'Our Mission to Spain about Osamuyia Aikpitanhi' (vom 28.08.2007),
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[28. Aug 2007]

'Our Mission to Spain about Osamuyia Aikpitanhi'

Interview with Hon Samson Osagie, member of the official delegation sent to Spain by the Nigerian government to find out more on the death of Osamuyia Aikpitanhi in the hands of Spanish authorities.

You were part of the Nigerian delegation that went to Spain recently over the death of the Nigerian deportee, Osamuyia Aikpitanhi, what exactly happened during your trip there?

Osagie: Well, we met with the Foreign Affairs ministry and a couple of top government functionaries in the government of Spain and we conveyed the Nigeria's government utter disapproval of the way and manner Osamuyia Aikpitanhi was murdered in the hands of Spanish security operatives. We told them in strong terms that the government of Nigeria demands explanation and we expect that they would bring about justice in the matter. And of course, we also discovered that the Spanish authorities were quite embarrassed with the whole situation; naturally they did not expect a deportee to die in the course of deportation especially with the outcome of the autopsy report which they (Spanish authorities) discovered that he died of suffocation as a result of serious maltreatment he received so they appealed very seriously that they were going to allow the course of justice to prevail with a promise that all those who are concerned in the matter will be brought to book. We were also informed that two investigations are going on; the police investigation and the judicial inquiry into the death and under Spanish law, it would take some time before the verdict comes up and once that is delivered, the appropriate measures would be taken in terms of giving responsibility to whoever was culpable because they are taking steps to persuade the family. We also told the Spanish authorities that Nigeria takes exception to the way and manner our people are being treated and discriminated against especially against the backdrop of so many bilateral agreements entered into by Nigeria and Spain. Hopes were given and promises made that in no distant time, all these will stop. Another meeting will be scheduled between the president of Spain and that of Nigeria because President Umaru Musa Yar Adua showed serious concern over the issue and our visit to Spain was at his own instance

Can you be more specific with the Spanish officials your delegation met with?

Osagie:We met with the authorities of the Foreign Affairs Ministry we met their minister and had a long session with them and in his team was an official in the Interior Ministry which comprises their immigration agency and all that. It was a delegation on their own part and was a representation of their government on one side and our government on the other side. I went with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Hakeem Baba Ahmed and two directors in that ministry.

Will your team be working hand-in-hand with the investigations being conducted by the Spanish government or is your investigation independent of what they are doing?

Osagie: The way it is what we are doing is a fact-finding investigation to unravel the causes and of course to find out those responsible for the death of the young man. You know that this incident happened in Spain and their law(s) must take its course. Our own investigation is to a fact-finding inquiry to raise the tempo of the agitation of the disapproval from the Nigeria government. In terms of meting out punishment, it is not within our powers and it is even not within the powers of the Nigeria's government because the people involved in the criminal acts are not Nigerians. So our interaction with the Spanish government leaves us with the possibility of either waiting for the outcome of what they are doing in Spain to be in position to be able decide the next step to take because when the verdict of guilt is pronounced by the judiciary, then the family of the deceased can take up legal action against the Spanish government for compensation. We are also looking at the family who have a direct right in the matter and the possibility of exploring remedy at the International courts and of course, that is where the Nigeria government comes in. We cannot do all these until the preliminary investigations are concluded and the report of the judicial commission of inquiry is made known, which is the basis on which we can be able to all these. The Spanish authorities even advised the family to get a lawyer and sue for compensation. The matter will be heard in court on the 20th of August this year and in the course of time, if after the report of the investigation is known and we have doubt over the report, we will inform the Nigeria government to order for the corpse to be brought back to Nigeria so that fresh autopsy can be carried out. But so far so good, what the Spanish authorities have done shows that he died of suffocation which indicates what happened. For now, we need to have faith in what they are doing and be patient for them to finish.

Were you able to talk with the other two deportees who were being deported along with the late Osamuyia and what is their fate right now?

Osagie: Yes, the two other deportees are right now in detention, this is what our investigation reveals. They are alleged to have committed some offences which was the reason why they were being deported but we were also told that they are likely to be witnesses in the entire affair during the course of the investigation. They are still in detention and we could not see them.

Were you able to confirm the allegations heaped on the late Osamuyia of being wanted for murder and rape while there in Spain?

Osagie: It was raised at the session but the permanent secretary, Mr Ahmed, did not waste time to dismiss it because the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs found out from the police that the young man had no record with the police. So we dismissed it and it didn't wait for anybody to tell us anything about the allegations. There is no such record here with the Nigeria Police and I believe it to be tales being saddled by some people and the Spanish authorities picked it up from the dustbin.

But it was reported that during the visit of the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Angel Losada to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he made the allegation that Osamuyia died in a hospital as well as maintain that he (Osamuyia) had criminal records and was a wanted man in Nigeria?

