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The legality of internal’deportation’ of Nigerians

By Emmanuel Majebi

There is a very worrying trend  that is rearing its ugly head in many states of Nigeria. This trend sees many Governors expelling Nigerians from a state they have chosen to live and forcefully sending them back to their so called “States of Origin” for non-just cable reasons.

For want of a better term to describe this very strange practice by   some state governments,  I will refer to it here after as “internal deportation”. Deportation by its very legal definition has to do with deportation of an alien out of a country either because he was not legally supposed to be in the deporting country or because he has committed a crime.

The trend started a few months back in Lagos when the state government in it’s mega -city drive on various occasions expelled so called destitutes loaded them unto buses and sent them back to their so called states of Origin.

The popularity of the Lagos Government probably did not allow the Press or indeed Human Rights Advocates from crying out aloud against this trend which in my humble opinion is very Unconstitutional and illegal. The fact that those who are the victims of this state high handedness are the wretched of the Earth means that not too many people are really concerned about their plight.

I remember writing to few media houses back then to highlight the unconstitutionality of “deporting” Nigerians in their own very country but unfortunately none of the media houses I wrote to were ready to stand on the side of these hapless Nigerians so my article never got published.

In that article I had warned that it was a very bad trend which could elicit copy cat actions from many other states to the detriment of hapless Nigerians and badly damage to quest for Nigerian Unity. I also opined that some treacherous politicians could someday stretch the definition of destitutes and extend these illegal actions to cover even those who are not so destitute and use it as a political weapon against Nigerians not living in their states of origin.

I shall in further in this article look at the legal definition of destitutes and then we would see that this can be extended to cover just about anybody that a state government does not like. I remember that  few years back at the height of Ex Governor Tinubu’s Certificate scandal; the now late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who was at the forefront of the battle to prove against Tinubu, then Governor of Lagos state, came under voracious attack from some pro Tinubu politicians who told Gani to go back to “his state” – Ondo and harass his governor instead of making life difficult for “their” state  Governor.

That is a refined version to the expelling of “destitutes” which could easily be adopted if this syndrome is not nipped in the bud. Just as we thought that this ugly trend had quietly died down with the Lagos misadventure; a report appeared in the Thisday Newspapers 15th September 2009 edition to show us that the trend is raring it’s ugly head once again. This time around it happened in Kaduna State.

The story which was on page 10 of the said newspaper was titled : “Kaduna sends Non-Indigenous destitutes packing…” It was a very short-to-the-point-report and I will like to quote it verbatim as reported by the newspaper. The story goes thus, “A scene similar to a commando raid played itself out yesterday in Kaduna, when the state government cordoned off all roads leading to the destitute homes located along the popular Kano road, and sent about 2000 destitutes to their states of origin.

The exercise which the state had been planning for long, finally commenced around 5 a.m, when a Task Force for the relocation of Destitutes, accompanied by two trucks of Policemen  descended on the camps. The early morning move which completely caught the destitutes unaware almost ran into a hitch when the destitutes refused to be re-located, but the policemen, who apparently came prepared, simply loaded them and their luggage into about 40 trucks and (were) later taken to Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, kano and Jigawa states…….”

This Thisday story speaks for itself. Need I say more. There were also similar reports few months back about Lagos state dumping destitutes in Oyo state which said action elicited protest by no less a person than the Governor of Oyo state Adebayo Akala.

That none of the numerous Human rights Organizations have bothered to raise this issue is still very perplexing to me. Maybe it is because the people involved a seen as lesser humans with no human rights? But can the action of these state governments be justified under our Constitution or any other law? If any other law purports to take away the fundamental human rights of Nigerians can that law stand? It is very clear that all these actions clearly violate the express provisions of Part IV of the Constitution which provides solid cover for the Fundamental Human Rights of Nigerians.

But before I go to the Constitutional provisions let us even look at the “offence” – destitution.  The major offence given for the internal deportation of these hapless Nigerians is that they are destitutes. But what is destitution? Is it a crime under any of our laws?  If it is a crime is the punishment for such a “crime” forceful ejection to a so called state of origin of the offender? Is forceful ejection to ones state of origin a punishment for any offence in our statutes books and Constitution? Black’s law Dictionary 5th edition defines a destitute thus; “…..not possessing necessaries of life, in condition of extreme want…bereft, lacking possession and resources…”

If we go by Blacks definition of a destitute which said definition is in clear unambiguous language it is very clear that a destitute is one who should be pitied rather than criminalized or punished. If a person is in condition of “extreme want..” should a state government not cater for them rather than branding them destitutes and “deporting” them to their states of origin as if they are not Nigerians? Or are these state governments saying that they are only supposed to care for the need of those who indigenes of their state?

I throw a challenge to the states governments who have been engaged in this rather worrying action, to show me any law where destitution is declared a crime; and if a crime that the punishment should be internal deportation? Section41. (1) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that; “……..Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit there from…..”

I wonder if the officials of these states who engage in internal deportation of Nigerians from one state to another have ever adverted their minds to this section of our Constitution? The fact that this section specifically says a Nigerian can live freely anywhere in Nigeria and does not talk about his not being expelled shows that it is not even within the farthest thinking of the drafters of the Constitution that a Nigerian could be forcefully expelled from a state where he has chosen to freely…reside…”

If a citizen of Nigeria from Zamfara decides to live in Kaduna; where in the light of section 41(1) of the Constitution do the officials of the Kaduna state government derive the powers to eject such a Nigerian from Zamfara forcefully or by inducement all in the name of destitution?

This particular matter I believe is a public interest and constitutional matter which should interest the Attorney General of the Federation and the National Human Rights Commission if the non-governmental human rights bodies are too busy to pay attention to it.

It goes to the very root of our Nigerianess and the Federal Government need to take a strong position in the favour of the right of the Nigeria; whether destitute or non -destitute; to live freely and unmolested in any part of Nigeria where he chooses to live. If necessary the Federal Ministry of Justice or the Human Rights Commission should be ready to bring an action in the Supreme Court against any state government who is engaged in this type of unconstitutional act. I rest my case.


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