliated having lived in Gabon for decades and contributed to its development.
Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa called on the Federal Government and other stakeholders to look into the matter urgently and rehabilitate those affected with human dignity in line with its Citizen Diplomacy policy. She also called on NEMA to ensure that the deportees were well rehabilitated and taken care of pending the resolution of the matter.
The lawmaker’s statements contradict that made by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which claimed on Monday that the returnees were not deported but voluntarily returned home.
“Let no one misinterpret this return as repatriation; they were not repatriated but they felt things were not working well there,” Umesi Emenike, the South-South Zonal Coordinator of the Agency, said.
Mr. Emenike said 242 returnees, majority from Bayelsa State, were brought back into the country, while 80 per cent of them were children.
NEMA said the evacuation became necessary after the Gabonese authorities issued an eviction notice to Nigerian fishermen. It said the affected fishermen lived in Nende, Mouka and Kenza islands, although majority of them had lived there for many decades doing legitimate businesses.
NEMA said the returnees, mostly from Bayelsa and few from Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Imo and Abia States, were flown to Port-Harcourt International Airport before being transported to their home states.
Some of the returnees complained of harsh and unfriendly treatment by the Gabonese authorities and people. The fishermen had signified a willingness to be returned with their families after the eviction notice.
Before the execution of the evacuation process, NEMA said the Nigerian Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies had undertaken on-the-spot-assessment of the situation before dispatching a chartered aircraft to evacuate them.
In an effort to ensure full rehabilitation of the Nigerians and to protect their belongings, NEMA promised to also ship their outboard engines, fishing nets and other working tools to Nigeria.
The agency said the respective state governments had been communicated on the development.