Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent separate open letters to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Aminu Wali, and the Chairperson, Diaspora Committee, Nigeria House of Representatives Ms Abike Dabiri over the situation of Nigerians living in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In the open letters dated 20 February 2015 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization urged them to “urgently intervene in the situation of Nigerians living in Baku Azerbaijan who are being arbitrarily denied their right to nationality by the Embassy of Nigeria in Tehran, Iran by failing and/or refusing to issue the citizens renewal of their international passports.”
“Several Nigerians living in Baku Azerbaijan have told SERAP that they participated in an e-passport exercise conducted by two Nigerian Immigration officers. This exercise took place between 31st August 2014 and 1st September 2014 and was witnessed by the Ambassador of Nigeria to Iran Alhaji Tukur Mani, and an embassy officer. Every adult participant paid $150 while every child paid $120. But the embassy has so far failed and/or refused to issue the participants any passport,” the organization said.
The organization also quoted Nick Nwolisa, president of Nigerians in Diaspora Azerbaijan chapter as saying that, “Nigerians residing in Azerbaijan are left to their own fate. Some of the Nigerians here are on the verge of losing their jobs because without a valid passport, you can’t get a residence or working permit.”
“Most would be wandering the streets of Baku looking over their back, because with an expired legal permit, you are a target of the immigration officers who are so bent on deporting Nigerians. Some would be expelled from school and can’t continue with their studies. We have been basically on our own here, and the situation we are in now is actually a matter of urgency and desperation,” Nwolisa also said.
The organization expressed “serious concern that the failure and/or refusal to speedily process the renewal of passports for the Nigerians may put them in breach of immigration laws in Azerbaijan and constitute arbitrary deprivation of nationality, contrary to international standards, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”
According to the organization, “The right to nationality of every Nigerian is a fundamental human right implied within the provisions of Article 5 of the African Charter, and essential to the enjoyment of other fundamental rights and freedoms under the Charter.”
“It is absolutely important for the government of Nigeria to recognise, guarantee and facilitate the effective enjoyment of the right to nationality of every Nigerian wherever they may be, and to ensure that no citizen is exposed to statelessness and other violations of human rights,” the organization added.
The organization therefore asked Ambassador Wali and Ms Dabiri to “act urgently to prevail on the appropriate embassies and foreign ministry officials to move swiftly to renew and release the passports of the Nigerians affected.”