A SPEECH BY LAURETTA ONOCHIE AT THE COMMISSIONING OF A WATER PROJECT AT HER ALMA MATER, ST. MARTIN DE PORRES GIRLS GRAMMAR SCHOOL, ONICHA-OLONA ON 28TH DECEMBER, 2017.
“Chief Newton Jibunoh is widely known as the explorer who crossed the world’s largest desert twice. He undertook his first Sahara crossing as a youthful adventurer and his second journey as an environmental crusader. He chose the rare and daring challenge of a solo expenditure of driving across the Sahara Desert in 1996. This became a life-changing experience and the inspiration for his now internationally-remarkable achievements in expedition and Green Earth campaign.
In 1999, Jibunoh decided on his second Sahara expedition; this time travelling in the reverse direction from Nigeria to Europe. The motivation behind this second desert expedition was to bring to the world’s attention the plight of the millions of people in Africa affected by the fast-encroaching Sahara Desert. After his second Sahara expedition, he founded FADE, an acronym for Fight Against Desert Encroachment – an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) accredited to the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development.” – Punchng.
Bringing the issue of human trafficking home, Chief Newton Jibunor is our own. He is from Akwukwu. He is an Anioma man. And he has spent the last 30 years, advocating against human trafficking and modern day slavery.
But the world is dealing with a very powerful cartel, similar to the drug cartel. According to Chief Jibunor in an interview on Channelstv, it is an investment in millions of dollars to traffickers in an evil industry that is worth billions of dollars. There’s hardly anywhere you can’t find them. They are in North Africa, they are in Europe, America and they have centres here in Nigeria – Benin, Aba, Asaba, Agbor, Abavo, Onitsha, Lagos. In Nigeria, Towns in the north, bordering Niger and Mali are used by traffickers as collation centres before exiting Nigeria. Native doctors are involved. So are some unscrupulous Police Officers. But Edo state is their headquarters.
According to our Chief Jibunor, this has been going on for over thirty years. Hundreds of thousands of our young men and yes, women have been lost in the desert and the Mediterranean sea over the last 30 years.
When it started at that time, it was about N250, 000, 30years ago. Now, I can tell you, it is from one million Naira to 3 million naira that each of these people pay to the cartel for documentation, to cross Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. And when documentations are obtained through the back doors, our young people get in trouble with the laws of the countries they pass through and when they run into trouble, they are thrown into these detention camps then, the cartels abandon them. After all, they have been paid their fees.
Crossing the Mediterranean Sea takes 12 hours by boat. If your papers are not correct, you stand the risk of being thrown into the sea. Here is an eye witness account by Chief Jibunor:
“it was during my second expedition. I had all my papers and documentation intact and people had known about me and what I was doing because CNN reported it. I had my car in the hole of the boat to move it across the Mediterranean. I also paid for a cabin because it was going to be an overnight crossing and it was going to take about 12 hours. Unfortunately and unknown to me, I was going to share the cabin with somebody who was smoking continuously and, at some point, I couldn’t take it anymore; so I had to go to the deck of the boat where there were a lot of migrants – 90% of them were Nigerians because I could hear their discussions in our languages. I listened to their conversations. Then about half way through the Mediterranean, a security agent walked up to me and asked to see my documentation. He went through the papers and said, “Please go back to your cabin because the boat was going to be raided” and that if that happens, they were going to push everybody on the deck into the Mediterranean. Did you say ‘push’? Yes, push! Why? The reason is that any boat carrying illegal migrants would be seized and the boat owners do not want that. Rather than have their boats seized by the Libyan or Moroccan authorities, they would get rid of the illegal migrants, so I went back to my cabin.
But just before we docked at Alicante, Spain, I went to the hole to prepare my vehicle and, alas, all those migrants were gone. So, I asked the security guy what happened to all the people. He said just before security agents came, they pushed everybody into the sea. That’s how it happens. I told this story before; I’ve given lectures; I’ve written about these things in a book.”
