YNaija Says: Accusations of a “hurried burial” is lazy deflection and we deserve better

by Alexander O. Onukwue

The response being issued by the Nigerian government on the funeral of the twenty-six young women is out of line.

Found and declared dead in October, they were extracted, and granted a reasonably dignified funeral by the Italian state, but the Nigerian Government, without a public statement on the issue for weeks, is outraged about not being involved in the burial.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, released a statement demanding “why did Italy bury them 9 days earlier on the 17th of November without the consent or knowledge of NAPTIP and the Nigerian government? Why the hurried burial?”

A valid question but that is definitely not the response of interest.

Since its creation in 2003, Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has been on the campaign to dissuade persons from leaving the country through means that endanger their lives, in addition to cracking down on trafficking rings. Following the development in Italy, a recent tweet from the agency’s handle read as follows:

We inform people about the dangers of Human trafficking, which is one of the danger, which is one of the dangers of illegal migration. When you continually warn people and they persist and travel, what should be done? We cannot go to Libya and prosecute offender, please understand.

This was the tone struck by a NAPTIP representative on a radio program few days after the Mediterranean tragedy became news. The representative stressed more on the problem of people’s “ignorance” in being deceived to let their children leave the country, as well as their “greed” in salivating over grandiose promises of a richer life made by those who initially appear as kind benefactors. There was some empathy, but the feeling that those young women or at least their guardians who facilitated their leaving the country should take the primary blame for the resultant consequence was obvious.

Mrs Dabiri-Erewa has now suggested that, as of November 20, “only three of the deceased have been identified as Nigerians according to the DG of NAPTIP”. In other words, we were pretty right not to have made any early statements on the issue as to claiming ownership of the tragedy and making efforts to bring them home. It was not a 26-women tragedy but an unfortunate incident involving 3 women.

It is unsurprising to see the effort being made to shrink from responsibility, especially when it involves the loss of the lives of citizens. There is far more eagerness to tag along successful persons born in the country but plying their trade in the Diaspora – cue spending the cost of a boxing ring on ticket fares to send an official delegation to Anthony Joshua’s last boxing match. But when the duty calls to take responsibility for Nigerians in the depths of tragedy, the scrutiny for certainty becomes so severe it paralyses.

While the Italian Government should provide an explanation for moving on with the funeral without Nigeria, Mrs Dabiri-Erewa’s team has not convinced anyone that it has cared enough about this situation since the story became public. Let’s not pretend the details about why a funeral was conducted 9 days ahead of schedule will change anything. Did Mrs Dabiri-Erewa and co really pull out all the stops to make sure they were leading in the conversations involving these girls or are they only trying to buy some moral capital after the international embarrassment about its latest open gory wound?

Whether it was “only” three or if there were twenty-three more, those young women have been buried and will hopefully rest in peace. It should be necessary to revisit the structure of Nigeria’s Diaspora operations. Should a decisive step as the one taken by Burkina Faso to recall its representative in Rome be in consideration? Abika Dabiri-Erewa has been in the Diaspora sector for as long most persons can remember and maybe she has run out of the zeal and steam. If her “experience” is not producing the minimum required approach to issues in situations like this, a change should be possible.

Far too many Nigerians have perished in similar migration journeys but Nigerians voted ‘Change’ to bring an end to that sad aspect of the country’s history also.


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