Posted by Bayo Olupohunda on Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why are Nigerian students being attacked and killed abroad? Are these frequent deaths premeditated? Beyond the condemnations, why is our government so lethargic about pursuing justice for the victims?

In recent times, many Nigerian students’ search for quality education abroad has turned tragic. The incessant and horrifying reports of attacks and deaths have shocked Nigerians at home. More worrisome is the conspiracy of silence of the government to pressure host governments to protect Nigerians in those countries. However, credit must be given to the House Committee on the Diaspora for beaming its searchlight on the scourge. But beyond the usual outpouring of anger and outrage, nothing ever gets done until the next attack. It is the typical Nigerian response. Now; hardly a day goes by without one report of cold-blooded murder.

The recent death of a Nigerian student, Naizi Evah, at the Vaals University of Technology, South Africa, is one of such deaths that have provoked outrage. Miss Evah, a student of Engineering, was found dead in her hostel on campus. She had been stabbed to death. Evah was allegedly murdered by her Zimbabwean boyfriend. Her friends said she had been in a violent relationship with her boyfriend. How a relationship can be so violent to end in the death of a promising young woman deserves a thorough investigation by South African authorities. The death of Evah should however not be surprising in a country where Nigerians had been victims of xenophobic attacks in recent years. It is still not clear if there are other motives connected to the murder. But foreign students, especially those of Nigerian origin, have long been victims of violent deaths.

On November 27, 2000, Nigerians woke up to the brutal murder of Damilola Taylor on a wintry evening in the Peckham area of London. Damilola who was 10 years old had been walking home from the library when he was fatally stabbed. His death awakened Nigerians to the danger Nigerian students’ face in schools abroad. Before his death, Damilola had been the victim of bullying and homophobic taunts. His death was reported to be the culmination of the abuse he had been subjected to. Several years after the death, Nigerian students have been the target of murders in foreign lands.

In 2009, a Nigerian student, Shefiu Salaudeen, was stabbed to death in Ukraine while standing at a bus stop. His death was not probed. Neither was the killer brought to justice. Particularly, Nigerians have been subject of xenophobic attacks by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Eastern Europe. It is believed that Ukraine and Russia are the worst countries to be a Nigerian student.

In Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and India, Nigerian students have been victims of institutional attacks by the police. They stereotype Nigerians as criminals.  In 2013, the death of a Nigerian student, Andrew Obodo, provoked outrage in India. His death which sparked diplomatic row between the two countries prompted the Nigerian government to declare India unsafe for Nigerians.

Nigerian students are also dying in Ghana. In October 2013, an SS 3 student of Ideal College Accra, 15-year-old Master Austine Ogukwe, died mysteriously. In November, barely 26 days after Ogukwe’s death, two Nigerian students, Eddy and Charles of KNUS Federal University Accra, lost their lives, during an excursion with their school. The school claimed they got drowned. Earlier in this year, Godwin Ayogu, a 300-level Social Science student of University of Cape Coast Central Region was brutally killed. His lifeless body was found on campus.
In Malaysia, the police killed one Tunde Adelabu, a student of Lagenda University, Nilai. In Russia, a group of Neo-Nazis stabbed a female Nigerian student, Forester Samson, to death.

Perhaps, the most shocking of all the deaths recorded so far is the alleged murder of Toba Falode studying in Dubai. Toba is the only son of the popular sports journalist, Aisha Falode. Toba’s tragic story paints the sad picture of a deepening trend of death, conspiracy and hopelessness of pursing justice for victims. Toba was alleged to have accidently fallen off from his 17-storey apartment building. But evidences pieced together by his mother’s private investigations proved otherwise. The facts of the case point to a cover-up by the Dubai authorities. Toba’s alleged killers may never be brought to justice.

In recent years, the collapse of our educational system has prompted Nigerians to seek for quality education abroad. Now, Nigerians are found in all the countries of the world as well as in many African countries. Ghana, for example, has a large population of Nigerian students. In 2013, a former Central Bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, revealed data that showed 71,000 Nigerian students studying in Ghana paying about N155 billion annually as tuition fees as against the annual budget of N121bn for all federal universities. Statistics have also shown that Nigeria is placed third on the list of countries with the highest number of students studying overseas.

The United Kingdom is also making huge revenue from the decay in Nigerian education. Iain Stewart, a member of the British Parliament once said there will be nearly 30,000 Nigerian students in the UK by 2015. These numbers account for seven per cent of the total UK university population; this is a very significant number. There are 17,585 Nigerians studying in British universities in the 2013/2014 academic year. This is about a thousand higher than the 16,680 registered in the 2009-10 academic session. According to statistics provided by the UK Council for International Student Affairs, Nigeria’s student population is said to be the third highest from non-European Union countries, trailing 39,090 recorded for India and 67,325 for China. Nigerian students also boost the UK GDP to the tune of 246bn Naira.

Though there has not been any danger reported in Canada, statistics from the office of the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria indicated that 5,000 Nigerian students are currently studying in various institutions across Canada. The report added that Nigeria has the ninth largest and one of the fastest growing groups of foreign students in Canada. The above statistics have revealed the growing population of Nigerian students in foreign educational institutions. The huge number, which is growing every academic year, shows that all is not well with our educational system. Nigerians seem to have lost faith in a system long wracked by brain drain, poor funding and government neglect. While we cannot blame Nigerian parents for wanting the best for their children, the Nigerian government owes them a responsibility to protect Nigerians especially students studying overseas. Condemnations and outrage at the frequent deaths of Nigerians abroad will not just do. The government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, must seek for justice for victims. We must borrow a leaf from the Americans who do not joke with their nationals abroad. Our government must revamp our education so Nigerians can study at home and stop dying cheaply in foreign lands.

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