WITH the repatriation of 542 stranded Nigerians by the federal government from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last Sunday because the government there changed its visa policy and refused to renew their visas, Nigeria is brought to the spotlight of ignominy.
They were received by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) through Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. They were accompanied by Atinuke Mohammed, Consul-General of Nigeria in Dubai.
They consisted of 79 males, 460 females and three infants. After health checks and other formalities, they were given a transport fare to their respective destinations.
There are the usual lamentations that if the country is able to provide jobs and opportunities its citizens would not be eager to move abroad to work as waiters or even as domestic servants.
Nigeria has what it takes to be better than Dubai, according to Prof Ayo Omotayo, the Director General of National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).
“I have been to the UAE and its capital Dubai several times, and I don’t see any big deal going to Dubai. As Nigerians that have self pride, we should ban ourselves from going to Dubai. Is it the hotel or sea that is not in anywhere in the world?
“We have what it takes to be better than Dubai. The Emirates did not make the place themselves; it is a combination of people from all walks of life that made Dubai. We should give ourselves self-ban, we have nothing to lose,” he said.
He also said the visa ban imposed on Nigerians by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was ridiculous, saying the UAE was developed by foreigners and is still being dominated by foreigners who brought all the wherewithal into the country to develop it.
“According to one of those brought from Dubai, some of them have injuries on their bodies, which is not acceptable and the government should raise it with the UAE government if found to be true. Just because Nigerians go there to seek fortune does not mean they are to be degraded and abused. The government should protect the dignity of Nigerians wherever they may be.”
He spoke on Monday at the leadership and management retreat of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment held at NIPSS in Kuru, Plateau State.
It may be true for Nigeria to have what it takes to be better than Dubai, but it is only possible with focused and dedicated leaders and citizens as well the realisation that the ‘Dubai Dream’ that makes almost every Nigerian want to visit the country.
As it is, it is already a shopping hub for rich Nigerians, going there to shop for wedding cloths and other accessories. Some are even said to have their tailors there.
Some of the repatriated people may be victims of trafficking or high hopes. They might be told of a good job but later found the job beneath them. And they are made to work very hard, beyond human endurance.
It is the same with those that go to Saudi Arabia and work as domestic servants. Many have tales of woe to tell, they are overworked, abused and even beaten.
According to one of those brought from Dubai, some of them have injuries on their bodies, which is not acceptable and the government should raise it with the UAE government if found to be true. Just because Nigerians go there to seek fortune does not mean they are to be degraded and abused. The government should protect the dignity of Nigerians wherever they may be.
However, before we condemn the UAE for refusing to renew the visa of the repatriated Nigerians or impose visa ban on Nigerians, we should bear in mind that every country has a right to allow or not allow foreigners to live in its country. Perhaps a closer look at the behaviours of some Nigerians there is important.
Some go into criminal activities like drugs, some engage in cultism to the extent of cult fight in the street.
A country that prides itself for such development, even if by foreigners as pointed out by Professor Ayo Omotayo, would not allow foreigners to become a nuisance to them.
A friend told me that she went to a restaurant in Dubai and one woman started shouting and said, “I will show him I am a Nigerian!” Can you imagine?
And if they don’t tolerate rowdiness in restaurants and other public places and arrest her, what would she say?
In any event, it is not a crime to seek employment in other countries, but Nigerians have to know that it is not their own country. As such they should not be self-righteous to the extent of wanting to assert their ‘Nigerianness’.
This is not saying they should be subservient and accept all manner of denigration; only that they should not misbehave and bring attention to themselves that would lead to stereotyping all Nigerians there as badly behaved.