Deportation of Nigerians worrisome, says Oyebode
The rate at which Nigerians and other Africans are being deported in droves from the United States, Europe, South Africa, among others, is becoming quite alarming and unacceptable. A professor of International Law at the University of Lagos, Akin Oyebode, spoke with VICTORIA OJUGBANA and MICHEAL AJIFOWOKE on the deportation of Nigerians, causes, effects and measures to curb emigration among other issues.
What is responsible for the recent deportation of Nigerians in droves from various parts of the world like Europe, United States, South Africa, among others?
If there is no case of profiling that Nigerians are deliberately being set upon, then there must be valid reason, either breach of local immigration law, other acts of criminality pertaining to their status in their countries of sojourn or some border violation because no country would set out just to deport en masse nationals of another country. That is actionable under International Law. If we cannot establish the case of racial profiling, just scape-goatism of Nigerians, then, maybe Nigerians are getting their “just deserve” for violating the laws of the land.
Why do Nigerians happen to be the only targets?
If Nigerians are not being singled out for maltreatment, then the victims are just trying to pass the buck. There are so many Nigerians living abroad, why is it that it is just a few of them who are being deported? Those who are law-abiding are carrying out their businesses without hindrance. But when Nigerians run fowl of the laws of the countries of their sojourn – be it China, India, Holland, France, Germany or the United Kingdom, then they have to search themselves if the countries in question are deliberately maltreating Nigerians. That is called “scapegoatism”. If Nigerians behave well and abide by the laws of the countries of their residence, they will not just be picked upon from the streets and forcibly deported.
Is the deportation likely going to affect the diplomatic relations between Nigeria and those countries?
As I said, if a case can be established on mass deportation of Nigerians without any justifiable cause, then of course, Nigeria can issue a protest note or put those countries on notice that Nigeria considers the act as an unfriendly one. And once the countries behave in an unfriendly manner towards another, one cannot but expect retaliatory act in recognition of the disgust and distaste of Nigerians. But the case has to be proven because Nigeria has embassies in those various countries. It is the job of the embassies to protect the interest of those Nigerians. If they are arrested, it is the job of the embassies to organize legal representation and ensure that the rights of Nigerians are not breached. If those who are deported have been found guilty of criminality, then actually, their complaint will be held to be without water.
What is responsible for the exodus of Nigerians despite the hazards they face on the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert?
The simple rationale is desperation. They are dissatisfied with what is going on in the country and decided just to leave. Nobody would want to leave a country where he is doing well in search of greener pasture elsewhere. Those who try to emigrate are those who could not make it in Nigeria and they believe that the grass is greener on the other side. That is the case with all migrants. They want a better life. If Nigeria does not provide the necessary succour or wherewithal for self actualization, one will not blame Nigerians that want to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
It is just the normal reactions of human beings, they want a better life and then, they want to withstand all risks and threats to their lives and leave in order to seek this better life. Many of them are not aware that the streets of Europe are not filled in gold, but they still romanticize and believe that life abroad will be much better than existence in Nigeria. Nigeria is a tough country, I must admit, for people to live in and the tolerance level of some people is so low. They can’t tolerate it and they just bail out and look for other means of sustenance in other countries, either at first start with being placed on welfare and then graduate to driving cars or serving as security guards and doing menial duties that the home population will not want to participate in. Migration is an international phenomenon. It is not limited to Nigeria. It is the movement of people, I am not talking of refugees now. People leave their countries because of fear of death, injuries to their lives or some apprehension of danger.
Does it mean they did not have valid papers before entering into those countries?
The fact that you have a visa does not entitle your entry. You still have to satisfy the immigration officers at the border of your bonafiding if you are seen as somebody that will be a threat to the wellbeing of the country of destination. Then, the immigration officer deserves the right to cancel your visa and put you on the next plane back to your country. But if you are emigrating and you get your residency permit, your secure a job and you do not violate the local laws, I don’t see why the person should be victimized. It is those who fall short, who are found wanting in terms of residency papers. A visa does not entitle one to be admitted to go and work in a foreign country. If you live according to the terms of your visa, I don’t see why anyone should be afraid of deportation.
What can the Nigerian government do to curb this trend of emigration?
I do not think there is much the government can do apart from what Special Adviser to the President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has been preaching to Nigerians to love their country so much that they will not want to leave it. But the preaching is not enough. The living standard must be improved locally, poverty level must be reduced, social services must be made available to the generality of the Nigerian populace. If we make living a feasible proposition, then naturally, Nigerians would stay. They move simply because they lack the wherewithal to their sustenance. So the onus is on the country and the government to provide the requisite environment for self-actualisation. Where and when Nigerians can’t realize their ambitions, then of course, they will seek such elsewhere. That is the only thing that is possible except they want to go into anti-social vices like robbery, kidnapping, among others. It is part of the social problems that we experience daily.
Criminality is a product of social want, inability of the state to provide social succour for the population. So the obligation is on Nigeria to make living in the nation a feasible proposition. No amount of preaching will make Nigerians more patriotic. The way we live is not a real life, we want to live in expectation of a better life the following day. Many Nigerians are disenchanted, disillusioned, and that is why we are now having a high incidence of suicide. People decide to end it all by jumping into the lagoon or even a pool just to commit suicide; that is a very terrible indictment of the Nigerian state. The level of depression that Nigerians are undertaking is a massive vote-of-no-confidence in the Nigerian State. This is a very serious problem and the government has to look at the socio-economic and psychological factors, which lead people to leaving the country for good.
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