Osagie: We also told him than and there, because I was present that day, that those allegations were not correct and seriously false. We let him know that though we were not present inside the aircraft, we have the benefits of eye witnesses who have since given their testimony to our committee and we also have our facts that the guy didn't die in a hospital as he claimed but was certified dead inside the aircraft at Alicante by the doctor brought in. We dismissed the insinuations by the ambassador and made him understand that assuming but not conceding that Osamuyia was wanted for murder and rape, those offences could not have been committed in Spain and the punishment for it should not have been meted out to him in Spain. So there is no justification to probably show that the character of the young man was in doubt. We dismissed with a wave of hand all those allegations when they tried to raise it in Spain. The ambassador's allegations do not hold water.

The president of the Nigerian community in Spain, Mr Joe Illoh, revealed that the government policy on the acquisition of police reports and the inability of the Nigerian Embassy in Spain to issue passports to Nigerian citizens for the past eight years is among the major factors leading Nigerians to get involved in the falsification of their documents. Is your committee likely to take this matter up to ensure that something is done about the development?

Osagie: Very well, myself and the permanent secretary agreed that we will pick up the matter because the Spanish authorities has alleged that there is a letter before them written from the Nigerian government to the effect that Nigeria citizens living in Spain who wants to obtain police reports must return to Nigeria to get the reports...

Were you shown the letter?

Osagie: No! And the permanent secretary said he has no knowledge of such a letter and said that as far as he is concerned, the letter does not exist. So we have promised that we are going to take the matter up as soon as possible. I am working hand-in-hand with Mr Ahmed who has shown serious concern on the plight of Nigerian citizens in Spain, it is one of the problems we are having and at the end of the day, we are going to write back to the Spanish government that no such action was taken in the past that informed their demands. In any case, this is going to form part of my reports to the committee that we are going to report to and I hope that by the end of the day, that would form part of the decision of the House of Representatives by way of recommendation and prosecution of this matter. You see, the good thing about my inclusion in the delegation is that I went there in dual capacity; as a member of the committee and as a representative of the man who died. So all these problems and all the issues leading to the way most Nigerians are treated must form part of the decision we are going to put before the House of Representatives for adoption and subsequently for the government to implement.

How do you feel learning that for the past eight years the Nigerian Embassy in Spain has not been able to issue out passports to Nigerians there?

Osagie: Well, I think the problem was explained that the machine for the issuance of passports which are normally given to foreign missions are quite few; I think we have 12 in the whole world and for Christ's sake, how many embassies do we have in the whole world that these few number will service Nigerians? And again, these machines are not serviceable; somebody went to buy it from the Far East and the only place it can be repaired is in Israel. So the problem is that these machines are not serviceable. We have one in France which is what many of our embassies in Germany, Holland, Spain are using. It is going to form part of the reform process going on in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the introduction of the e-passports now, these machines have become obsolete and so new ones are going to be acquired so that each embassy will have one. It is very embarrassing that an embassy like that of Nigeria cannot issue its citizens passports abroad. We condemn this irresponsible act and will work towards its remedy. And we saw things for ourselves; the embassy in Spain is nothing to write home about, that is the truth of the matter. It is in deep decay; what we call our embassies is quite unfortunate, even the house our ambassador lives in Spain needs rehabilitation. That non-maintenance culture that we have is not only here in Nigeria but follows us abroad. Our officers in Foreign Service are not working under good conditions because if you see their offices, you will be surprised. It is not only in Spain; I have visited the Nigeria embassy in the United States and it as the same, showing the neglect it is suffering. That is the position; our embassies don't have the necessary facilities to issue passports and they cannot do otherwise. I think there should be a change in position and condition of these our embassies.

The House of Representatives have set up committees and you are now the Deputy Chairman, Committee on Human Rights, what should Nigerians expect from you?

Osagie: Just as the name implies defense of human rights and issues regarding human rights are issues of justice, of equal rights and equality in generally. As far as I am concerned being a member of that committee and its deputy chairman, I will ensure that within this period issues bothering on human rights and human right abuses record in this country is shored up so that our image within our people specifically and international community in general, with respect to human rights protection will be appreciated. I will also ensure that we launch a campaign against human rights violation and anywhere it occurs, we shall try and take it head-long whether here or outside this country either against our people or bring perpetrated by our people. I shall try as an individual and as a member of this committee to make our committee take proactive steps in this direction. It is such a wide subject that we will have a lot to do especially in the time we just came out from, an era where human right abuses have been rampant. We will try and do our best and require the cooperation of all and sundry, even the establishment must also expect the fact that in doing our job, we may run into conflicts with the authorities but it is important that we speak the truth at all time so that this society of ours will be a better place to live.

This interview by Ahaoma Kanu was published first on 12. Aug 2007 @ ::