BY DEPORTING Nigerian national Precious Osahon Fred on Wednesday even after a court order barring such action, the State has shown utter contempt and disdain for the authority of our Supreme Court, undermined the rule of law, set a shocking example for citizens and also violated the principle that all persons on our soil should be subject to fair treatment commensurate with universal human rights.
Having been told of Justice Carol Gobin’s order by lawyers representing the Nigerian, the State cannot hide behind the fig leaf of lack of formal notification. It was completely reasonable to expect the businessman would have sought injunctive relief in the court. For what reason was this African man so hastily deported? A complete and thorough investigation must be conducted into the office of the Chief Immigration Officer with a view to establishing what has occurred in this case and bringing those responsible for the violation of the court’s order to account. Failure to do so will compound an already scandalous situation.
The Immigration Division of the Ministry of National Security is fast earning a reputation for deplorable conduct. Questions remain over its handling of matters relating to the deportation of Venezuela nationals. A recent deportation of several individuals, including asylum-seekers, triggered an international diplomatic spat, straining our relationships with key international bodies. The fallout from these kinds of incidents is hard to predict or contain. What is sure is that they damage our international reputation as much as they set poor precedents locally. In this regard, the violation of a court order potentially exposes the State to expensive litigation. There is a literal and a moral cost to every uncouth action by an immigration official.
What is even more troubling is the inconsistency of the approach of the Immigration Division to cases before it. For instance, while Fred was hastily removed from the country, another Nigerian national, Emmanuel Jahbuike Onyeukwu has been kept by the State for almost two years at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) even though he was ordered deported since 2016.
Onyeukwu’s case has highlighted another side of the coin: the poor conditions at the Ministry’s facilities for foreign nationals. According to his legal action, facilities at the IDC are said to be squalid, under-resourced and unsafe. This corroborates longstanding reports. Clearly, there is a lot that needs to be addressed when it comes to our systems. Wednesday’s flagrant disregard for the judicial process, however, might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.