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The Nigeria High Commission in Malaysia and its Disaporic Community: The Truth of The Matter

Source: Mr. Adebiyi Jelili Abugana
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Recently, the Nigeria High Commission in Malaysia has been in the eyes of the news for two major reasons. These are for an alleged fraudulent activity of the Commission and the menace of kidnapping scare that is fast assuming a dangerous trend among some segments of the Nigerian Disaporic Community in Malaysia.

These issues which were reported in some national dailies and online news media have generated heated debates and attracted rejoinders from both established activists cum public intellectuals as well as internet activist/intellectuals who are grandstanding as advocates of truth and objectivity. I was so traumatized, so, my decision to keep silent. Out of respect and appreciation for what I stand for, a number of concerned persons who were not happy with my unusual silence have requested that I make my opinion on these issues known. Yet, I requested them to allow hold my fire, that is, keep my silence. Notwithstanding the reactions which my studied silence has attracted, I have been on the high alert regarding how people have been reacting to these issues.

So far, the beauty of it all is that people have been freely exercising their rights to advance personal opinion on these issues, but, such rights, as Kunle, a friend would sagely say, is not a ticket to re-writing history. Realizing that dubious attempt is being made, consciously or subconsciously to abuse the facts of history, I have decided to pen some few lines aimed at putting these contending issues in their proper perspective.

In respect of the kidnapping issue, the response of Mr. Peter J.E. Anegheh, the Nigeria High Commissioner to Malaysia, that was published in the Daily Trust edition of June 5, 2010 calls for attention. Mr. Peter who registered his anxiety over this worrisome development proclaimed, “the High Commission is the Nigeria the students have in Malaysia and I am the head, Therefore, I am worried.” This statement shows that the High Commissioner is fully aware of his responsibility as the Chief Welfare Officer of Nigerians in Malaysia and thus, placing on him the burden to be proactive in curtailing any untoward act that may jeopardize the wellbeing of the citizens under his care. This statement makes me feel uncomfortable as the reality on ground indicates that predominantly, Nigerians in Malaysia have not found the Commission the Nigeria they have in Malaysia.

Prior to the audience which the High Commissioner granted Ibrahim I. Dooba and Abdullahi Y. Bello who penned the piece earlier referred to, a yet to be acknowledged effort was made by one Mr. Eze Emmanuel, a Nigerian student in Malaysia. Worried by the unwholesome activities of some Nigerians in Malaysia, Eze issued a mail, under the message heading, “Save our Soul” to the High Commissioner on March 14, 2010. Eze who detailed how he was attacked by some Nigerians in his apartment on February 21, 2010, did not only request the intervention of the High Commission, he also promised to provide leading clue on how the activities of these groups can be grounded. This mail was not responded to, not until after it was published in the March 16, 2010 edition of the Nigerian Tribune.

On the strength of Tribune's publication and not based on the responsiveness of the Commission to its duties and obligations, a meeting was held with him on March 22, 2010, in which the Commission was represented by Mr Ibrahim Hamidu. Although he appreciated the latter's adroitness, Eze issued another mail on March 23, 2010 requesting for the attention of the High Commissioner on what should be done. When asked why he issued another mail to the High Commissioner, Eze's reply was that he was not happy that the Commission abdicated from its responsibility by referring him to the Malaysian Chapter of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organization, NIDOMY as the appropriate and competent body that can handle the issue. Not deterred by this unsatisfactory response, Eze writes in his March 23, 2010 mail to the High Commissioner:

“Your Excellency, as hopeless and as seemingly irredeemable the situation is right now, I am profoundly convinced that adequate, timely and immediate steps can be taken to either eliminate or drastically reduce this dangerous trend. I decided to write this mail to you because I strongly believe the High Commission can be the engine and the driving force for controlling this ugly situation�Your Excellency, my main concern here is in the approach to realizing this objective. I believe in a holistic approach which combines both containment and engagement mechanisms and which is both coercive and persuasive…And I strongly believe that the Nigeria High Commission can be the facilitator of this idea”

