Nigeria’s Acting High Commissioner to India, Ambassador Sola Enikanolaiye, says 1,200 Nigerians are serving various jail terms in that country for offences ranging from Advance Fee Fraud to cultism.
Enikanolaiye disclosed this in an interview on Tuesday on the side line of the 11th Confederation of Indian Industries and
Export Import Bank Conclave on India Africa Project Partnership in New Delhi.
According to him, the High Commission was working out bail procedures for the inmates and repatriation of ex-convicts.
He said: “There are few (Nigerians) that are giving us a bad name in this country because of what they do.
“They are involved in crimes – 419 (fraudulent activities) in particular, drugs trafficking and now cultism, which is a new and very dangerous dimension within the Nigerian community.
“They are always fighting.
“We have incidents of stabbing or beating and so on.
“That has been the major challenge in our consular relations.
“There are 1,200 Nigerians in prison here in India.
“Visit to prisons is a major aspect of our responsibility.
“Since I came here in May last year, we have taken more than 30 visits to prisons across the country.
“Most of the prisoners are actually in New Delhi.
“We go to them, counsel them and go with some supplies and advice them on how to arrange their bails.
“What we have done is to identify some credible lawyers to intervene, especially when cases come up for mention in various courts.
“And eventually when they are released from prison, we facilitate their return to Nigeria.”
Enikanolaiye, who said no Nigerian convict had been executed in India, explained that those convicted were always deported to Nigeria on completion of their jail terms.
He said the negotiations on the Prisoner Transfer Agreement between India and Nigeria had been concluded, although it had not been signed by Nigeria.
He said: “The Nigeria government has concluded the Prisoner Transfer Agreement with India.
“It is just awaiting signature and once this is signed, it will be easy and faster to get Nigerians back home to complete their terms.
“The PTA is awaiting our own side to be prepared to sign.
“We believe this will be as soon as possible.”
The envoy also clarified reports regarding two Nigerians arrested for allegedly attempting to cross over to Pakistan from India to join the terrorist group, ISIS.
Enikanolaiye said: “Our investigations revealed that there is no substance to that story.
“The Indian Government has confirmed that these guys were not going to join ISIS.
“They were just two boys in their youthful exuberance who engaged in an adventure.
“They have since been charged for a lesser offence of car hijacking and theft and the case may have been concluded.
“We are in touch with their parents at home.
“So as soon as they have completed the sentences, they will be repatriated to Nigeria.
“And the fact that the Indian government has not charged them for terrorism is a clear indication that indeed they were not regarded – from their own investigation – as potential recruits or even terrorists for that matter.”
Enikanolaiye said Nigeria had begun discussions with India with a view to securing amnesty for Nigerians, who had overstayed their visas.
He said: “In this country, it is an offence for you to overstay your visa and invariably you get arrested when finally leaving the country.
“We are talking to the Indian government to show some flexibility so that if there are Nigerians, who are ready to leave, please allow them to leave without criminalising them.”
The envoy urged Nigerians visiting India for health reasons to register with the Nigerian High Commission in the country to prevent embarrassing situations.
Enikanolaiye said: “On our website, which has just been rebranded, we encourage Nigerians to register and let the High Commission know you are in India so that in the event of any problem, we will know how to contact you.
“We have cases of Nigerians that died in the hospitals and getting their next-of-kin back home becomes a challenge and in this country, if you do not evacuate dead bodies in time, they could cremate them.”
He said Nigeria had a vibrant community in India with no fewer than 10,000 students studying in different universities.