Nigeria: Racism in French School - Ecole Francaise Marcel?

editorial

We seriously believe that racism, under whatever guise - diplomatic immunity or not - should not find a stay in Nigeria.

Emerging revelations in Abuja seem to suggest that the French Embassy is openly promoting racism in Nigeria through a school that it operates. The school, Ecole Francaise Marcel, located in Prince and Princess Estate, is reportedly owned and managed by the French Embassy. In the school, segregation is practiced a la apartheid South African 20 years ago. Whereas the French are taken as superior humans, Nigerians are seen as second class. And insultingly, the school managers allegedly claimed that because the school is owned by the Embassy; whatever they do is covered by diplomatic immunity and therefore could operate segregation or apartheid as a French foreign mission policy.

According to the director of the school, Mr. Serge Leandri, "the school is not under any Nigerian authority but governed by the French Embassy in Nigeria and the Embassy warned us to be discrete with a lot of issues." The school is reputed to have a student population of about 250, with a Nigerian student allegedly paying a whopping N2million per annum, while the French students reportedly attend it for free. And of its over 50-man workforce, only five are Nigerians earning a disparaged salary, while the rest are French.

This Newspaper feels concerned and wants to ask: Do international conventions on diplomacy allow for an Embassy to directly own a business outfit in its host territory? Is the business outfit of an Embassy covered by diplomatic immunity as to operate outside of the supervision of the host government's agencies, and if such immunity permits discrimination of any form? And most importantly, is the school registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and approved by the relevant organs of the Ministry of Education? Is the school registered to offer, strictly, the French curriculum without a Nigerian content?

We are worried that the Nigerian workers in the school earn only a basic salary without insurance, health; transport or other allowances while their French colleagues are entitled to all the goodies and bonuses. Nigeria should be the last place on earth where racism is condoned irrespective of whatever guise; diplomatic immunity or not. Only recently, Miss Joan Akamu, a Nigerian English teacher in the school, was allegedly sacked for chastising a 10-year old French pupil who used vulgar language on her. To add to her misery, Miss Akamu was told by the director that she "should have ignored the nasty comment from the pupil and moved on with the lesson." In the drama that followed Mr. Leandri was reported to have told her; "Don't you know that in Nigeria, money talks, bullshit works. I don't give a damn what you have to say; anybody that hasn't money in Nigeria is nobody and with money, anybody can influence anything."

Miss Akamu has since petitioned the public Complains Commission alleging arbitrary termination of her appointment without entitlements, racism and denial of fair hearing, maltreatment of black employees and other matters. Curiously the commission as at now is yet to avail her of justice. Could this be a confirmation of Leandri's assertions? We seriously believe that racism, under whatever guise - diplomatic immunity or not - should not find a stay in Nigeria. Therefore the Federal Government should move into this matter immediately to investigate the activities of the school, and by extension other French organisations in Nigeria.

Particularly, we want to call on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to immediately commence investigations and ascertain the true situation. The Nigeria Immigration Service needs to also come into this. How come a school in Nigeria with over 50 workers has only five Nigerian workers? Is that in consonance with the 'Expatriate Quota' rule of the Nigerian labour laws?

In our thinking, Leandri has all the wrong perceptions of Nigeria, if his statements are anything to go by. He is a man who can never present an iota of a good image of this country, back in his home in France or any other place that he may find himself to be. Whether he is a diplomat or not, by his utterances, he, certainly, has outlived his usefulness in Nigeria, and deserves to leave the country. It is also important that after thorough investigations, the school should be closed down if found to be liable, so as to serve as a deterrent to other groups who believe that because of the nature of Nigerians, "anything goes."

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