Many Nigerian students abroad have faced hostilities in their schools, often in the form of racism and murder. Despite the injustice against Nigerians studying abroad, the Nigerian government has not taken concrete steps to prevent its citizens’ ill-treatments.
In this report, SaharaReporters interviewed some Nigerians students about their unpleasant experiences while studying abroad, revealing the most notorious countries for Nigerians and why the government needs to act.
Plague of racism in India
“Don’t come to India,” said a Nigerian studying in that country.
“I want to advise Nigerian students and other Africans to know that we’re not welcomed in India. I advise my fellow Nigerians not to come over here for studies. There is racism in India. Once I collect my certificate here, I will reveal the horrible experience I went through. For now, please don’t mention my name. I am about to graduate. I don’t want to be victimised.”
The Nigerian told SaharaReporters he had been in India for four years, studying agriculture in one Indian university.
“I arrived in India only to find out the opposite. First, there is no agriculture laboratory, and the facilities are poor. There is a lot of racism here. I am surprised it is so prevalent even in the academic community,” he said.
In a report published in 2017, Nigeria ranks fifth as a source of international students in India behind Nepal, Afghanistan and Malaysia.
One of the attractions to Indian universities is cheaper tuition compared to European and American universities.
“Recently, it has gone worse; locals don’t want to lease their houses to Nigerians and other African students. There is a constant attack against Nigerians and other black students in India. Our lives are not safe. I regret coming to India, and I am looking forward to going back home,” the Nigerian student said.
In 2017, four Nigerian students were almost killed in India, which prompted Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to describe it xenophobic while advocating for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
A victim of the incident, Endurance Amalawa, who spoke to SaharaReporters said attacks against Nigerians and other Africans in India has become a yearly ritual.
“Indians don’t welcome blacks, especially Nigerians. They think we are all drug peddlers. I don’t deal in drugs,” he told Sahara Reporters.
Losing lives in Cyprus and Turkey
On July 8, 2019, a lifeless body of a 33-year-old Nigerian doctoral student of architecture at Cyprus International University, Obasanjo Adeola Owoyale, was found in his car’s boot.
The death of Owoyale follows periodic murders of African students in Northern Cyprus, including 25-year-old Nigerian student Walshak Augustine Ngok in April (reportedly killed by his African flatmate during a fight about a woman) and 28-year-old Kennedy Dede in January 2018 who was allegedly killed by a group of locals.
Several media reports showed that African students, most especially Nigerians, are facing brutal experiences in Northern Cyprus.
Many students report being enticed to the country by its thriving higher education industry but face hostility from locals.
Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had called on Nigerians to shun universities and scholarships in Cyprus due to racism.
In 2018, there was a reported murder of a 28-year-old university student, identified as Kennedy Taomwabwa, killed by locals in the Turkish Cyprus’s province of Famagusta. Taomwabwa was a student of Eastern Mediterranean University. He was killed by a group of eight locals, including three women, according to the police.
“Some Nigerian students had bitter experiences with racist lecturers and colleagues in Cyprus,” Odiri told Sahara Reporters. Odiri obtained an undergraduate degree at the Cyprus International University.
“There were stories of some random attacks on blacks on the streets, especially at night,” said a Nigeria who studied at Cyprus International University. “A few died under questionable circumstances. Cyprus people found it difficult to adjust because they had not met so many black people all at once.
“They could not stand a black man dating a Turkish lady. During my academic sojourn there, if you dare befriend a Cyprus lady, the men would attack you. But I hear these days; it’s a lot better than when we first got there.”
Xenophobic attacks in South Africa
Constant xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other Africans have persisted without South African and Nigerian authorities finding a lasting solution to the reoccurring attacks.
Oliyide Taofeek, a 21-year-old student of Public Administration at North-West University in South Africa, told SaharaReporters that Nigerian students had been facing hostilities in South Africa.
“Any time there is a xenophobic attack against Nigerians, we always hide like criminals so as not to be killed,” he said. “Xenophobia is a major problem we face here. Attacks are unpredictable, and one has to be careful not to become a victim. Usually, they tell us(Nigerian students), not to go out during those attacks.”
Racial discrimination in the United States
Although Nigerians have not been singled out for discrimination or attack in the United States of America, the country’s longstanding mistreatment of Black people affects Nigerian students.