There are many reasons why our young people go on this risky, dangerous and sometimes, deadly adventure. Subsequent governments have failed to provide job opportunities for our young school leavers and graduates. Many roam the streets for more than 10 years, unable to support themselves, let alone, support their parents to pay back the loans they took to support their children’s education.
The few jobs available, would go to those who know somebody in government, industry, the Military or a first class traditional ruler. A culture of nepotism. Yet we are christians.
There is discrimination of ALL sorts in our culture. Rich men discriminate against other men. Young women discriminate against poor men. Men discriminate against women. We all discriminate against children. Old people and people with learning difficulties and disabilities suffer the most and wost kinds of discrimination. So these people who pay and run off to Europe and who never will make it back alive, are part of the Nigerian population that are suffering discrimination and marginalization. No help from government. No help from privileged people in their areas.
The situation is worse in our area where most of our young people watch their mates from specific families, swim in looted government funds while they go to bed hungry.
They also want to make it in line with “I WILL MAKE IT IN JESUS’S NAME” AMEN? Making it is now all about building a house and buying a four wheel drive, things that decay with use, according to the bible. Yet, we all are headed for heaven. That’s a talk for another day…
Go to the house I grew up in. It was one of the finest houses when I was growing up. Today it’s an antiquated structure no one will be willing to take it for free. So what’s the obsession to with things that decay with use over years?
Another reason for many of them is pure undiluted GREED. Today and under this government, young people are becoming millionaires by keying into the Anchor Borrowers Scheme with a loan of just a little over 800,000 naira. My point is, If a family can raise between 1- 3million naira by selling family lands and heirlooms, there is surely a lot they can do in today’s Nigeria with such humongous amounts!
But pressure from parents and their desperation to keep up with their neighbour’s high life, is also responsible for this. It was not that way when we were growing up. We were taught to be content with whatever little we worked hard for.
Again, someone from their area, or even town, would have access to billions of Naira, come home as a hero, and throw lavish feast for the elders without recourse to how to create a better and more viable community. Many of us here wore the Mauve Uniform of this great institution manufactured in Onicha Olona here by Olona Textile mills, through the benevolence of Late Mr. Sunday Egbo. He also brought about Copane farms Limited in Olona, which provided abundance of food, chicken, pork, etc for The Anioma area and beyond. His example is what our elites must emulate. It’s not enough to use nepotism to find jobs for a few people in Lagos, ABUJA, Enugu etc. We must invest in our community to stem the trend of urban migration and illegal migration that leads to loss of precious lives.
Our wealthy elites must again, begin to cultivate community spirit. They must begin again to invest in our communities. Lorry loads of bamboo, cassava, yams, palm produce etc. leave our area daily. We have streams that flow out of rocks that need little or no purification before bottling. Fruits grow lavishly in our area.
The Social Media is not all about sharing fake and false news. PLEASE help to share on Social Media, especially on WhatsApp, programmes of government that will benefit our people including but not limited to Anchor Borrowers Scheme, Market money, N-Power, small and medium industry empowerment schemes of the Bank of Industry, as well as the Social Investment Programmes for the poor and the vulnerable among us. Unless we know, we cannot apply and unless we apply we cannot benefit.
Since January of this year, 2017, the Buhari led Administration has airlifted home, thousands of Nigerians stranded in Libya and elsewhere. Many snatched from jaws of death and modern day slavery. Many more remain unaccounted for and others, unable to best the shame of returning empty handed, elect to remain in captive.
We must again begin to live within our means. Times are hard but dying in the desert or the sea, is harder on our families. The common saying in areas affected is, “We sold our land 3 years ago and sent our child overseas. He has forgotten us. He or she has married a white person and has forgotten us.”
The bitter truth is that their child may have perished either in the Sahara Desert or the Mediterranean Sea, shortly after performing the last ritual of swearing an oath at the Native Doctor’s shrine and bidding them goodbye.
(One minute silence in honour of those who fell prey to the greed of human traffickers) May their souls rest in peace. Amen.