Panaji, Nov 6 (IANS) A week after a Nigerian's murder here sparked off unrest and triggered a diplomatic tussle between the African nation and India, police in Goa Wednesday arrested one local as a murder suspect.
However, a backlash against the Nigerian community in the state continues.
Police Wednesday arrested Surendra Pol from Chapora, a village 30 km from the state capital, and a notorious hub of narcotics activity. Police said others alleged to be involved in the murder of Obodo Uzoma Simon, who was stabbed to death in a north Goa village last Wednesday, also hail from this village.
Pol was remanded in police custody for 10 days.
Meanwhile, late Tuesday, the village of Parra, a popular residential hub for Nigerians in north Goa, passed a resolution at a specially convened meeting of panchayat banning the renting of rooms and houses to Nigerians on a student visa.
Sarpanch of the village Delilah Lobo said the decision was taken after it was found that most Nigerians "faked students visas" to stay in Goa and peddle drugs.
"We had to stop this to save our village. The chief minister himself says that many Nigerians are living here on fake papers. That is why we wanted to pass the resolution," said Lobo, wife of BJP MLA Michael Lobo.
Sioliom-Sodiem, a coastal village, has already passed a resolution demanding that Nigerians staying on rent within the village's jurisdiction should be asked to leave.
This backlash is already beginning to tell on young Nigerians like Chioma Ghonsali.
Ghonsali, 24, was asked to leave her home in Anjuna by her landlord, who claimed that the police wanted all Nigerians evicted.
"We are all God's children. Why are we being treated like this?" she asks.
The Goa government has already ordered a crackdown on all foreigners living in this tourism hub after a bitter clash between a mob of over 200 Nigerians on one side and police and locals on the other.
The Nigerians, who were protesting the murder of one of the compatriots, last Thursday blocked National Highway 17 for several hours, demanding the presence of Nigerian consular officials for the autopsy proceedings.
During the clashes, the Nigerians not only smashed a police hearse, but also dumped the corpse in the middle of the road blocking all traffic.
They later snatched lathis from intimidated policemen who were mute spectators and began to threaten local people as well as policemen themselves for a couple of hours. Over 50 Nigerians were arrested following the violence.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar later claimed that the murder was a result of a war between two narcotics gangs. The Nigerians said that their fellow national was murdered by the local drug mafia which had the sympathies of the ruling dispensation.
Parrikar has also said that all Nigerians with fake papers would be deported soon.
"Cases against those Nigerians who have minor charges, will be dropped so that they too could be deported," Parrikar said, adding that getting involved in petty crimes was one of the strategies used by Nigerian drug dealers to prolong their stay in India.
The action against Nigerians has also resulted in several ruling legislators referring to them as "wild animals" and even equating them with "cancer".
Specific targeting of Nigerians has caused uproar in the diplomatic circles with the Nigerian High Commission in India claiming that the treatment was demeaning, and demanding an urgent stop to the harassment of their nationals.
"There are 50,000 Nigerians in India, but there are one million Indians in Nigeria," Nigerian diplomat Jacob Nwadadia said after speaking to police, bureaucrats and members of the Nigerian community in Goa Monday.
Police suggest that the crackdown on Nigerians would tweak the narcotics industry in Goa, with one of the major drug mafias run by the Nigerians now on the backfoot.
"The local drug mafia which appears to have engineered the murder now has an upper hand. The Nigerian gang will not have time to consolidate their position before the tourist season hits its peak and drugs sales hit the peak," a senior police official, formerly attached to Goa Police's anti-narcotics cell, said.