How challenging is the position of the president of the Nigerian Community in
strenuous. A lot of work to be done because there is quite a lot of
problem among Nigerians with respect to getting papers. A lot of our
people are staying there illegally. You know what it means, so they
need a lot of representatives to file in their favours. That is why
this Osamuyia issue is as a result of not being documented. Being the
president of the Nigerian Community is a whole lot of work, because of
the great percentage of Nigerians that are illegal in
How does the negative reports about
a personal ground, I think the reception from the host country is
positive because I have been in that country for decades. I would tell
you that the reception from them is cordial. In the 70's, we were
received as kings; we were well honoured. I am going to be real with my
answers and believe me, our image, talking about Nigerians in
the late 80's, the names of Nigerians started flashing in the
newspapers as drug peddlers and so on. From then to early 90's, the
question of human trafficking became the order; a lot of our girls were
being imported into
as you can imagine, when these sort of things started happening, our
people started losing their prestige. It is logical that if we say that
we are a great country, which I believe
This is what has tarnished our image. As for Nigeria as a nation, that name Nigeria is respected at least within my own community, among the people that I interact with but then, remember that discrimination is not against you as a black man but poverty. I have come to know this sociologically. So if they say something bad against Nigerians, well they feel, all these guys that lose their lives in the sea in, not only Spain, but also in Italy, Germany, every where do not have a great country because if things were good in your country, you wouldn't be fighting to leave.
How receptive are the Spaniards towards Nigerians at the moment?
think the Spanish society is very receptive, and I can tell you that I
think that there is nothing I can say against their hospitality.
But the only thing is that, when you hear everyday that some segment of the Spanish press and Spanish politicians keep saying that the causes of high crime rate in the country is due to immigrants, the first immigrant they point their fingers to is not those from Brazil or Argentina or the United States but to the black man.
And talking about the black man, the first people they see visibly are Nigerians because we are the people they see come in through the sea. It keeps flashing on the news, two ships came in today with this number of Nigerian immigrants and you see them dying on the high sea, a lot of them.
They come in completely dejected and worn out after weeks of a mission impossible journey. What I am trying to say is that their reception is good but because of the image of what they see, we have no respect.
to the Spanish government, the last statistics they gave to me there
was about 19,000 Nigerians registered officially residing in
As the president of the Nigerian Community, how do you help in controlling this continuous influx of Africans, especially Nigerians?
To start with, the objective of the association is to be your brother's guardian, to help your brother. But then, when we came face-to-face with this problem, the influx of Nigerians from 1995 or 1994 down to this moment, it has reduced considerably in the last two years.
we were faced with the problem of how to solve this problem and the
major way was by the dissemination of information through the
shed tears when I got to the parks and see young girls, 18, 19, naked
in the street, you don't tell me this is a good image we are building
brother, I can tell you that our job is to disseminate information, to
let them know that what they are doing is very wrong. But I would say
again, not every Nigerian is like that, we still have reputable people
We disseminate information on immigration laws, what to do and what not to do. Anytime they call me up, I go to assist. But the problem we are facing is for them to come out. Many of them want to keep going through the fraudulent means of forgery to get their papers, but we still try to let them know what they are doing is wrong.
Talking about the level of crime and illegal activities Nigerians get involved in, the reports are always on the high side, is it the statistic or is it exaggerated?
don't have a statistics and wouldn't be able to tell you 10%, or 20%,
but all I can tell you is, whatever the number, they are causing a
great damage to our name and to that of
a Nigerian citizen, Osamuyia Aikpitanhi, died under the custody of the
Spanish authorities, what was the reaction of the Nigerian community in
As soon as this incident happened, I think I heard about it an hour after it happened. Somebody called right from the plane to a friend and immediately the friend contacted me. As I heard the news, I called the Nigerian Consul, and he said he heard about it and immediately we called the police in Madrid and they said they didn't have any information as regards to that but, if eventually they get it, they would forward but to the Spanish Embassy.
I started calling other Nigerian activists to wait until we get more
information. It happened on Saturday, on Sunday, I gathered the
newspapers, read about it and saw the face of one of the brothers who
didn't know he had relations here. Immediately, I called people in from
I would like to state here that the Nigerian Embassy acted very fast in this matter to let the world know about our feelings about the whole thing and we called the press- the two national TV stations were there and a lot of newspaper media. Also the two brothers of Osamuyia were there together with a lot of Nigerians, both young and elderly. They were all there and expressed their grievances and we asked for three things-justice, investigation and adequate compensation to the family and again, a fourth one which is that this does not happen again to another Nigerian.
We were not accusing anybody until we knew the result of the autopsy that was what we did. After that, I put it on the blog and sent a letter into Nigeria.com. I received emails and letters from all over the world from people telling us to take the matter calm-it was too wrong to say that they killed or assassinated him though they do this but I felt there were certain words that were judicial issues we had to be careful about using until the scientific investigation which is the forensic examination result was out.
Eventually it came out and proved that he was killed. The autopsy result showed that he died of asphyxia or suffocation and immediately I called the press to let them know that Osamuyia was killed.
Were there any Nigerian medical personnel present when the autopsy was carried out by the Spanish authorities?
