African Slavery And The Constant Death Of Nigerians On The Mediterranean Sea

  • African Slavery and the Constant Death of Nigerians On the Mediterranean Sea, By Erasmus Ikhide
    A few days back, death occurred to 30 African migrants striving to cross the Mediterranean sea in search of greener pastures in Europe. This was reported by Agency France-Presse. More than 30 migrants died and 200 were rescued on Saturday after their boats foundered off Libya’s western coast, the Libyan navy said. The coastguard conducted two rescue operations off the city of Garabulli, 60 kilometres (40 miles) east of Tripoli, spokesman Colonel Abu Ajila Abdelbarri said. He added that patrols had found 31 bodies and 60 survivors from one boat, while all 140 passengers had survived in a second boat.
    This piece was written by Erasmus Ikhide. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of
    “When we arrived at the spot, we found an inflatable dinghy with several people clinging to part of it,” he said. African migrants arrived at a naval base in Tripoli on November 25, 2017, after their rubber boat was rescued off the coast of Garabulli. Libyan navy spokesman Ayoub Qassem told AFP that 18 women and three children were among the dead recovered from the sea, while 40 people were missing.
    Migrants from Somalia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria and four from Pakistan were among those rescued. Libyan patrol boat commander Nasser al-Ghammoudi said one of the vessels was three-quarters under water when the coastguard arrived. “We looked for other survivors for more than five hours,” he said. “We were able to rescue one woman after we heard her shouts.”
    Migrants arrived at a naval base after they were rescued by Libyan coastal guards in Tripoli, Libya. A French NGO, SOS Mediterranee, said later Saturday that it had rescued more than 400 people from a stricken wooden boat in international waters further off the Libyan coast. Other rescue operations were ongoing Saturday evening, the Italian coastguard told AFP. Italy’s coastguard, which coordinates the rescue effort in international waters, reported that a total of 1,500 people had been saved on Thursday and Friday.
    On the seventeenth of this month, 26 corpses of young Nigerians girls were laid in state in the winter sunshine in a cemetery in southern Italy. They were victims of failed government in Nigeria who sought external intervention to overcome hunger. Out of the 26 women, only two of them were identified. Marian Shaka, who was married, and Osato Osaro were the only two that were named. Both women were pregnant.
    The bodies of the 26 victims were retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea on November 3 by a Spanish rescue ship. Those who died were believed to be as young as 14. 64 people are still unaccounted for and feared lost, bringing the total dead to around 90. A recent IOM report had estimated that 80 percent of Nigerian girls arriving in Italy by sea might be victims of trafficking. “It is very likely that these girls were victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation,” said Federico Soda, director UN migration agency IOM for the Mediterranean. IOM said at least 2,925 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean between January 1 and November 5, as against 4,302 last year.
    To make matters worse, the federal government did a disgraceful dance on the graves of the 26 girls who tragically loss their lives, due to the nature of how they were abandoned. The senior special assistant to the president on foreign affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa extracted an apology from the Italian government for going ahead with the burial of the 26 girls. “The Italian Embassy has apologised for the mix up for dates in the burial of the victims of the Mediterranean tragedy. NAPTIP and other agencies will continue to work with Italy and others to stem the tide of irregular migration,” she wrote in a tweet.
    Abike Dabiri did not make any comment about the two girls identified in the unfortunate incident and there was no indication that the government has reached out to Marian Shaka and Osato Osaro’s families, let alone compensating them.
    Aside that, the Nigerian government is not about to engage in the provision of jobs or social amenities to make Nigeria habitable to her citizens. Two week ago President Muhammadu Buhari revealed that the country’s number of employable youth had risen to 13.2 million. The revelation is an admittance of failure on his part. The three major planks of his presidency are incumbent on power generation, job creation and security.
    Two years plus in office, there is no official figure of the numbers of people Buhari government has employed. No database to check whether people have actually been employed or not. At the time Mr. Buhari took office, the nation’s electricity generation megawatts was hovering between 4,000 and 5,000. Today, power generation has receded to less than 3,500MWs and the money provided for it allegedly looted under his watch. To date, the Boko Haram militia is still killing thousands of people everyday and seizing villages, Fulani herdsmen who openly declared that Buhari is their grand patron keep destroying crops on people’s farms, while also killing and raping women across the country.
    When will the Buhari government make an official statement and take a position about the second slavery and avoidable deaths of Nigerian citizens on the Mediterranean sea? The Rwandan government has offered to give refuge to about 30,000 African migrants stuck in Libya in enslaved conditions, while Nigerian government is mute about what to do with her stranded nationals in Libya who are being auctioned off as farm workers.
    Louise Mushikiwabo, the Rwandan foreign minister told the pro-government New Times newspaper that the country was in talks with the African union (AU) Commission, to determine how to intervene and resettle the Africans in question.
    “What I expect and know is that Rwandans will welcome these people. As Rwandans we are sensitive to people who are helpless and have no way of protecting themselves. It is something that is deep in ourselves, we take pride in human beings,” the paper quotes her as saying.
    “Given our own history… we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle,” said the foreign ministry. Hundreds of thousands of African travel their way through Libya on a yearly basis as they attempt to make their way to Europe, but are often held by smugglers and forced to work for little to no cash. During Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, around 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu were massacred in the span of 100 days. “Rwanda, like the rest of the world, was horrified by the images of the tragedy currently unfolding in Libya, where African men, women and children, who were on the road to exile, have been held and turned into slaves,” said the foreign ministry statement.
    There is no doubt that it is the failure of government that drives Nigerians overboard on this suicide mission. After all, how many Libyan migrants do we have in Nigeria as artisans? How many Americans or European citizens cross the Mediterranean sea to come over to Nigeria, except, of course, their expatriates? It’s the collapse of government structures and welfare architectures that give raise to the upsurge of Nigerian migrations.
    Painfully, previous and present presidents, governors, senators and other high government officials went to free public schools and on various scholarships are the ones telling Nigerians that education can’t be free! More debasing is the fact that they have bluntly refused to fix roads for easy movement for the poor folks; hospitals are in decrepit states, schools structures have collapsed, potable water is not available, shelter and electricity remain elusive.
    I experienced the trappings and allure of forced migration when I relocated to Benin some nine years ago for a four-year political engagement from Lagos. The barber who cut my hair every other day suddenly disappeared after a year. He called me three months later that he was in Libya. He told me that each hair he cuts earned him the N3,000 equivalent in Libyan currency, whereas then in Benin City, he collected N200 to cut each head of hair!
    He came back to Nigeria when the Arab uprising was raging. He returned back thereafter when the war ended. That lad named Igbinovia built a modern house for his parents in the heart of Benin City. While Igbinovia was in Benin, like every Nigerian, he was a local government chairman unto himself: he provides electricity for himself and every other amenity that makes conducive living possible! Yet, there’s so much money in the country, and the people are living in pathetic mystery.
    President Buhari has no option than to impress it on Nigerians through actual governance that he truly wishes to be president. He has to prove this by fulfilling his electioneering promises and implementing his party’s manifesto, one of which is to protect lives and property, as the Constitution mandates him to. Anything short of that would amount to governance by default on his part.
    Ikhide Erasmus, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.
    This piece was written by Erasmus Ikhide. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of
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