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Nigerians tie assault on diplomat in Indonesia to country’s image problem

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…as Buhari recalls ambassador

FOLLOWING the assault on a Nigerian diplomat in Indonesia by immigration officials last Saturday which drew public outrage, the Nigerian government has decided it will review its relations with the Asian country and has taken steps to recall Ambassador Muhammed Buba Ahmed for immediate consultation.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, who disclosed this during a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, said there was absolutely no justification for such a treatment, not only on a diplomat but any Nigerian at all.

“What we’ve decided to do is to recall (for consultations immediately), our Nigerian ambassador in Jakarta in Indonesia and we will have full consultations at the highest level and decide what next steps to take, including a review of our relations with Indonesia,” Onyeama said.

Since the footage of the assault went viral, Nigerians have taken to social media to express anger at the shabby treatment on a Nigerian diplomat, calling the government to take definite steps to prevent the maltreatment and harassment of Nigerians abroad.

The ICIR earlier reported that a statement released by the ministry on Monday condemned the behavior of the Indonesian immigration officers and confirmed that the minister had summoned Indonesian ambassador to Nigeria who tendered an unreserved apology, but Nigerians have rejected the apology and instead called for the culprits to be fished out.

Reacting to the incident, Kinglsey Chidi wrote on Facebook: “Everything will end in just condemning, no real action will be taken and tomorrow they will do even worse. Look at how a diplomat is being treated like a condemned criminal.”

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Another Facebook comment by Oboh Peter read: “So Nigeria thinks apology is enough? Nigeria ought to investigate and unravel the cause of this victimization. Does it mean this is how Nigerians are treated over there?”

Findings by The ICIR revealed that although this was the first of this type of assault on a Nigerian diplomat in Indonesia, it was definitely not the first time Nigerians would be unjustifiably harassed by immigration officials in the country.

Ebubedike McDowell, a Nigerian residing in Indonesia, said he and others were constantly being assaulted and harassed by immigration officials and when they complained to the embassy, they wold be asked for evidence.

“I really like what they did to him. In fact, they should have treated him more than this. When ordinary citizens here are complaining to them how immigration officials are treating us they will ignore us and say we should bring proof,” McDowell said.

This position was corroborated by Daniel Uboh: “I have met Mr. Ibrahim and told him what Indonesia immigration is doing to Nigerians. The answer he will give to me is where is the evidence? Now he is the evidence.”

Nigerians believe that the poor treatment is as a result of the country’s poor public perception globally. In recent times, there has been an increased level of insecurity brought about by kidnapping for ransom, terrorism and banditry which can partly be directly linked to high rate of unemployment and poverty.

Several Nigerians have been indicted for drug trafficking, wire fraud and other kinds of internet scam. In the 2020 Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International, Nigeria was ranked 149 out of 180 countries.

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Another report by Amnesty International accused both the armed Boko Haram group and Nigerian security forces of committing serious crimes, particularly in the North-East.

“Everywhere, excessive use of force resulting in unlawful killings, and torture and other ill-treatment were widespread,” the report said.

A Human Rights Activist Ohioma Aroaye averred that the treatment received by Nigerians abroad directly reflected the value Nigeria placed on human lives.

He said, “Everybody will harass us and treat us like filth when they see and hear about how we dehumanize and kill each other. You don’t treat Americans like this for a reason and it is because they respect human rights. Does Nigeria respect the human rights of her own people?”

For over a decade, Nigeria has invented various slogans aimed at rebranding its public image before the international community, but these are yet to translate into an improved public perception. Even within the continent, Nigerians are treated with contempt, a recent example  being the looting and destruction of properties belonging to Nigerians during the pro-Jacob Zuma protest in South Africa.

Principal Consultant at Adstrat Brand Management Company Charles O’Tudor, said branding could not be conjured or invented by mere logos and sloganeering.

“A brand is built through an internal processing of its brand’s DNA based on empirical research. As a country, we need personal, corporate and institutional reformation to achieve a transformational repositioning of our national brand identity. The internal process is what automatically reflects in the external processes,” he said.

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Marketing Director of Kong Marketing Agency Akintoye Alao said developing a sustainable economic roadmap that would address the high poverty rate in the country was a key step towards rebranding.

He said that would make crime less attractive to Nigerians.

“In my opinion, I think that the global community has trust issues with Nigeria and it is starting to reflect on every aspect of our lives, from investor confidence in our markets to the way they perceive the value of Nigerians in the international human capital market.

“We need a total system overhaul, starting with issues of leadership as a whole, to being able to have a well-defined sustainable map for economic policy will take us out of our depressive state and lead to growth,” Alao told The ICIR.

He added, “When you’re in a country that has a very good economic leverage, you get respected by other countries because they are gaining things from you.”

Nigerians expect that the assault on a diplomat serving in Indonesia would compel the government to take urgent necessary steps towards redeeming the country’s battered global image.

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