• Tuesday, December 05, 2023
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Nigerians in foreign jails


 Not long ago, a delegation of Norwegian Intelligence Service and Customs visited. They reported that at least 1,585 Nigerians were arrested and detained in Norwegian prisons on drug trafficking offences between 2000 and 2012. In 2012 alone, 432 were arrested for similar offences. The group’s mission was fact-finding and joint cooperation with our officials to stem the ill. That’s for a civilised and developed country where records are kept, human dignity respected and international cooperation sought. For offending Nigerians in ‘somehow’ countries, the figure for those of them lucky to be alive is beyond imagination.

I was privileged to get some insight into the thinking of these mainly youthful Nigerians by work. It’s all about money. How to make it big and quick at the cost of another. In the end, that money is for frivolities: latest cars to show off with, sponsoring ‘growers’, financing transporters who are first trained to swallow wraps without drinking and thus restrain defecation. Aim is to withstand long-distance flights with the wraps intact. The health implications of ingesting the substance are out of it. 

 What counts is the money to be made. Unfortunately for very long flights, the wraps burst and discharge into the body system; the transporter dies, the sender flees. They also think that the law of other lands and their enforcers can be bent like in Nigeria. Not so. In the ‘somehow’ countries, suspicion alone leads to detention and the stereotype that Nigerians are drug-pushers makes every Nigerian in the vicinity automatically a suspect. They don’t keep records, they arrest arbitrarily in large numbers and because they don’t want to run the cost of maintaining the detained, they ‘outsource’ many to the greater beyond. You know what I mean? The Nigerian embassies? Most times they don’t know how many Nigerians enter into their domain, they have records only of Nigerians who have reported. Because many enter illegally, they don’t also report. It means they can die unnoticed. The embassies themselves aren’t financially strong so their scope of engagement is strictly limited. Most Nigerians complain that their embassies don’t care. It’s partially true but there are reasons. These drug-gangs are so sophisticated that they have their own language. They combine all major Nigerian languages to communicate. You can only understand when they begin to describe what’s meant, most times coded or in proverbs. You may add, ‘negative creative prowess’.

The pity-side of it is that their relations back home keep saying, ‘brother is in Indonesia, sister is in Vietnam’. Yes, they are, but they are in jails and they may not come again. The worst-hit are those who venture into Arab countries. They’re killed without let.

You ask again, why have we come so low not to be feared or at least respected by others? It’s because of the poisoned values at home. It starts from language: ‘dey there’. Meaning you’re lost if you do nothing. That nothing is anything to announce one in society no matter how. If the end’s good, the means’s good. It’s the system that sets evil free leaving no deterrence for would-be offenders. Somebody steals billions of public fund, he uses part of it to hire lawyers who bring up health reasons why he must travel overseas for treatment and from there he disappears, case returns to dusty files. The offender is free but the society is arrested. Those watching say, why not I? It’s the overt molestation. People do anything to impress others falsely. For youths, it’s luxury cars. They drive by their peers just to show they’ve arrived, though beneath is hollow. The gullible get deceived and join all manner of cult groups, if in the end they lead to money. Then follow ritual killings, kidnapping, robbery, etc. It’s coming out of universities and staying home many years doing nothing, losing knowledge, drowning in poverty and seeing your privileged peers riding high. It’s failed promises of the ruling class that did not put certain structures in place to provide a climb for the aspiring. It’s these and more. Most relate to false orientation, laws thick on paper, thin on deed. Yet, there’s a National Orientation Agency whose direction of orientation is not known. The world-view of the Nigerian youth is disoriented and distorted. Wealth-now-or-nothing attitude is it; but it’s wrong and they refuse to see it. Worse still, potential offenders see systemic compromises that set practicing offenders free.

The way it is, nothing short of a ‘National Emergency’ would do. A grassroots approach, religious and peer-group approaches, all complementing a governmental initiative must be called into play. Some may not know it, this is a scourge the same way that AIDS is. It should be treated as such. We are a good people and the few bad should not define us.



Onyegbule, PhD, is the Consultant-in-Chief of Conflict Out- Peace In Consult.)

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