During one of my recent overseas travels, I came across a Cameroonian economics professor at an international conference. After I delivered my paper, he came to me for a chat. And speaking Igbo to me, I wondered how come he didn’t know there was another Nigerian at the event. Immediately, he also spoke Yoruba and Hausa. Then, I told him: You know what; you’re truly a complete Nigerian. But he surprised me when, laughingly, he responded that actually he’s a Cameroonian.
Since you’re not a Nigerian, amazingly I demanded, how come you speak the three major Nigerian languages so fluently? In response he said that not only did he have his university education in Nigeria, but did so as the leader of the defunct Nigerian University Student Union. And upon graduation, he went further to confess, that he worked as an economist in the ministry of finance during the Abacha years, including calling most of the fiscal policy shots at the ministry.
Bewildered, I asked him: You mean you did all these in Nigeria, not even as a citizen of Nigeria but as a Cameroonian? Then, he gave the shocker when he rudely responded, ”Is Nigeria not a no-man’s land”? Where foreigners just enter and leave as they like with little or no checks; and where within 24 hours, a foreigner can easily become a Nigerian citizen; obtain all the relevant documents, and claim all citizenship rights even more than Nigerians themselves.
That was my first eye-opener about how foreigners could become citizens of Nigeria within 24 hours in the country.
Even a young Ghanaian economist was appointed a personal assistant to the immediate past minister of finance Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala not only between 2003 and 2006, but also worked for her throughout her second return 2011 – 2015. Just as this young man told me, he handled most sensitive documents of the federal government.
Not only that such a foreigner should be hired when there’re hundreds of Nigerian economists even better qualified to do the job better should alarm Nigerians, but that such a foreigner should be constantly in possession of sensitive documents belonging to the federal and state governments should be more alarming that DSS and NIA should have weighed into the case.
What about the country’s immigration officials? How come neither Immigration Service nor the Nigeria Police Force ever dictated the presence of such an alien, who working as Ms. Okonjo-Iweala’s PA, had limitless access to top sensitive economic documents of the state to the extent that nothing could have prevented him from selling them to the highest bidders?
Memory of my sojourn in both Europe and the United States makes it difficult for me to sincerely rationalize why the eyes of their immigration officials and police have never been off on foreigners in their midst while in Nigeria, no one seems to place serious attention on foreigners living in the country. I cannot understand why foreigners in countries around the world obey these countries but when it comes to our own country, the foreigners in our midst swim in an ocean of lawlessness. Why only in countries like Nigeria foreigners hardly have their sojourn permits handy? Is it the case of the weakness of our immigration laws or the case of poor enforcement?
What do we need to do to ensure that foreigners in our midst not only comply with our immigration laws but also always obey all other laws of the country? Why shouldn’t the law annually mandate the foreigners in our midst to report to the country’s “immigration police’’ to renew their stay permits, justifying their source of livelihood in Nigeria (like are they rightly employed or are they taking the jobs meant for Nigerians), along with their current Nigerian addresses to demonstrate that they have all it takes to remain law abiding aliens in Nigeria? And above all, as the law should be stringent, that they have never tried to illegally obtain Nigerian citizenship rights, over stayed, or have worked illegally in Nigeria?
No doubt, there are few countries and people in the world as hospitable as Nigerians. But should that be the reason why foreigners are abusing our laws and people of Nigeria? Should it have allowed foreigners to illegally claim Nigerian citizenship, evade taxes and become security threats, all done with sheer impunity? How come one of the world’s religious nations has become the world’s sex tourism destination, with foreigners coming here to sexually abuse the future mothers of our children?
One particular case I will never forget — not only because it happened in my country, but because they perpetrator proudly walked away — was the nightmare of a young Nigerian girl, who I found one day weeping profoundly for being raped by a foreigner at one of Abuja’s five star hotels while on her cleaning duty in one of the hotel rooms. What made the whole thing unbelievably scandalous was my hearing that the hotel management in an effort to cover up the ugly event, threatened the young girl with sack should she report or place charges against the European man, who claimed to have done so under the high influence of alcohol.
So offended was I that I wasted no time going to the general manager’s office with my own threats of inviting the police and journalists as well as hiring a good human rights lawyer on her behalf; unless, of course, the European was made to apologize, sacked, and deported from Nigeria within 48 hours. That the general manager accepted my conditions, including picking up the bills for the young lady’s counseling and rehabilitation, saved the situation.
