The Federal Government has said that no lesser than 400 Nigerians are serving various jail terms in South African prisons.
The Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, who disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja on Friday stated that most of them were involved in criminal activities.
Dambazau said this while addressing newsmen in company with his foreign affairs counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, after their trip to South Africa to address the xenophobic attacks on Nigerian nationals in the former apartheid enclave.
He explained that he had a meeting with the home affairs minister in South Africa and discussed a wide range of issues, particularly migration.
He said, “Those convicted are in the minority because equally we have Nigerian professionals who are contributing positively to the development of the economy of South Africa.
“However, that is not to say that they should fold their arms and not to do something about somebody involved in criminality, but in doing that, we emphasised that due process of the law should be followed in terms of presumption of innocence and in terms of fair hearing.
“I understand that there are about 400 Nigerians who are in their prisons for various offences.”
Dambazau said the offenders would finish their jail terms in South Africa because there was no prisoner exchange arrangement between both countries. He, however, said that efforts would be made to ensure that such arrangement was put in place in due course.
The minister said he also emphasised that due process of the law should be taken in dealing with suspects.
“When we met with the Nigerian community, we also emphasised that those who are involved in criminal behaviour should not be allowed to spoil the good names of themselves and Nigeria,” he said.
The minister said the issue of passport challenge was also tabled at the meeting with the Nigerian community with a promise that it would be resolved.
He added, “There were complaints that the passport machines were old and from our record we understand that they were supplied in 2007; I then promised them that arrangement must be made to ensure that all passport machines are changed to modern ones. We are going to streamline the issuance of passport.”