IT is no longer news that migrants from different continents but predominantly Africa dare the hazards of voyages across the Mediterranean Sea in a bid to sail into Europe in a very unconventional way.
Scores of migrants have been caught in high storm right in the middle of the sea without adequate rescue measure. The consequences had been so catastrophic that washed-up bodies continue to litter the shores of the sea mainly within the coastal territories of Malta, Italy, Spain and Greece.
In 2015, about 2000 migrants ferried in five boats and believed to have taken off from the Libyan side of the territorial coast were caught in ravaging storm that sank the boats. Death toll arising from the ill-fated voyage stood at 1200. Their bodies were cast ashore in different locations of the Spanish and Italian costal lines. Again, in 2018, about 2275 migrants drowned when their boats capsized at the Mediterranean.
This year alone, reports show that a boat carrying migrants mainly from Libya and Morocco capsized, leaving about 150 people out of 300 on board drowned in the sea; according to UN spokesman, Ayoub Gassim.
Similar incidents had continued giving Europe more in their hands to deal with in their asylum programmes.
Illegal migration has been in existence as old as time. Africans forced into slavery were ferried to Europe and America through the ocean as far back as the 18th Century. Badagary in Lagos and Calabar, Cross River became the exit points for those human merchants from Europe who were already skilled in sea voyages centuries back.
Today, coastal points in Libya and Morocco have become modern day busy routes for human trafficking of Nigerians and other Africans to Europe, reminiscence of the old Badagary and Calabar episodes.
Shockingly, while those sold into slavery in those dark days were victims of rough pacts with fate, as most of them never knew they were sold nor had any chance to negotiate their escape from their captors, today’s migrants make a choice to defy the perils of the turbulent Mediterranean sea in desperate bid to get to Europe.
The question is, what inspires this courage by Africans and specifically Nigerians to make this ungodly choice of putting their lives on the line just to leave their local territories and seek fortune in faraway lands?
In pondering this question, many issues thrust up to the fore for constructive dissection. First, what could make a person lose every interest in continued life within their familiar environment? How much attention had been given to the known factors driving people, especially, youths from their homelands by authorities concerned? Has it occurred to authorities concerned that the lures to overseas that trigger migration urge are 90 percent human construction achieved through systemic development partern aimed at positively touching lives of citizens within the developed climes? The remaining 10 per cent elements could fall into natural factors harnessed by well articulated polices of government with focus on good welfare of the masses than struggling to satiate the interest of selected few or class as obtained in Africa and Nigeria specifically.
Perhaps, the central focus of different authorities in policy priority and execution make the difference. While developed countries understand clearly that undermining the welfare of all individuals and growth across board, will weaken strategic production capacity and spread poverty, the developing economies, including Nigeria, promote development stagnation through driving personal interests above national goals. This unfortunate situation had consequently spread hunger, deepened hatred among societal classes and elevated incompatibility of citizens in her demography.
Arguably, the youth seems to engage in migration more than other population class in the Nigerian society.
Coincidentally, they are the core productive class upon which the future of a country lies. Does it not worry anybody that this very important sect in the total population is absconding from their homelands to taste life in other climes? This clearly signposts manpower loss for future Nigeria if the trend is allowed to thrive further.
Apparently, the ground is not providing fortress for the youth to make meaningful living out of Nigeria’s development frame work. Government is expected to chart a good course capable of bringing the best out of the resourceful potentials of their youth.
But, can it be said that Nigeria’s federal government is living up to this expectation? The answerer is evident in the unemployment level in the country. Which youth would not seek greener pasture elsewhere when polices at home do not give much hopes for growth?
An accountant who works in public health sector, Abigail Godswill sums the Nigeria’s situation thus, “a fairly educated Nigerian spends an average of 16 years acquiring education up to first degree level. Despite the skill and knowledge accumulated in the process, there are no places to express them in the form of employment and no encouragement to help individuals upgrade their skills and fine tune their professionalism on their individual capacity. There are near no strong accessible financial aid instruments for starters.
We hear about micro and medium scale enterprises scheme and how it is designed to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses, but to what percentage can one bet, it has positively effected economic growth without fear of joining the propaganda bandwagon?
The N- power has come on board; good as it may prospect, it still falls far short of making appreciable impact in addressing unemployment issues in the country. So, what’s next for this group in the society whose hopes seem to be fretting away right before their eyes? Cyber crime, kidnaping, restiveness and other forms of vices that had hunted Nigeria society in recent time is bound to prevail in such scenario.
For those who would not engage in any such social evil and can afford – albeit extreme difficulty in some cases, to travel out of the country, chose any means possible to jet out even if it is walking across the ocean on bare feet. Common sense would tell the impossibility but obsession to break away from extreme poverty as Western and American lives promise blurs good reasoning on the validity of hopes of crossing the sea on bare feet. So, the migrants know the risks involved but their lives seem dead already in their homeland to dread any future hazard.
To save Nigeria from escalating insecurity, there must be in place, strong support base that can propel the youth to higher level economically and steer their minds off tendency for wild adventures. Value re-orientation must be brought to the fore. The mantra of fight against corruption seems not to attract people anymore, given that masses see through the life- style of corrupt political office holders to assume that their cupboards are full of skeletons.
There is urgent need for more commitment to change than mere echo of the slogan. Statistical indices of growth as well as drop in sectors of the economy should reflect realities in the open market. People naturally desire good life style and Nigerians are not exempted from this. The value of their currency (Naira) should give them sense of pride by competing favorably with other leading currencies at the foreign exchange market arena. This is premised on the fact that her import based economy can be turned around to export based, given the natural resources at her disposal. Investors should be wooed to tap into rich economic potentials away from crude oil. This is possible where proper legislation that delivers on equity, fairness and transparency guides all policies. Capital projects that generate not only revenues but help in tackling the monster of unemployment should take priority over recurrent fiscal engagements that bloats few selected individuals’ tills to the determent of the larger Nigerian populace
If there are enough industries for job seekers to work in and good salary package for all workers, how many people will abandon their primary engagements to seek any greener pastures anywhere? The fact is that Nigerians cannot find pasture anywhere within her territorial shelves, hence the urge to explore others chimes in search of pasture, green or gray.
Again, the big challenge confronting industrial growth in Nigeria has been energy. There is no way industries can thrive without stable power supply. This tells without circumlocution that industrial growth is the escape route to ending unemployment and acute poverty, but this is not possible without steady power supply. There is already noticeable growth in the power sector but more needs to be done.
While a good number of Nigerians groan under the burden of hardship occasioned by poor leadership, the populace should know that there is silver lining beyond their cloudy skies.
They must learn to appreciate their endowments and make them count in transforming their inadequacies into prospects; plunging into the perilous Mediterranean ocean is not the best choice in a challenging time of the country’s history. Intending migrants should know also that their input to national development counts in lifting Nigeria away from undesired state and they can only contribute to the rebuilding of the country when they remain alive.