IT is easy to misunderstand any position on Nigerians who are literally toying with their lives – and dying in the process. Some are trafficking drugs; if they are caught in some Asian countries they have procured death for themselves. Others make the long, dangerous and torturous journey to Europe through illegal routes in the Sahara Desert. If they survive, they could still perish at sea, crossing into Europe in over-loaded boats that hardly withstand the turbulent waters of the Mediterranean.
Desperation could be at the root of these fatal decisions. Ignorance plays a part too. Most of those who make the Sahara journey have no clue about the dangers entailed. The organisers are in no danger since our laws appear indifferent to the activities of these fraudsters, who daily entice our people with promises of better opportunities abroad. Their prospects are blinded to the dangers, often including death, after rosy stories of the “easy life” that awaits them abroad.
News of the death by firing squad for four Nigerians sentenced for drug offences in Indonesia, and the news that the same fate awaits another eight, should be enough to deter more Nigerians from involvement in crimes. Would it? Are some Nigerians not boarding the next flight to their death, aware that they are dealing in illicit drugs and in countries where the penalty, on conviction, is the death sentence?
What could the Nigerian government have done after Indonesia insisted that it had to carry out the sentences? Its argument was that illicit drugs were ruining Indonesians. It fears that a milder sentence, or the reprieve that governments seek for their citizens, could embolden more traffickers. Appeals from Australia, Brazil, and France were similarly ignored. What should the Nigerian government have done?
Our missions are notorious for the quality of consular services they provide for Nigerians. These are matters our diplomats defend by pointing at the low (and in some instances outright denial of) funding of our missions. In the Indonesian case, the best funded missions in the world, with the best consular services, with stronger trade and cultural ties with Indonesia, could not pull their citizens out of the jaws of death.
The lesson appears to be that our governments have to increase awareness about dangers of drug trafficking and punish drug trafficking in Nigeria more stiffly. The affluent lifestyles of traffickers, who after mild sentences enjoy proceeds of their crime, entice others.
Pictures of the rickety craft that borne Nigerians to death in the Mediterranean, and recounts of journeys that brought them to death, are graphic illustrations of extents some go. Could Nigeria be so bad that some Nigerians prefer death to it?