At least 400 citizens of Niger Republic would stage a protest on Monday in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, to distance themselves from accusations of terrorism.
They said in a statement on Wednesday, that many of them are being arrested and deported by the government following Boko Haram scare in Lagos.
The Nigerian government “is chasing shadows and looking for criminals in the wrong places,” they said in a statement signed by Comrade Declan Ihekaire, National Coordinator of Concerned Human Rights Nigeria.
“We are being harassed, intimidated, arrested, detained and even deported by the Lagos State Government,” they said.
The protest would take place at Agege Area of Lagos and would start with a press conference, said Ihekaire, whose organisation speaks on behalf of the Niger Republic citizens.
The Niger Republic citizens said they believe the Nigerian government knows those behind Boko Haram terrorist organisation “but has chosen to go after innocent poor people who live in the country peacefully.”
Since the arrests and mass deportation started, they said, their families have been destabilised.
“Our families have been broken, our children have been stopped from going to school and our nights have now become nightmarish. We are law abiding citizens and grateful to be in Nigeria but we are not bombers, armed robbers or dreaded Boko Haram members as claimed by the government.”
They added: “We have nothing to do with Boko Haram and hence to ventilate our grievances, the citizens of Niger Republic resident in Lagos are calling on human rights bodies to join the over 400 of us to protest this injustice, pain and agony on Monday, 8 April.
“A reprisal from our country would not go down well as there are more Nigerians in Niger Republic than we are in Lagos or Nigeria.”
Speaking on behalf of the Niger Republic citizens, Concerned Human Rights Nigeria said: “We are aware there are Nigerians outside the shores of this country illegally doing their small business just like most of these non-Nigerians in Nigeria.”
The group said most of those being arrested are simply shoemakers, scavengers, maids, or security guards.
“In Ghana alone, we have close to two million Nigerians living illegally there. In the Republic of Niger, there are 2.5 million Nigerians and there are as many in Togo, Benin Republic, Congo, Guinea, Gabon and even Cameroon,” Ihekaire said.
He wondered if “Mohammed Yusuf, Kabiru Sokoto and a serving senator arrested in connection with Boko Haram activities were non-Nigerians.”
“On this note, the entire members of Concerned Human Rights Nigeria and all its allies call for an urgent stoppage of this national disgrace and unnecessary show of strength by the overzealous Lagos State agents and the Nigerian Police to advert a reprisal that could be counterproductive,” Ihekaire said.