“The grass is always greener on the other side” is half the reason many Nigerians are jumping on the japa wave to move abroad. But even when you can’t see the greener grass, a lot of Nigerians just assume it’s there because they’re eager to escape the country.
Does it matter that you can’t find Cambodia on a map?
One of the foreign countries that keep coming up as unsafe for Nigerians is Northern Cyprus. Officially known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, this island nation is different from the Republic of Cyprus. Why?
A brief history of Northern Cyprus
Cyprus split into two in 1974 after years of hostilities between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The split was sealed when the Turkish Army invaded Cyprus under the pretext of protecting the interests of Turkish Cypriots.
The Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus has made it impossible for anyone else to officially recognise it as a country. For example, Nigerians who want to travel there have to obtain a visa through the Turkish embassy.
And a lot of Nigerians are going down that route to get their japa fix. But there are repeated red flags about the country for Nigerians.
The red flag
In October 2019, a 25-year-old Nigerian student, Ibrahim Bello, died in Northern Cyprus. Authorities claimed that he died by suicide with no foul play involved. But his family suspected plenty foul play and publicly pressed for answers.
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) used the opportunity of the family’s petition to raise alarm about the fate of Nigerians in Northern Cyprus. The agency’s director-general, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, announced in 2020 that 100 Nigerian students studying in Northern Cyprus died under mysterious circumstances between 2016 and 2020.
The Nigerian government expressed concern that authorities there failed to prosecute anyone for the apparent attacks on Nigerians. Even worse, a direct line of communication was missing because Nigeria has no diplomatic ties with island nation (because, well, it technically doesn’t exist).
Two years after the first warning, the Nigerian government has raised alarm again. On August 25th, 2022, Dabiri-Erewa warned Nigerians against going over to Northern Cyprus for anything. She said authorities took no action on the cases of more than 20 Nigerian students killed there over the years.
Why do Nigerians ever go to Northern Cyprus?
Nigerians flock to Northern Cyprus for education due to affordable tuition fees, like one Abroad Life subject told us. Travel agents also sell the country to potential Nigerian travellers without being honest about its problems. And over-eager travellers are likely to commit to travelling there without doing basic research that would turn up important information like the (il)legitimate status of the country.
But since Nigeria has no diplomatic relationship with the country, it can be hard for the government to act in the interest of Nigerians when they run into trouble there.
“If you ask Nigeria for help, we can’t do much,” Dabiri-Erewa warned on August 25th, 2022. Her statement is a diplomatic way of saying you’re on your own.
So, the next time you go over your japa list because you want to escape the Nigeria that’s fashioned against you, weigh the pros and cons of Northern Cyprus very carefully.
ALSO READ: How To Japa: Migrating From Nigeria
Wouldn’t you like to read a newsletter that helps you dig into all the good, bad and extremely bizarre things happening in Nigeria and why they’re important to you? Then you should sign up for Game of Votes.