After waiting endlessly for a positive action from the Commission which prides itself as the “Nigeria which the students have in Malaysia,” Eze had no choice than to contact NIDOMY president who after a good sense of judgment handed over the case to me. In our interaction, I made Eze realize how it would be impossible for NIDOMY to handle an issue of this gravity and categorically stated that it was the High Commission's responsibility. I pledged my personal intervention which we were both working on when the sad development of kidnapping broke out. I was stunned to read stories crediting the High Commission with genuine efforts aimed at bringing under control, menace of gangstersim, and cultism that is now rampant among most Nigerian undergraduate students in Malaysian private colleges and universities.

Eze's experience is just one of the several complaints of insensitivity on the part of the High Commissioner and his staff. One of them who can be singled out was one Mr. Mohammed Arzika, who, to the best of my knowing, unlike others, never looked down on fellow Nigerian citizens with disdain. When issues involve the son of who is who, media interviews will be granted to create a wrong impression that the Commission is in charge. While my argument should not be mistaken as placing the crime on the Commission, my motive is to make a case for lack of adequate and timely proactive measures from the Commission as well as accusing the High Commissioner in particular, and the Commission as a whole of reckless abandonment of the thrust reposed on them. One may need to walk around and ask Nigerians who are resident in Malaysia about their harrowing experience in the hands of the Commission. How can one explain a High Commissioner who on arriving the Commission premises asked fellow citizens of his country, “ who are these people?,”; “what are they doing here?.” One of those to whom he posed the question was smart enough to ask him, “is that the first thing to say… I think you are supposed to have first say, good morning.” Rather than take to correction, he hissed on them and went into his office. It was in the same Commission that Nigerians were called goats. What else could be demeaning?

A relationship could be established between this lackadaisical attitude of the High Commission staff and how the case of Luqman Abdul Salam and Abdulalhi Bolajoko Uthman was handled. Having considered the facts on ground, I strongly add my voice to those who are of the opinion that the case was not given proper representation by the High Commission. This, among several burning issues which are detailed in my diary will be given paid attention in the book I am writing on my experience in a foreign land. Among several begging questions, why is it that the High Commissioner never heeded the advice that a delegation be sent by his leadership to speak to the Nigerian student community in Luqman and Abdullahi's school. While it will be wrong to say nothing was done by the Commission, it is my unmistaken opinion that some of their actions complicated the case, therefore, making it difficult to get these innocent young chaps adequate and befitting representation that was much deserved. As a researcher on Middle-Eastern studies and a student of history, I have read how Commissions that worth their salts handled cases of Luqman and Abdullahi's sort, therefore, if judgment is to be based on this, the Nigeria High Commission in Malaysia fell short of expectation.

On the issue of the ticketing expenses that was alleged to have been siphoned by some top ranking staff of the High Commission, effort is being made together with some action oriented individuals to formally get EFFC invited as it is felt that Mr. Mr Olawepo John's article which brought this to our attention has not followed EFCC's formal procedures. John's claim may not be far from the truth; however, it is our hope that with EFCC being dragged into the case, the truth will prevail.

On a concluding note, those from the immediate community of Luqman and Abdullahi should know that, more than the High Commission, through one sinister plot or the other and series of compulsive responses that defile all aspects of moral standards, they held back the wheel of advocacy that was being championed to prosecute their case to a logical conclusion. For timorous reasons, characteristic of pseuds and villains, they starved the struggle of the desired moral support, and that these individuals cannot see dignity in silence, it means they are surely off ethical limits of existence. Regardless of whether we despise those who stood up to fight the cause, whether we hate or love their persons, approved or disapproved of their approaches, those who were not manly to offer hands of comaradie to fellow colleagues when needed the most, should know that theirs is never the role of an unbiased umpire as they were part of the betrayals.

The writer, Mr. Adebiyi Jelili Abugana, a former UNILAG Student leader can be reached through abudugana2000yahoo.com. The opinions expressed therein are in no way reflective of any Organization where I am holding elective position.