Carroll County, located in Baltimore in Maryland, is notorious for racial discrimination against the Blacks, which Nigerians are also victims.
A Nigerian student, Kelechukwu Ahulamibe, while recounting his ordeal at the elementary school to high school, in an interview with Carroll County Times, said that he suffered racism.
“I just felt disorganised and belittled,” Ahulamibe said. “I didn’t understand why there was so much hatred brewing.”
There are other nasty stories. A Black teenager Tamir Rice was shot dead by a White police officer while playing with a toy gun. Rice was just 12. His neighbourhood watch volunteer gunned down a similar case of a 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who lived in Sanford, Florida.
“It’s just a recurring pattern of all these Black males who constantly walk around in danger, or walking on glass,” Ahulamibe said. “We all have to live by these certain rules and regulations to avoid the speculation of we’re doing something bad.”
In another bad experience in Carroll County, Oluoma Anude told Carroll County Times that “Eighth-grade year was rough. I felt so lost.
“Yeah, I’m in a place where everybody doesn’t look like me,” she recalled. “I might get stares if I have my hair a certain way, talk a certain way, but I’m going to flaunt that because that’s what makes me me. And if they don’t like it, oh well. Because they’re going to, hate me regardless.
“This disease is called racism, and there’s only one cure,” she asserts in a poem she presented recently at her school’s drama club. “To put on a mask of compassion and love. And the strength to do that can only come from above.”
Sad tales from Malaysia
Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country, has witnessed a rapid admission of Nigerians and had treated them fairly until the fraudulent Internet activities linked with Nigerians turned the tide against them.
In 2018, in an attempt to escape from an alleged Malaysian immigration arrest, a Nigerian student identified as Uju Pious Ejikeonye, who hailed from Imo State, died after jumping from the 13th-floor building.
The Malaysian chapter of Nigeria in the Diaspora Organization condemned the killing, extortion, and harassment of Nigerians schooling and living in Malaysia by the police.
The group says recent news of the raid and molestation of Nigerians in Malaysia by the police was unacceptable and gradually becoming the country’s norm.
In a statement issued by its President, Kingsley Nwankwo, the group also criticised the Nigerian High Commission in the country for failing to act on behalf of its citizens and not living up to its responsibilities.
Experts fault the Nigerian Government
Austin Okeke, a South Africa-based Nigerian lawyer, blamed the Nigerian government for paying lip service to protect its citizens in the Diaspora.
“This is becoming worrisome,” he told Sahara Reporters. “I can’t count the number of Nigerians whose corpses were sent back home from South Africa.”
Aremo Oladotun Hassan, chairman of Nigeria Bar Association, Lekki Forum, also blamed the appointment of “inexperienced diplomats, who are mere political appendages and beneficial ambassadorial appointments largesse” for lack of adequate protection of Nigerians abroad.
He said, “Appointment of inexperienced diplomats invariably negatively affects our foreign missions’ internal mechanism to protect the average Nigerian student. Our scholarship support programs are dead, while we have no technical support plans to salvage the dying hydra-headed situation.
“Several other silenced cases are brewing in Europe, UK, London, Mexico and South America and Asia, with evil tales of deaths and staunch hatred for blacks, but with an advance devaluation of the Nigerian citizens with the green passports.
“Unfortunately most of these crimes go without consequential, punitive measures of justice, wherein shoddy investigation is conducted and later dismissed because sometimes the cost of ensuring due justice is not only expensive but rarely unavailable.”
A lecturer of Public Law at the University of Ibadan, Isaac Adejumo, attribute the problems to poor funding of education by the Nigerian government.
While speaking with SaharaReporters on Tuesday, the varsity don emphasised that Nigerians would continue to seek better education in oversea universities because certain peculiar hitches, such as disparaging learning conditions, obsolete laboratories and unsteady school calendar, would always hinder the progress of education in Nigeria, unless addressed by the government.
“The budgetary allocation to education in Nigeria has not gone above 8% compared to 26% recommended by UNESCO,” he said. “The performance of the government on education this year is nothing to write home about. Until the federal government addresses that, there would be a perpetual exodus of Nigerian students seeking better education abroad regardless of what is out there.”