By Kunle Sanyaolu.
The discovery of the bodies of 26 girls, presumably all Nigerians, in the Mediterranean Sea on November 5, 2017 naturally evokes another round of dejection, sadness and hopelessness among fellow citizens. These are children, aged 14 to 18 years, of our neighbours, friends and families. The fact that the girls were not fully identified before being buried by the Italian authorities makes many of us wonder what exactly is the worth of a Nigerian life.
Many parents whose daughters have travelled in search of better life are perpetually in anxiety and apprehension regarding the fate of their wards. Many parents do not even know that their daughters, under the lure of finding the golden fleece, and the false assurances of human traffickers, are out there in the open hoping to cover hundreds of kilometres on the sea to get to Europe. How many times have this tragedy been enacted this year alone? Worse still, how many times will it occur before the close of the year?
It is always pathetic to hear reports of Nigerians dying or being killed needlessly in some foreign countries. Sadly, as some Nigerians escape the needless deaths, by some divine intervention, more are struggling to put themselves, unknowingly, in the way of harm and death, all in the hope of finding greener pasture.
Nigeria may not have the passion of Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Adviser to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, in lamenting the ugly incidents that keep repeating itself. We should be glad that somebody is making all the appropriate noise, hoping that sooner than later, somebody will listen and take a genuine step to fully and finally stop these recurring tragedies.
Meanwhile Mrs Dabiri-Erewa is asking all the relevant questions: Why did Italy decide to bury the 26 girls nine days earlier than the November 26, 2017 date Nigeria reportedly agreed with Italy for the burial. Considering that only three of the girls were actually confirmed to be Nigerians, where exactly are the others from? Where are the results of the pathological tests, and DNA conducted?
Abike has promised that Nigeria will investigate the incident at the highest diplomatic level. Good talk, but will anything come out of it? There are many more questions we should be asking ourselves rather than the Italian authorities. How did the girls go out from whatever country they were coming from, without the countries’ authorities stopping them from obviously illegal and dangerous migration? Why are they trooping out in such large numbers, leaving their parents and loved ones, often keeping their mission secret, to seek an improvement in their lives. What has been the quality of their life before their sojourn, and what hope is there that their life will improve?
Additionally, was there really an agreement that Italy will keep the dead bodies for three weeks before burying them? At whose expenses and at whose risk? The girls were discovered on November 5. Between then and November 17 – 12 clear days – when they were buried, what did Nigeria do to inform and protect herself? From who does Italy need to obtain permission before disposing of decomposing bodies? Did anyone even know for how long the girls had died before their discovery?
The truth is that until Nigeria is put in order, her citizens will continue to go through this type of harrowing experiences. More people will be lured into journeys of no return, so long as they are assured of jobs, even if it is prostitution; and some foreign currencies in earnings. It is no news that Nigeria is a most difficult country to survive honestly because of lack of opportunities; but the duty to fix the country and prevent unnecessary and dangerous migration is that of the sitting government. Does the government recognise the terrible level of poverty and want among ordinary Nigerians who constitute the gross majority?
There is clearly a big task ahead of government if an implosion is to be avoided. Dabiri-Erewa made an instructive remark in her observation of the incident that: “The fact is that at the other end, they are not willing to save regular migrants anymore; so it is going to get tougher and dangerous.” This is the real message, because the other countries owe their citizens a duty to ensure their welfare and security, but not Nigerian citizens. Is anyone listening?