Following an outcry of a Nigerian student, Ibrahim Khaleel Bello, in Northern Cyprus who died in 2019, the Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, demanded for justice over his death.
Dabiri-Erewa stated that over 100 Nigerian students had died mysteriously in the eastern European territory since 2016.
On Monday, Dabiri Erewa met with Khaleel’s mother, Justice Amina Bello, a Kaduna State High Court judge, who presented a petition with regard to the death of her son.
Bello claimed that there were no indications that her son committed suicide contrary to the claim of the school authorities that he fell from a seven story building.
It was during this encounter that Dabiri- Erewa said, “Thousands of Nigerian students are schooling there and I tell you that hundreds have been killed.
“Who do you take these cases to? They are killed in similar circumstances.The school just tells you they committed suicide and nothing happens.”
“There is a collaboration which we do not understand that makes them kill blacks, particularly our Nigerian students,” she added.
Thereafter, the NIDCOM chairman urged parents not to send their children to the territory for studies.
“The time has come for us to blacklist all these universities in Northern Cyprus and advise our students against seeking any form of admission there as it portends danger to their life and future,” Dabiri-Erewa stated.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has already engaged Interpol for further investigations into the death of Khaleel.
According to Dabiri-Erewa, Northern Cyprus is not recognised by the United Nations as a country, has no diplomatic relations with Nigeria and only recognised by Turkey.
Apart from Khaleel, other Nigerian students killed in Northern Cyprus include 28-year-old Kennedy Taomwabwa Dede who was murdered in February, 2018 and Walshak Augustine Ngok who was also murdered in April, 2018.
Gabriel Soriwei and Obasanjo Adeola Owoyale also went missing and were later found dead in July, 2019.
Accounts of Nigerians in Northern Cyprus
According to Nigerian students and residents in Northern Cyprus, the claim that hundreds of Nigerians have been killed in the territory by Cypriots or white people is not true.
Joel Wisdom told HumAngle that he left Nigeria to study in Northern Cyprus in 2015 after he failed to secure admission in a Canadian institution.
Wisdom said he attended Cyprus International University and after graduating, he found work and settled down in the place.
He said although there had been cases of Nigerians being killed in Northern Cyprus, they were very few and that most of the murders were perpetrated by fellow Nigerians and not Cypriots.
“There is discrimantion and racism everywhere. But here in Cyprus, I personally have never experienced any sort of racism. I have never had a bad encounter with any white person throughout my stay here.
“The news of a hundred Nigerians being killed in Cyprus is very untrue.
“Yes, Nigerians have been killed here, but saying a hundred students have been killed and saying that their deaths have been unexplained, and with a little over 10 names being mentioned, it makes you wonder what of the names of the others that they claimed to have been killed on the island.
“For the five years that I’ve been here, all the deaths of Nigerians that I have heard of are from altercations between Nigerians, and not involving any Cypriot or any other nationality for that matter,”’ Wisdom said.
The late Obasanjo Adeola Owoyale, who was found dead in July, last year, happened to be a friend of Wisdom’s. He narrated the problem which caused his demise.
Wisdom said that an investigation by Cypriot authorities had led to an arrest with the perpetrator already facing justice for the crime.
“It was a Nigerian who killed Obasanjo, and he did it because he owed him 4,000 euros and did not want to pay the debt.
“Obasanjo’s case took a while but his killer was later found and arrested. He is currently serving his sentence here in Cyprus,” Wisdom said.
He said most of those who were killed were into one “shady act” or another, involving drugs or money. Sometimes it even involves a fight over a lady, he added.
Wisdom said that Northern Cyprus was a perfectly safe place to live. Nigerian or not, anyone would prefer living there to anywhere else, he said.
Wisdom said he initially wanted to study in Canada but his visa application was unsuccessful and also, the tuition fees were very high.
He said he started his studies in Babcock University, Ilishan.Remo, Ogun State, before an agent got him admission in Northern Cyprus, a much cheaper alternative compared to European countries or North America, while the visa was relatively easy to get.
Another former student who pleaded anonymity, said he was in Cyprus between 2015 and 2019 and returned after completing his studies. Like Wisdom, he said that the situation had been grossly misunderstood and exaggerated.
“If hundreds of Nigerians had been killed without explanation it would have come out way before now.
“In the entirety of my time there, there were only two Nigerians who were murdered, one of whom was killed by fellow Nigerians. He was pushed from the top of a building.
“The other guy I know, Kennedy Dede, was killed by a Cypriot and the case is still in court,” he said.
He said “most people who find themselves unaccepted in other countries is because they don’t accept their cultures and traditions or try to learn the language.
“I never had any issues with anyone throughout my stay there. My landlord was a policeman and he loved me.”
He also noted it was difficult to commit crimes in such a small place and that it had a very low crime rate.
“It’s a very small country and the police force is very efficient. There are no loopholes to get away with crimes, and you hardly even hear of any crimes at all,”’ he explained.
Do not miss any update from the HumAngle team. Click on our WhatsApp button below to subscribe to our up to date breaking news and in-depth journalism.