Yes, it may not be boldly written, but the immigration police in most countries could make life unbearable for one to be dating their citizens, let alone taking their young girls as if they were prostitutes. Police in most countries could go as far as setting one up with the goal of placing charges of engaging in prostitution.
That Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings demanded the immediate arrest, conviction, jailing, and later deportation of a Briton who slapped his Ghanaian cook should show how even neighboring Ghana could react with outraged should foreigners maltreat fellow citizens. That explains why foreigners in Ghana strictly obey the laws of Ghana or else they would pay dearly. Sadly, in Nigeria, foreigners, particularly Indians, Lebanese, and Italians, almost always slap Nigerians working for them and not only get away with that, they also get away with sacking them.
Bringing all these to an end so that foreigners living in our midst obey our laws, treat Nigerian hosts with respect, and especially do not lure our future mothers into prostitution, I strongly believe it’s time for the “Alien Bill of Nigeria” to be constituted. Considering this bill very comprehensively, our lawmakers should make references to similar laws around the world so that ours shouldn’t be called a racist piece of legislation.
The bill should make it a serious crime for foreigners to engage in any form of sex tourism by making foreigners sign an undertaking at the point of entry that they understand the seriousness of engaging in prostitution in Nigeria; and that if caught, should expect either deportation or imprisonment.
Bringing also to an end the growing show of psychological intimidation (show of false superiority complex), foreigners should be reminded in the documents they sign for their sojourn permit that no one goes to someone’s country to show their superiority to the hosts; and that Nigerians should not be intimidated in their country through false demonstration of superiority to Nigerians. For this reason, the law should mandate all the GSM providers in the country to provide toll free telephone number for reporting such cases of maltreatment of Nigerians by their foreign employers or sex abuses.
The law should establish ‘the Nigeria Immigration Police’ or “Homeland Police” with personnel drawn from immigration services and the Nigeria Police. The immigration police should among other things make sure foreigners in our midst regularize their sojourn in the country annually, providing their sources of livelihood in Nigeria, including their current addresses in Nigeria, how many times they have violated the laws of the land.
Most foreigners in retail business in Nigeria, for instance, hardly repatriate value added tax the collected on behalf of the government. Notorious in this economic sabotage are mostly Lebanese, Indians, Chinese, and Turks, who collude with Federal Inland Revenue Services officials. Because tax evasion is a serious offence as it is the case in most economies, foreigners should recognize that should they evade taxes in Nigeria, they should be ready to face the law, including assets confiscation, imprisonment, and deportation.
Besides permit to work in Nigeria coming from the ministry of labor and employment it should only be given after making sure that there are no Nigerians qualified to perform such a job. All visas should be clearly marked ‘’NOT FOR WORK’’ and the stay permit should be marked the same. But should any foreigner be found performing a job that Nigerians can do, whether with or without permit to do so, they should risk deportation and their employer fined accordingly.
In other words, no foreigner should be allowed to engage in buying and selling in Nigeria; engage in security business of any kind; involved in artisanal activities and craftsmanship; engage in real estate business; own a radio or television station, or a newspaper; and above all, work as a laborer, housekeeper, maid, cook, driver, security guard, painter, bricklayer, etc. even if approved by relevant government agencies.
As part of the expanded local content policy of the government in the construction industry, the Buhari administration should propose the Nigerian Construction Industry Bill which when passed by the National Assembly into law, should set January 2019 as the deadline for any contract paid for with public money to be awarded to non-100 per cent indigenous construction companies. The country’s procurement laws should be amended to include banning and refusing authorization for construction contracts to be awarded to foreign companies.
No longer should a governor award contracts to Lebanese, Indian, or Chinese construction companies, when there are so many Nigerian construction companies to do the same job. Should any governor be unable to find a good Nigerian construction company to do the job, the law should insist that the governor establishes state’s owned ‘Construction Company’ with the goal of populating such a company solely with citizens of the state.
Finally, the law should mandate all foreigners to present their passports with valid visas or their sojourn permits issued by the country’s authorities for them to be able to either lodge in a hotel in the country, rent a house, or fly within and without the country.