"Your Excellency, could you please tell us what you think your responsibilities as representatives of our country are here in Manila? What do you think are the reasons for having a Nigerian embassy in the Philippines? Three of our people have been murdered in cold blood in less than six months with the embassy doing absolutely nothing! How many more Nigerians must be killed before you sit up and ask questions?"
John Igbokwe
Friday, November 16, 1995
To Charge d' Affaires a. i. Mr. Samuel Ajewole
during a meeting on the murder of Nigerian citizens;
inside the Chancery of the Embassy of Nigeria, Manila, Philippines

Book Excerpts

COLD BLOODED MURDERS...

....To a Nigerian observer, the most significant details of this case were the nationalities of the victims, the quiet but significant, unbroken support to the victims' families by their governments through their embassies, and the sustained interest of the Philippine press in covering the trial. It was common in the Philippines - and still is - to subvert justice in cases where the victims were foreigners. That this case against a member of the Philippine elite saw successful trip through the judicial process was a testament to the tenacity of the victims' fairly affluent families and the great support their embassies provided to them. The Chapman and Hultman families fought hard with support from their embassies to ensure this high-profile trial of a member of one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in the country was not whitewashed. If it took more than five years for two wealthy Caucasian families and their governments to push a murder case through the Philippine judicial system, imagine what the odds were for a poor African without any support from his government. In the absence of personal wealth, a Nigerian victim of crime, especially a crime against society like murder, would invariably rely on his government in seeking justice. Paying attention to this need is part of the national interests that countries seek to protect with their diplomatic presence abroad. The weight of countries in ensuring that justice is served is indispensable to the full care of their citizens, especially in democracies where the rule of law protects all under the mandate of a constitution. No country can claim to serve the best interests of its citizens abroad without actively helping citizen victims of crime to obtain justice. More importantly, democracies do not sanction summary executions either by law enforcement officials or ordinary citizens. Even in cases were guilt appears evident, suspects are protected by the presumption of innocence until a duly constituted court of law issues a verdict to the contrary. Summary executions are common in the Philippines where many people often prefer the gun or knife to dialogue in settling even minor disagreements.

The decade of the 1990s was a terrible one for Nigerians on the world stage. Dictatorship was rampaging in the country, driving more and more families into penurious existence. Young men and women grew desperate as hunger in the clans grew. It was not long before peddling drugs internationally became one of the crimes of choice for a few. To a large extent, the resulting negative international image of Nigeria was undeserved as many more citizens struggled and led clean, honest lives. The misdeeds of a few hundred people were tarnishing the millions who had not benefited from their crimes. This was certainly the situation in the Philippines where over ninety eight percent of the members of the Nigerian community were students, former students or decent, transiting citizens awaiting visas to their next destinations. Majority of these Nigerians had lived in the country for longer than a decade, having first arrived in the early 1980s or mid and late 1970s. Everybody knew everybody else and knew who did what in town. While discreetly distant from the hustlers in town, the old timers were not totally divorced from them as members from the two groups often attended the same community events and shared visits. I knew many members of the hustler side of the community and related quite well with them. Occasionally, I had offered financial assistance and counsel when approached for help. As a result of my respect and non-discriminatory attitude towards them, I commanded a fair amount of reciprocal respect from them. On the contrary, the attitude of the embassy exemplified by Mr. Rotimi was scornful and dismissive, having already lumped all of the hustlers in the broad category of criminals to be avoided. When the murders started to occur, this attitude of callous neglect would harden, instead of soften.

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