Death Of 26 Nige­rian Women

The drift abroad will ex­pand in size and scope un­til the coun­try puts the econ­omy in or­der

THISDAY - - PAGE SIX -

The dis­cov­ery by the Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties of the bod­ies of 26 Nige­rian girls re­port­edly mur­dered on the Mediter­ranean Sea has trig­gered a pub­lic out­pour­ing of anger, and il­lu­mi­nated the hor­ror of ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion.

JOB­LESS­NESS AND FRUS­TRA­TIONS ARE FU­ELLING THE DES­PER­A­TION TO LEAVE THE COUN­TRY AS AVAIL­ABLE STA­TIS­TICS PAINT A DIRE SIT­U­A­TION OF MIL­LIONS OF NIGE­RIAN YOUTHS ROAM­ING THE STREETS FOR WORK BUT FIND­ING NONE

The dis­cov­ery by the Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties of the bod­ies of 26 Nige­rian girls re­port­edly mur­dered on the Mediter­ranean Sea has trig­gered a pub­lic out­pour­ing of anger, and il­lu­mi­nated the hor­ror of ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion. Ital­ian pros­e­cu­tors were re­port­edly in­ves­ti­gat­ing the death of the vic­tims, mostly teenagers, whose bod­ies were re­cov­ered at sea amid sus­pi­cions that they may have been sex­u­ally abused be­fore be­ing killed as they at­tempted to cross the Mediter­ranean.

In a be­lated state­ment, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has de­scribed the tragedy as “a mon­u­men­tal loss and a sad mo­ment for our coun­try,” while the Na­tional Agency for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons (NAPTIP) has can­vassed “a high level in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the United Na­tions into the in­ci­dent”. But be­yond the usual po­lit­i­cal state­ments, it is nec­es­sary for the au­thor­i­ties to put the tragedy in per­spec­tive. A com­bi­na­tion of sus­tained neg­a­tive eco­nomic growth and a de­mo­graphic bulge has put the coun­try in a very dif­fi­cult and po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive sit­u­a­tion.

For more than a decade, the econ­omy has been un­able to cre­ate jobs to ab­sorb its grow­ing army of grad­u­ates. Job­less­ness and frus­tra­tions are ev­i­dently fu­elling the des­per­a­tion to leave the coun­try as avail­able sta­tis­tics paint a dire sit­u­a­tion of mil­lions of Nige­rian youths roam­ing the streets for work but find­ing none. So, driven by eco­nomic des­per­a­tion and some­times by mis­in­for­ma­tion, hun­dreds of thou­sands of able bod­ied young men and women on a daily ba­sis em­bark on per­ilous mis­sions in search of op­por­tu­ni­ties that do not ex­ist in those very so­ci­eties. While only a small frac­tion even­tu­ally reach their des­ti­na­tions where they face huge dis­ap­point­ment and frus­tra­tions, ma­jor­ity of them usu­ally per­ish on the way.

Sta­tis­tics from the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM) re­vealed that about 75 per cent of the nearly 155,000 mi­grants and refugees who got to Eu­rope by sea this year ar­rived in Italy. But the num­bers who perished on the way were alarm­ing. Ac­cord­ing to some records, 10,000 Nige­ri­ans died on the treach­er­ous Sa­hara desert –Libya –Mediter­ranean route in the month of May, 2017 alone. The ac­counts of some of the re­turnees were, to put it mildly, har­row­ing. Many who made it to Eu­rope were forced into pros­ti­tu­tion, used as mer­ce­nar­ies, de­ployed as house­hold ser­vants, fac­tory work­ers, drug couri­ers and even as or­gan donors. Re­ports have also emerged of mi­grants reg­u­larly beaten to death, with tor­ture and star­va­tion the daily sta­ple for those who sur­vive.

Even so, the in­flux of the young and rest­less to Eu­rope is ris­ing as they pay lit­tle or no heed to the dan­gers on the way or the dis­ap­point­ment await­ing those able to land. Many of the mi­grants who are un­em­ployed or pushed by out­right poverty are de­ceived by sto­ries of jobs, busi­nesses and pros­per­ity by peo­ple smug­glers. In­deed, in­creas­ingly, the sta­tis­tics sug­gest that hu­man traf­fick­ing has be­come one of the thriv­ing busi­nesses af­ter drug traf­fick­ing. The cen­tral Mediter­ranean route from the coast of Libya to Italy is re­port­edly the most trav­elled by Nige­ri­ans and other il­le­gal mi­grants from sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa. In the last five months, more than 1000 stranded Nige­ri­ans have re­turned from Libya thanks the ef­fort of the IOM.

How­ever, as we have ar­gued in the past, many oth­ers will con­tinue in the foot­steps of the dead and the maimed if the pre­vail­ing mis­ery and poverty per­sists. We live in a coun­try where a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of the pop­u­la­tion is mired in poverty. Many able-bod­ied men and women are ly­ing waste. There­fore, while it makes sense to sen­si­tise the youth to the dan­gers of the haz­ardous jour­ney, it would be more pro­duc­tive for Nige­ria to be­gin to put its econ­omy in or­der.

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