The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has raised the alarm over the plight of some Nigerians living in Baku, Azerbaijan, who, as a result of being denied the opportunity to renew their passports, live daily in fear of deportation.
SERAP, in an open letter dated February 20, 2015 and signed by its Executive Director, urged the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali, and the Chairperson of the Diaspora Committee, House of Representatives, Abike Dabiri, to urgently intervene to forestall unwarranted deportation of the Nigerian citizens living in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The group asked Wali and Dabiri to use their good offices “to prevail on the appropriate embassies and foreign ministry officials to move swiftly to renew and release the passports of the Nigerians affected.”
SERAP said its call followed a letter it received from the citizens, who said were being arbitrarily denied their right to nationality by the Embassy of Nigeria in Tehran, Iran, which failed or refused to honour their application for international passport renewal.
According to the group, the affected citizens in Baku, Azerbaijan explained that between August 31 and September 1, 2014 they participated in an e-passport exercise conducted by two Nigerian Immigration officers under the watch of the Nigerian ambassador to Iran, Alhaji Tukur Mani, and one other embassy officer.
They said though every adult participant paid $150 while every child paid $120, the embassy had however failed and/or refused to issue them their passports.
According to SERAP, the President of the Azerbaijan chapter of the Nigerians in Diaspora, Nick Nwolisa, said, “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 shoulders, 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.”
SERAP, while noting that the right to nationality of every Nigerian was a fundamental human right preserved within the provisions of Article 5 of the African Charter, said it was important for the Nigerian government to do everything that would guarantee and facilitate the effective enjoyment of the right to nationality of every Nigerian wherever they may be.
It also said it was incumbent on the Nigerian government to ensure that none of its citizens was exposed to statelessness and other violations of human rights.