- Govts should make home conducive to discourage Nigerians from desperate search for ‘better life’ outside
The report of 26 young girls, aged between 14 and 18 years, who died while trying to illegally migrate to Europe on dingy boats across the Mediterranean Sea, reflects the state of anomie at home. To the shame of our country, many misguided young Nigerians over the years have died off the coast of Libya, after leaving our blighted country in search of the proverbial greener pasture.
In what apes a historical irony, these youngsters desperately pay huge resources to buy their way into modern slavery. Unfortunately, many of them, instead of gaining passage into slavery, harvest death in the turbulent waters of the Mediterranean Sea, off North Africa. Disillusioned at home, and disorientated with false information of an El Dorado, they embark on desperate journey to untimely deaths.
The desperadoes, who survived the arduous journey across the Sahara desert, routinely get picked up after a shipwreck, and deported back to where they originated. Those who die in the desert become food for the hyenas and the jackals, while those who die on the sea, are usually thrown overboard as food for the sharks. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman, Marco Rotunno, the 26 girls were involved in a shipwreck off Libya.
Rotunno said 23 of the dead were being transported on a rubber boat with 64 other people. The bodies were transported in the refrigerated section of the Italian warship, with 375 survivors. According to the Italian La Repubblica, most of the survivors were from Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, The Gambia and Sudan. Among them were 90 women – eight of them pregnant – and 52 children, in company of Libyan men and women.
The BBC reported: “People-smuggling gangs charge each migrant about $6,000 (£4,578) to get to Italy, $4,000 of which is for the trans-Saharan journey to Libya, according to the Italian aid group L’Abbraccio. Many migrants have reported violence, including torture and sexual abuse by the gangs.” At the conversion rate of N360 per dollar, each Nigerian migrant may have paid over N2 million to embark on this dangerous journey.
While we condemn without equivocation the criminal gangs who run this racket, and the young Nigerians and their compatriots across sub-Sahara countries who hand their souls to the villains, we urge the leaders of our country and other concerned countries to ponder the human tragedy they preside over. With most of the countries mentioned destroyed by corrupt and inept leadership, their citizens see no future and are willing to die trying to escape.
We also condemn the near silent official reaction to this national embarrassment. But for a terse statement credited to Abike Dabiri-Erewa saying that the government will next year come up with a policy to discourage the immigrants, there is no strong official protest.
We however welcome the statement by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons calling for “a high level investigation by the United Nations (into) this incident and others before it along the Mediterranean region”. It added: “We need to know the identities of the owners of the rickety boats that carry people along that axis as well as their owners, so they can be prosecuted.” We also commend Italy for promptly prosecuting two men, Al Mabrouc Harar and Mohamed Al Bouzid, over the deaths of the Nigerians.
We urge the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to strongly protest this callous and illegal trade by Libyans. While it should take steps to discourage the ill-fated travels, it should insist on knowing what the Libyan government is doing to stop the smuggling gangs. Even as the government bears responsibility for the blighted environment, it should not shy away from protecting the rights of her citizens, even outside the country.
The ultimate solution lies in purposeful governance, so as to restore the dignity of Nigerians. If there are jobs and prospects of a quality life in the country, the 26 women would not have embarked on the suicide trip.