The startling statistics were revealed by the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Nnena Ukeje.
According to Mrs Ukeje, the Nigerians were jailed for offences ranging from possessing illegal travel documents, shady business transactions, fraud and for trump-up charges arising from prejudice and language barriers occasioned by the inability to speak either French or any of the local languages.
The parliamentarian added that a good number of the Nigerians were actually travelers on their way to Europe who were dispossessed and abandoned by human traffickers.
She said: “It is a big problem; we got a report of as many as 800 Nigerians in prison in Togo. Now this is worrisome given that Togo is a small country with little attraction for economic migrants; so we are wondering how many Nigerians are in jails in bigger countries.
“But we have also found out that most of these prisoners were gullible youths lured away from home by human traffickers; they simply told them: we will travel by road to Togo and once we get there we will help you acquire French travel papers so you can take a flight from that country to your dream destination in Europe or America”.
The female lawmaker termed the discovery in Togo a national embarrassment adding that the initiative to find out the number of Nigerians in foreign jails came during the protracted crisis in Libya.
“When we saw TV footages of Black Africans in Libyan jails, we were shocked to see that a good number of them were Nigerians; thereafter the National Assembly began discussion on prisoner-exchange and how Nigerians in prisons in foreign lands can be brought back home to finish their terms,” Mr Ukeje said.
In January 2012 Minister of Youth Development, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, disclosed that about 1,000 Nigerian youths were being held at various prisons in China. The Minister who said he had asked the Chinese authorities for details of their offences had added that the information would serve as vital materials in a campaign targeted at young Nigerians seeking greener pastures in foreign lands.
In the same January, a fact-finding team led by prominent lawmaker, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had found that 500 Nigerians were serving time in Indian prisons. The Nigerian High Commissioner to India, Mr Oyebola Kuku had told the visiting members of the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora that more than 500 Nigerians were in various jails across India.
The High Commissioner had further disclosed that the Nigerians were convicted for offences, such as drug trafficking, identity fraud, cyber-crimes, job scams and forgery of travel documents including passports and visas.
Following the shocking discovery in Togo, Mrs Ukeje announced the creation of Diaspora desk in Nigeria’s foreign mission abroad. “We are looking at a situation where our citizens are in the front, right and centre of our foreign policy; we are looking at establishing a Diaspora desk in every embassy around the world and we are looking at strengthening that desk so that it can engage fully with our citizens abroad”.