External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday an impartial probe will be held into the attacks on Africans in Greater Noida after Nigeria asked the Indian government to ensure the immediate arrest and prosecution of those responsible.
Responding to concerns expressed in Rajya Sabha by prominent opposition leaders Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) and Anand Sharma (Congress), who were supported by deputy chairman PJ Kurien, Swaraj described the incident as “unfortunate” and said the Centre has sought a report from the state government.
“The moment I got information about the attack, I immediately sought a report from the Uttar Pradesh government. I also talked to chief minister Yogi Adityanath and asked him for a public assurance of an impartial probe,” she said.
“Unless the probe is complete, it will not be appropriate for me to say anything on the matter,” she added. “The administration there is ensuring peace and security as well as treatment of the injured Nigerian students. I assure the Parliament there will be an impartial probe and action will be taken against whoever is found guilty.”
In Abuja, Olushola Enikanolaiye, permanent secretary in Nigeria’s foreign ministry, summoned Indian envoy B Nagabhushana Reddy on Wednesday and expressed “displeasure” over the attacks on Nigerians and voiced concern that the incident was not the first of its kind.
I have just finished a meeting with the Indian High Commissioner where I expressed Nigeria's displeasure with the attacks on Nigerians. pic.twitter.com/fEEtmnwypi— Sola Enikanolaiye (@PS_MFANigeria) March 29, 2017
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, senior special assistant on diaspora to President Muhammadu Buhari, also condemned the attacks as “deplorable and unwarranted”. She asked the Indian government to “ensure that any alleged suspect should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”.
In a statement, she called on Nigerians in India to “remain calm and be watchful of their surroundings”. Her appeal followed “multiple distress calls” by Nigerian students on concerns over their safety.
The violence erupted soon after a teenage boy died of a suspected drug overdose in Greater Noida and local residents blamed Nigerians for supplying him narcotics. Five people have so far been arrested for the attacks on Africans.
But Enikanolaiye said the Indian boy – 17-year-old Manish Khari – “was said to be on drugs” and “must have had an overdose of it which might have led to his death in a hospital”. He added, “It is therefore, a concern to us that Nigerian students in that place were harassed, beaten up and many of them were seriously injured.”
The prosecution of those responsible is “necessary to serve as a deterrent to others and to forestall future occurrences”, he said. Such incidents should not happen in view of the “excellent relationship” between the two sides which have been “great friends”, he added.
Enikanolaiye expressed concern that the latest incident “was not the first of its kind”. He said, “Nigerians have suffered similar attacks in the past. So, what we will like to see on this occasion is that the perpetrator should be arrested. And we want to see diligent prosecution so that it would serve as a deterrent to those who think they can take laws into their hands and harass students who are going about their studies.”
Reddy described the incident as “deplorable” and said security personnel had been deployed in Greater Noida to ensure the safety of Nigerians and other foreigners.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the presidential aide, said she had been informed by Charles Kennedy, president of the Nigerian students’ association in Greater Noida, that more police patrol vehicles have been deployed in the area.
“He (Kennedy) confirmed that the situation is calm and is pleased with the prompt actions of the Nigerian chargé d’affaires in India and the Indian government so far,” she said.
The attacks continued to be widely reported in the Nigerian media, with Bella Naija website sharing an unnamed Nigerian student’s account of what had led to the violence.