No, but the autopsy said that this man died of suffocation which means that somebody suffocated him and again, he died in the hands of government. We would have raised eyebrows if the autopsy said nothing happened, that he died of natural causes because they were speculating that he died of heart attack. The autopsy was clear that this man died of asphyxia which is as a result of suffocation, induced suffocation. This was as a result of their gagging his mouth.
said that they used the police tape which restrains people and is not
harmful but we are made to understand now that that was not the tape
used in gagging Osamuyia. The lawyer handling the case, Mr Pedro Victor
de Bernado Riafa, said the tape used was about one metre long. So the
hypothesis now is that they were trying to subdue him because he was
fighting not to be deported so threw him to the ground with his arms
and legs tied, his mouth covered while he was being crushed to the
ground, probably that was when he got suffocated. The autopsy showed
that he died as a result of the treatment he was given by the security
The earlier report said that he swallowed the tape used in gagging him?
There were a lot of speculations; you know what the media is. When this sort of thing happens there are a lot of stories that will be told and this was what happened precisely. People were busy analysing the issue, some said he was intentionally beaten and swallowed the chord but the autopsy put things right.
According to the autopsy report, he died of suffocation; there were traces of blood on his body and his lungs showed that he was manhandled and the bottom line is, according to the lawyer whom I have been in contact with, his death was induced by somebody, it was natural, that is the scientific picture.
Three days after the incident, the Spanish minister for internal affairs was asked by the opposition party leader to give account of the incident to the congress and he said he was definitely going to do that but needed more time for investigations to be finished. As for the judicial investigation, there are a lot of muddles of issues there which we protested. I
the press two weeks ago and had the lawyer talk to them. He said that
he has interviewed the air hostess aboard the plane and the two other
deportees who are still being held in
They have to be charged as the accused but the Judge is inviting them in as witnesses, that sparked our protest but the lawyer made me understand that the situation might also be to our advantage because, as an accused you can lie and get away with it but as a witness you are under oath and cannot lie otherwise you have a 12-year jail term waiting for you. So that is the situation at the moment.
There were reports that the
is completely false. Let me put it this way; there are a lot of
misconceptions our people have towards the Nigerian Embassy in
I know what many people expected was to see the ambassador protesting on the streets but that cannot happen. As soon as this incident occurred, the ambassador, Mr Oloko and I got involved and the embassy has been following the matter till date. They automatically got in touch with the relevant agencies, both the police and the interior affairs ministries, invited the police chief to give an explanation about what actually happened.
This is what they were supposed to do and the embassy has been giving daily reports to
How has this incident affected the relationship between ordinary Spaniards and their Nigerian counterparts?
On a personal ground I have been making a lot of press appearances since this incident so that the Spanish citizens will be carried along and within the masses it is as if nothing happened; their relationship with Nigerians still remain cordial. You see, if there is anything wrong, there is no problem between the Nigerian community and ordinary Spaniards.
Having lived in Spain for decades now, what have you identified as being the root cause of a higher number of Nigerians being undocumented?
It is a government issue in the sense that the Spanish law and the Nigerian policy make it difficult for Nigerians living in
at the same time, they came up with a law which the Federal Government
of Nigeria gave that Nigerians abroad wishing to obtain police reports
will have to obtain it in person at
am saying is that, if you want to get a police report you have to come
back home to get it. This is a tactical way of mass deportation of
Nigerians so they don't attempt it. Nigerians, being what they are,
started forging and our name is being tarnished because of these
falsifications. I have been to the highest office in
There was a day I went to the office of police general and he opened a cabinet containing thousands of files of Nigerians and told me that he knows that out of a thousand files there, not up to two are genuine and asked me why our people are so into forgery; he said a Ghanaians don't do this neither do Senegalese, why Nigerians.
the answer to the problem lies with this method of obtaining police
reports, it is very difficult and is giving us troubles there in
it were something you appear before a notary or before the Nigerian
consul with their fingerprints and send it down to their families to
file for them and process and present it at the Spanish embassy, then I
give you my word that 90 per cent of this people will not engage in
falsifications of their papers. This is the problem we are facing in
I have complained on end about this problem but nothing has been done about it and our people keep getting into trouble because of this ugly development.
When the former president, Obasanjo, visited
I want to use this medium to appeal yet again to President Musa Yar
Adua; to the new National Assembly to come to our aid and help us solve
this problem if not thousands of Nigerians, both legal and illegal
residents, would continue to get into troubles with the law in these
foreign countries and our name will keep on being dragged in the mud.
passport problem has made so many Nigerians to obtain their passports
by proxy which gets them into problems when they visit other countries.
According to the
is the problem we are facing and until this issue is tackled, I am
promising you that hundreds and thousands of Nigerians will keep
getting into troubles and the issue of illegal immigrants will
continue. This is the nightmare Nigerians living in
What advice do you have for Nigerians especially the youths who seek to enter
They are making a mistake, a very big one for that matter.
What fools our people is when they see someone who travels abroad and in a couple of years, due to the exchange rate, sends down a car or two, don't be deceived, there is suffering there too.
Our people are suffering there. My advice to people is, don't risk your life to go to