Recently, l heard an unbelievable argument on a radio station.
Following the arrest of five young Nigerians in connection with a daring armed robbery in the United Arab Emirate (UAE) few days ago, the radio presenter sought the opinion of listeners on why some Nigerians abroad commit crime, thereby tarnishing the image of the country.
Many people called in, giving various reasons for the embarrassing behaviour and calling on those involved to turn a new leaf. But one particular male caller said that all the allegations levelled against Nigerians abroad were not true. He claimed to have lived abroad for many years and knows that, sometimes, authorities of certain countries cook up allegations of crime against Nigerians to further tarnish the already battered image of Nigeria. He alleged that some citizens of most foreign countries are racists and would go to any length to deal with Blacks, Nigerians in particular.
Indeed, it was difficult to buy into the man’s narrative. In the first place, what will these countries and their citizens gain from painting Nigerians and our nation black? What do they have against Nigeria that they would descend on the nation and its citizens in such a wicked manner? But be that as it may, one thinks it will be proper for appropriate authorities to carry out thorough investigation on the heavy allegation with a view to finding out how true it is. Let it not be that our citizens abroad are actually paying for crimes they did not commit.
But while that is being done, we must not fail to tell ourselves the truth, which is, that Nigerians do have a global reputation for crime.
Even President Muhammadu Buhari alluded to that fact in a recent interview with a foreign newspaper. He said it is usually difficult for foreign countries to grant asylum to Nigerians as a result of the country’s reputation for crime abroad. Expectedly, many critics have been criticizing the president since then, saying he is de-marketing Nigeria but facts available show that Buhari was merely stating the obvious.
For instance, a recent report has it that 723 Nigerians were deported from Ghana between 2018 and 2019. The Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Ambassador Michael Abikoye, who was quoted in the report, said they were sent home on the basis of alleged cybercrime, prostitution, over stay and illegal stay. Elucidating on the action, the Comptoller-General of Ghana Immigration Service, Kwame Takyi, said some Nigerians in Ghana had become laws in themselves, blocking major streets where they drink, fight and stab one another, hence the need for a decisive measure to sanitize their country.
The story is not different in Italy, Malaysia, South Africa, Indonesia, United Kingdom, United States of America and many other countries from where Nigerians have spread their criminal network. A Google search of the criminal activities of Nigerians abroad will wow you with the terrible things our brothers and sisters do in foreign land. It ranges from human trafficking to bank credit and card fraud, drug trafficking and many others. Lately, many Nigerian young men are trooping to Malaysia which has been christened the “Yahoo boys” headquarters. Truly, a study needs to be carried out on what they do in Malaysia such that a person that leaves Nigeria empty handed for Malaysia comes back in less than six months, a millionaire.
Many Nigerians are serving jail terms in countries across the globe for various illegal acts. This definitely does not speak well of Nigeria and her citizens. And the sooner we imbibe the habit of decent, lawful behaviour both within and outside the country, the better for us as individuals and as a nation.
Of course, not all Nigerians abroad are involved in these atrocities. There are many decent, hard working, honest, law abiding Nigerians around the globe who are daily making us proud. But the few individuals involved in criminal activities have seriously dented the image of the nation and the sooner actions are taken to salvage the situation the better for us both as individuals and as a nation.
Already we have seen how shabbily Nigerians are treated at many international airports and the attacks on Nigerians in many countries which may not be unconnected with our poor image. Some people believe it will be worse in the coming years if nothing is done to address our image problem.
It is, therefore, high time concerted efforts were made by all well-meaning Nigerians both home and abroad to project a good image for the country which will counter the bad one created by the unscrupulous, criminal-minded few. To achieve this, we need value re-orientation.
Presently, there is so much emphasis on acquisition of material things which leads the citizens, both the leaders and the led, to do anything to acquire wealth. It’s high time we began to teach our people, particularly the young ones the value of hard work, patience, good name, good image and good legacy so that whether they find themselves within or outside the country, they will not be willing to commit any crime to “make it”.
Government at all levels should also ask themselves if through their actions and inactions they push the citizens to desperation and hopelessness. Perhaps, if government invests more on infrastructures and good governance, less people will have the urge to seek for better life in foreign lands.