Union Home Minister Amit Shah discussed the detention of 16 Indian sailors in Nigeria on Saturday with the country’s Home Minister Rauf Argebesola who said he would look into what could be done to “minimize any challenges that may arise”.
The two leaders spoke on the sidelines of the “No Money for Terror” conference. “What I said to the Home Secretary yesterday when he raised the matter with me is that we respect India. We extend that respect to any Indian national involved in any act, undertaking or a legitimate business in Nigeria. You look at all the facts around this case. We respectfully consider what India is saying and we will see what we can do to minimize any challenges that may arise,” he said.
A Nigerian court has charged 26 men, including 16 Indians, with allegedly attempting to illegally trade in crude oil. Authorities claimed that the crude oil inside the vessel “MT Heroic” was purchased illegally. On August 9, the ship had left for Nigerian Equatorial Guinea with crude oil. On August 17, he was arrested.
Sanu Jose, managing director of MT Heroic, in a video call called on the central government to intervene. He and other crew members, seen holding Indian and Sri Lankan flags in the background, are heard saying the ship was being dragged through Nigerian waters. He called it an act of piracy, while crew members are heard calling for help. A similar video was also posted by other Indians on board. Appeals have also been made by family members of detained seafarers to the chief ministers of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
Argebesola said CNN-News18 that consular access will be provided to detained Indian nationals. “You should know that Nigeria is affected by the illegal removal of crude oil. The vessel you refer to, we suspect to be involved in something close to this…it is not yet confirmed…the matter is before the courts. I can only ensure the well-being of the suspects and the preservation of their human rights; they can use consular access with India to ensure justice,” he said.
Nigeria also raised the issue of its nationals detained in India. Officials said Nigeria was seeking reciprocity on the issue of Indian seafarers. “I raised the issue of Nigerians detained for a long time without trial in India. We are looking into the matter raised by the Indian authorities, they too have promised to look into our concerns,” the minister said.
He added that he also raised the issue of visa reciprocity with India. Nigeria is asking for a separate visa regime for its businessman – including visa on arrival and long term visa for its students – for the duration of their course rather than the current semester visa system.
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