Rising desperation in stowaway cases
As more Nigerians seek a getaway from the country in the midst of hopelessness and frustration, the plight of 11 young Nigerians rescued off the coast of Liberia lately deserves some official attention.
Yes, the youths admitted they were seeking to escape from Nigeria albeit in a dangerous and unorthodox manner. They were found on the ship on which they wanted to carry out their mission and then subjected to torture and inhuman treatment that culminated in their being thrown overboard into the deep sea.
If their plan to leave the country is illegal and therefore not permissible, the act of the ship crew to throw them into the ocean, obviously with intent to exterminate them, is callous, criminal and indeed murderous.
The phenomenon of stowaways has a long history stretching to the inventions of modern means of transportation. A stowaway is an illegal and clandestine traveller who hides in the means of transportation to avoid detection. The aim is to enter a territory, country or other geographical entity without being accounted for or paying the prescribed transport fares, among other requirements.
In recent times cases of stowaways and attendant dangers have surfaced in the media involving desperate Nigerian youth. First was the sensational case of Rasheed Mufutau, who was found in the wheel of a packed aircraft belonging to United Nigeria Airlines (UNA) on Sunday, September 4, 2022.
He had hoped to find himself in a foreign country, anywhere, but Nigeria. Rasheed, who at the time of finding him had become unconscious, said he was tired of Nigeria. He was also reported to have taken a certain illicit drug. Such desperation has become commonplace in contemporary Nigeria.
Another pathetic case happened in October 2022 as 11 Nigerians and one Liberian were rescued by fishermen off the coast of Liberia from the Atlantic Ocean. Two of their fellow stowaways were not that lucky as they perished in the ocean after allegedly being tortured by the ship’s crew members.
With an age range between 20-40 years, a vital workforce and bedrock of the future for Nigeria had been put in harm’s way by a combination of desperation on their part and neglect by the government and society. Surprisingly, nothing much has been heard from government agencies as a way of redress for these youth.
The desperation of stowaways is inexorably linked to the spate of unemployment, insecurity and an abysmal lack of safety nets in the society for vulnerable members of society. It is a manifestation of the seeming abdication of responsibilities by governments at all levels. A clement, safe and reassuring environment will drastically reduce the spate of unbridled desperation among the Nigerian citizenry.
But the appeal here is to the youth to avoid desperate and dangerous moves that may terminate their lofty ambitions and even their lives. A methodical, legitimate and legal response to the myriads of problems in society is a surer way to survive and thrive.
We draw attention to many of our youth who in spite of a debilitating economic environment are raising their heads up through laudable achievements. These youth can be found making waves in agriculture, telecommunications and other entrepreneurial ramifications. The prize, after all, goes to that youth who in spite of all odds weather the storm to achieve something.
We note that stowaway is a precursor of the contemporary Japa syndrome, where youth desert the country in droves by any and all means possible. Few anecdotal accounts of those who have engaged in the Japa desperation have found out, regrettably, that they were better off staying in Nigeria after all. The streets of Europe and America are not lined with gold as they had envisaged. And the danger lining the routes is too numerous to list.
What is the role of governments in all of these? We submit that they are two-fold. First, to provide security and safety to all citizens as they swore to do when entrusted with the levers of power. As enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the security and welfare of the citizen is the primary purpose of government.
Second role is to provide an enabling environment for the average citizen to ply their trades smoothly. This can be done through the provision of infrastructural facilities in health, energy, good roads and a clement environment for all.
Government cannot provide employment for all citizens but it can provide a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and bloom. They can provide hope for the youth and succour for the older generation of Nigerians. Above all, the government can provide security for all Nigerians and others living in the country.
The collapse of security in many parts of the country has been causing unmitigated damage to the human and infrastructural development of the country. No development can thrive in an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and utter frustration in the absence of government and governance.
As has been remarked many times, Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources but corruption, nepotism, greed, incompetence and lack of visionary leaders have been the bane in harnessing these resources to achieve the potential of a viral, prosperous and formidable African behemoth. Indeed, if there were to be stowaways, Nigeria should have been at the receiving end and not vice versa.
However, the youth should remain focused on positive emancipation while the government should take governance as an article of faith and public service as an opportunity to serve the people. Desperate and dangerous measures can only complicate and aggravate a bad situation; and should be avoided by the youth.