Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

It’s not clear where to situate the truth regarding the recent warning by the government over the safety of Nigerians in the Diaspora, especially Northern Cyprus; ELEOJO IDACHABA writes.

Call it xenophobia or sheer hatred leading to attacks and death, you are right. That is the lot of many Nigerians who reside in different countries abroad.

What is amazing is that even within the continent, it is the same story. From South Africa to Ghana, it’s the same fate, not to talk of countries like Lebanon, Turkey, United Arab Emirate and Northern Cyprus.

As a result of this, the chairman of Nigeria Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa recently warned on behalf of the federal government against anyone travelling in particular to Northern Cyprus as according to her, there are serious cases of unending human rights abuses there.

She was speaking during the 48th Session of the State House Ministerial Press Briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa. In her views, Northern Cyprus is recognised by only Turkey and not the United Nations because of the self-acclaimed independent status it accorded herself. Therefore, that country, she said, does not have robust mechanisms that would enable the federal government to pursue justice for several Nigerian students who were often killed there.

In her words, “Think twice before going to Northern Cyprus. We can’t do much for Nigerians there. Our students are being killed daily. Some people will tell you that their destinies are abroad but if you want to go, go legally.”

‘We’re safe’

Meanwhile, in what appears as countering the information by Dabiri-Erewa, Nigerians in Northern Cyprus have denied that they were being maltreated as alleged.

In a statement, the president, Nigerian Community in Northern Cyprus, Comrade Isaac Ifetoluwa Ajayi, urged parents whose wards reside in Northern Cyprus not to entertain any fear over anything as according to him, they are safe.

He, therefore, noted that there was no incidence of killing of Nigerians either before or on-going in Northern Cyprus, as the country, he said, has no culture of taking lives.

“We want to use this opportunity to tell all our parents and sponsors that we are safe in Northern Cyprus. There is no killing of Nigerians ongoing in Northern Cyprus. Our host country has no culture of taking lives. Every living thing in Northern Cyprus is safe from kidnapping, harassment, terrorism or any form of killing. Our problems are the high cost of accommodation, consistent inflation and admission of unwilling students who act unpatriotic here in Cyprus.

“We have lost some students to natural death, accident, and self-inflicted abuse in the past while some Nigerians have also attacked each other in the past but our host country, who are Cypriots and Turkish, are neither violent nor destructive in nature.

“We are convinced that the chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri, has been misinformed. Our certificates are recognised everywhere in the world, just as the Turkish Government is recognised and accepted everywhere in the world. We plead with the office of the chairman to kindly protect Nigerians; hence by desisting from making false publications which are not facts henceforth,” he said.

Speaking in the same vein, the coordinator, Nigerian Community in Northern Cyprus, Comrade Daniel Oyelaja, in a swift reaction asked Dabiri–Erewa to apologise to Nigerians in Cyprus for the misinformation.

According to him, “The misinformation about the Turkish of Northern Cyprus is uncalled-for from the chairman of Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, Mrs Abike Dabiri. We are glad to tell the whole world that Northern Cyprus is safe. Northern Cyprus is safer than any part of our country, Nigeria. Northern Cyprus is safer than Northern Nigeria. We are in safe hands here in Northern Cyprus.

“The people of this country are lovely, kind, understanding and accommodating. I think this country and all Nigerians in Northern Cyprus deserve an apology from Abike Dabiri for the misinformation that puts our friends and families into unrest and worry. The major problem here is the high cost of living which is a global challenge.”

It is the responsibility of every country to take the welfare of its citizens in overseas countries seriously; that is why the statement by Dabiri-Erewa is worth it. But when juxtaposed with the reactions of some Nigerians like those in Northern Cyprus, it becomes difficult to know where the truth lies.

UAE as case study

It is also on record that in the United Arab Emirate, especially the city of Dubai which is like a second home to many Nigerians; it is, according to investigations, no longer friendly like before owing to visa restrictions and work permit restrictions which have come to many as a rude shock.

This reporter gathered that the action came after a series of lawless actions by some Nigerians in the recent past. Because of this, in the month of August, many Nigerians were left stranded at the Dubai airport because their passports were seized.

Back in 2010, it was discovered that the Middle East country had well-developed tourist centres for which many Nigerians who love resorts/leisure decided to take advantage of it to settle there with many taking up paying jobs. That was the beginning of how that country became the number one stop-shop for wealthy Nigerians.

This hospitality was, however, taken for granted as many of them got involved in violence ranging from cybercrimes to cultism, prostitution and fighting in this erstwhile peaceful country, especially in the city of Dubai as against the laws of the land which is Article 52 of the UAE Federal Law No 34 of 2021 on Countering Rumours and Cybercrimes.

At different times, it was reported that the authorities issued cautionary statements to visitors and migrants against disorderly behaviours which reportedly fell on deaf ears. While some got away with it, others paid either through fines, deportation or jail. In many instances, the culprits were usually Nigerians.

In July 2022, for instance, there was a street fight between two rival cult groups from Nigeria with gang members brandishing dangerous weapons against each other. Those involved were subsequently arrested by the police and prosecuted. Thereafter, it has not been the same again for immigrants, especially those from Nigeria. This was the immediate reason for visa restrictions; although it was later relaxed, Nigerians under 40 years old still bear the brunt.

How it had been

Many Nigerians have been victims of xenophobic attacks in South Africa with several deaths and illegal detention of persons. The phenomenon which started during the administration of Jacob Zuma for South Africa and late Yar’Adua for Nigeria came to a head in 2017.

A threat of official reprisal from the Nigerian government against South African nationals and their businesses in Nigeria nearly resulted in a diplomatic row between the two countries.

The same applies to nearby West African neighbours Ghana where it was reported that the shops belonging to Nigerian business men were forcefully locked for inexplicable reasons on the order of Ghanaian government. Again, it took the intervention of the Nigerian government in collaboration Ghanaian Embassy in Abuja to resolve the row.

Nigeria and Nigerians first

According to Emmanuel Onwubiko of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), everything about Nigeria’s foreign policy should place the country’s interest first.

“If the national interest of Nigeria is to dominate the framing and implementation of the foreign policy of any government in Nigeria, then we need to do a much broader assessment of the welfare and wellbeing of Nigerians living in foreign jurisdictions. If the life of a Nigerian in Nigeria means nothing and conversely abroad, the life of a Nigerian may indeed mean nothing,” he said.

While taking a swipe at Nigeria for doing nothing over the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, he said, “The federal government is not known to have taken any diplomatic measures to protest the incessant killings of Nigerians in South Africa but instead the legislators in Abuja saw an opportunity to embark on a very fruitless trip to South Africa in the guise of meeting with the parliament of South Africa, but we all knew that their objective for the trip was to accumulate foreign travelling allowances and estacodes and not to achieve anything tangible.”

Dabiri-Erewa’s vindication

A retired assistant director from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Charles Adams, told this reporter that even though it is not normal for a citizen of another country residing and doing legitimate business in a foreign land to be harassed or even killed, such incidents occur randomly, especially with the crass disobedience to laws nowadays.

“A good number of times, such incidents occur. Even when it bothers on the infringement of the laws of a country, it is the duty of every government to protect her citizens. I think it was on that premise that Abike Dabiri-Erewa spoke,” he said.

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