Nigerians vent anger at embassy after student dies in immigration custody

Protesters outside the Nigerian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

KUALA LUMPUR: A Nigerian student pursuing his PhD at a local university is said to have died at a deportation centre here following wrongful arrest by the authorities.

Nigerian daily PM News said according to reports, Orhions Ewansiha Thomas was taken to a centre at Jalan Duta despite possessing valid documents.

He was said to have died while officers were verifying his papers ahead of his release.

Thomas had been studying management at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

In a Facebook post, the university said it was informed of his death today.

“We offer our sincere condolences to his family and many close friends,” it said.

“By all accounts Mr Thomas was a passionate and kind member of our community, respected by all who were lucky to meet him.

“All of us at Limkokwing University wish to express our heartfelt wishes of love and support to all affected. We request calmness and understanding during this difficult time.”

Yesterday, a group of Nigerian nationals held a small but heated protest outside their country’s high commission at Jalan Ampang.

The protest was reportedly triggered by the death of a fellow Nigerian while in immigration custody.

Orhions Ewansiha Thomas.

At one point, a protester kicked open the gates and walked into the grounds of the mission.

The immigration department has been contacted for comment although the protesters did not make any claims of misconduct by the department.

Instead, they voiced their frustrations at what they called the embassy’s lack of assistance to the over 30,000 Nigerians in the country.

FMT is also attempting to get a comment from the high commission.

Ahmed Adebanjo, a spokesman for an NGO known as Nigerians In Diaspora Organisation Malaysia (Nido-My), said the main problems faced by Nigerians in the country were related to visa issues.

He said many Nigerians were being held in immigration depots as they did not have valid travel documents.

Adebanjo claimed many Nigerians had been lured here by false promises of lucrative work by unscrupulous agents.

He said there were also foreign students who have had their visas cancelled by colleges or universities and are now stuck in the country.

“Many Nigerians want to go home but after spending a lot of money, they don’t have the means to go back,” he said.

He said Nido-My, which was approved by the Registrar of Societies, was doing all it could to help them.

“We want to work with the government but the embassy needs to do more. The best is not enough, they need to do more to help Nigerians here.

“We know there are Nigerians who are troublemakers. We can’t deny that and the police are just doing their jobs,” he said.

However, he said there were also Nigerians who were law-abiding but who had died while trying to escape from raids or during detention.

“We have one case where a Nigerian died in custody. Maybe he was sick and after he was detained, he could not take his medication.”

In such cases, Adebanjo said, it was the immigration department that would get blamed.

“On social media, people say the department only targets Nigerians. But it’s not like that, we all know the truth.”

He said he hoped the department would meet with the high commission and work out an amnesty programme for Nigerians who want to return home.

“My message to the Nigerian government is: do more for Nigerians who want to go back home. They need the high commission’s help.

“If they can resolve the visa issues with Malaysia’s home ministry, no one will come here making noise.”