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A Case against citizen deportation

ANAYO, an orphan and teenager of 17, decided to relocate to Lagos when it became obvious that his future in the village was bleak. There was no job after managing to complete his secondary school education. The only alternative left for him was to engage in subsistent farming.�

Unfortunately for him also, the only farmland he inherited from his late father had recently been taken from him by his father’s brother; leaving him with nothing. Thus, when a close friend of his suggested the idea of coming to Lagos in search of the Golden Fleece, Anayo embraced it with impish glee. Unknown to him that that singular decision was almost to cost his life. He had barely stayed in Lagos for two months, squatting with his ‘master’ at the popular Ladipo spare part market, when Council officials for sanitary offences closed down the market. To make matters worse, he was among those detained by the State Environmental Task Force for constituting public nuisance. He was locked up in detention for a month before forced to relocate to his State of origin.�

Now, Anayo is back to the basics, frustrated and angry unsure of what to make of his life.

On a regular basis, thousands of youths like Anayo leave their hometowns; from all parts of the country, to Lagos in search of improved standard of living. Like the sons of Jacob did in the period of great famine when they besieged Egypt in search of food, these youths believe that once they come into Lagos, the land of opportunity, all their financial worries would be over. Unfortunately for them, there is no Joseph on the throne to help them with some illusive grains. There is no free lunch in Lagos.�There are no jobs and the cost of renting a room is high. In a nutshell, there are hardly provisions for people like him in the emerging mega city. With this gloomy situation, they are left with the option of either relocating back or just hang around, waiting for an opportunity to hit it big, in whatever way. The result is that many of them end up indulging in criminal activities and paying the supreme prize.

The recent ‘deportation’ of about 70 indigenes of Anambra State government by Lagos State leaves a sour taste in the mouth. �Some of those deported claimed they were abducted on the road, detained in a camp and then dumped in Onitsha, Anambra State by trailers and trucks. If this is a true narrative, then it is a callous action. It is an affront on the right of those indigent men, women and children; a calculated move to deprive them of their constitutional right and liberty, as citizens of Nigeria, to live in a place of their choice within our country. No amount of explanation can justify the inhuman manner in which those poor citizens were treated. Even if they were lunatics, or vagabonds, as representatives of the State government would want us to believe; the truth is that they still deserve some human treatment. After all, they are still humans like you and I, created in the image of the Supreme Being.

They are people’s parents, fathers, mothers, aunties and nephews. Indeed, every Nigerian is entitled to live in any part of the country he or she chooses without any form of molestation or intimidation. By dumping them in their, home, State, Lagos State is indirectly saying that the State is now a no-go area for some sets of individuals, who for no natural cause of their own, do not meet up to the boisterous requirements of the authority. Is this not reminiscent of the desire of Hitler to create a pure race of Germans, those fit and strong to conquer the world? What divine or constitutional right has anyone to segregate between the rich and the poor? This also reminds one of the callous action taken some years ago by the Abia State government in sacking all indigenes of Imo State working in their civil service. In the first instance, we need to understand the grave implication of this action and the need for all well meaning Nigerians to rise up and forestall such from happening again in any part of the country. We need to ask, which constitutional provision formed the basis for the cruel deportation of our fellow citizens. Is it now a crime for one to be poor? What effort are we making as a nation to cater for, or assist the needy and vulnerable among us? Or should we just condemn their lot to untimely death simply because they are incapacitated?

As long as development is seemingly concentrated in limited parts of the country, there would always be criss-crossing. Most importantly, mass deportation of citizens is not the lasting solution to the myriads of problems facing our society. You cannot obliterate the poor to comfort the rich. The God that created us differently has a reason for doing so. �

Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications,

Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos

SFI Africa


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