The humiliation of Nigerians abroad
Just when it seemed the worst had been seen of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, the phenomenon went on the increase the other day with reports of many innocent Nigerians coming under racial and vicious attacks in different parts of the world. This is unacceptable by any standards.
In some Indian and South African cities, Nigerians have been subjected to indignities in obvious hate. Sadly, the Nigerian government has not adequately reacted to these confirmed widespread reports about the organised acts of savagery carried out on innocent Nigerians in these countries. The Foreign Affairs Ministry that ought to take on the issues has been docile, silent and sheepishly quiet. This is disgraceful!
The list of attacks is lengthy. Sadly, South Africa for which the entire world stood up to fight for her independence from the apartheid white minority government has had a long history of such attacks. In 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2017, there were wild waves of brutal attacks on foreigners. Owing to the huge migrant Nigerian population in that country, a great number of Nigerians suffered great losses, including lives too.
In India the other day, specifically in New Delhi, Nigerians were the targets of mob attacks on account of their skin colour and nationality. In 2014 and 2016, there were similar attacks on Nigerians. The month of March 2017 has been terrible for Nigerians living in Delhi, a state that has gained notoriety for racial attacks on Africans. Many were beaten by mobs while security agents looked the other way or hunted down like animals by the officials of state themselves. In all of this, and this is the tragedy, the Nigerian diplomatic missions have not been known to intervene unequivocally on behalf of her citizens, a situation that is at odds with the purpose of establishing those missions in foreign countries in the first place.
Another dimension to this macabre drama is the horrendously dehumanising treatment to which some Nigerians are subjected while being deported from some foreign countries. There are acceptable minimum standards which deportees are subjected to while in transit.
There have been many cases of Nigerian deportees shackled in hands and legs like animals or tethered to aircraft seats. Such occurrence, of course, should receive the automatic reaction of Nigerian authorities. But this hardly ever happens.
It is common knowledge that even convicted criminals still have some rights. To pick up a Nigerian from the streets of a European country or America for immigration violations and put in chains for hours like wild animals is unacceptable and it is only the Nigerian government that can intervene to save the dignity of Nigerians.
This newspaper subscribes to the ideals of justice and fair play at all times. There is the need for all Nigerians or foreign nationals to respect extant laws of their host countries. If migrants run foul of extant laws, they should be punished according to the laws of the land.
However, to allow the brutalisation of Nigerians for any reason is failure to adhere to the tenets of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on migrant populations. Migrant labour is a reality of the 21st century owing to the demands of globalisation and less fortunate economic circumstances of some countries. Currently, there are 232 million migrant workers around the world. This represents 3.1per cent of the global population. Host nations, therefore, have to learn ways to protect these workers who have left their home countries for trade and work purposes.
Nigeria is home to a sizeable number of foreigners both of African and non-African descent. Indians, Africans, Lebanese, Americans, Britons and people of Asian origins work in different sectors of the Nigerian economy. Some resident Indians have been notorious for being brutal and insanely callous to their Nigerian workers. There have been no mass riots against these foreign nationals. If anything, the nation’s law enforcement officers have often looked the other way. Also, there are citizens of many African countries who work in the construction sector in the country. During the liberation struggle, Nigeria played host to South African students who were placed on Federal Government scholarships to study various courses in Nigerian universities. Nigeria was also considered a ‘Frontline State’ in recognition of her vigorous and uncompromising stance in the anti-apartheid struggle. Obviously, the current generation of South Africans does not have the benefits of history or chooses to be blind to such.
Enough is enough. By the principle of reciprocity, the Nigerian government must make the feelings of the Nigerian people known to countries whose citizens unleash insane acts of brutality on migrant Nigerians. These acts of unlawful attacks will continue if Nigeria keeps turning the proverbial cheek. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been silent and this is unacceptable. The ministry ought to lead the way. Happily though, the Foreign Affairs Committees of the National Assembly have been vocal.
Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora deserve the attention and protection of the Nigerian government. That is the responsible thing to do. The Federal Government should, therefore, live up to its responsibilities and commitment to Nigerians wherever they may be. The diplomatic missions representing Nigeria around the world should be mandated anew to provide for and protect all Nigerians at all times. If Nigeria does not show respect and concern for her own citizens, no other nation will. And government officials must always stress the positive. It is wrong for a leader to generally condemn citizens of his country to the outside world. It is worse for diplomatic missions to abandon Nigerians in their domain of operation in spite of the fact that they are paid and obliged to offer services to distressed Nigerians.
Finally, South Africa and India are known to have huge capital investments in the Nigerian economy. It is immoral for Indians and South Africans to reap the benefits of the Nigerian economy, yet their home countries inflict indignities on her citizens.
The time has come for Nigeria to show those who treat Nigerians badly that there is something called the principle of reciprocity in international relations.