The Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, on Tuesday advised jobless and homeless Nigerians in the U.S. to return home, saying that the consulate was ready to assist those willing to return.
Speaking at a conference on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hosted by the consulate in New York, Okoyen said that the provision of accommodation for the homeless Nigerians was not part of the consulate’s mandates.
According to him, the best his office can do in such circumstance is to counsel affected persons.
The CG was responding to appeals by some conference participants, who drew his attention to the plight of many Nigerians suffering in the streets of New York and elsewhere in the country.
The consul general, who admitted that many Nigerians were truly suffering, said that only persons living honestly in the U.S. were entitled to consular services in the event of ill-treatment.
“When they come to us we always advise them that home is home. It is not part of our mandate to start looking for accommodation for you here.
“What we can do is that if you are unjustly treated, we intervene with the relevant authorities to make sure that your right is respected.
“And that means that your stay here is legal; you must also not have committed any crime that warrants whatever treatment that you are getting.
“We will at all times intervene in circumstances like that. But the best thing is that if you have nothing doing, I advise you go back home,’’ he said.
The consul general also solicited the support and partnership of the Nigerian community especially in the area of information sharing on the conditions of fellow citizens in the country.
“ We need to know what is going on also, because we don’t know everything that is going on. People need to inform us about what is going on.
“Once that is done we would be able to know what next step to take. Again, partnership is key. The Nigerian mission is a resource that you have.
“We are your representatives that you can run to at any point in time. That is very important,’’ he said
One of the participants, Ms Bernadine Uzor, painted a gloomy picture of the living conditions of many Nigerians in the U.S.
Uzor, who is the Coordinator of Asabe Shehu Yar’Adua Foundation, said that homelessness was a serious issue in the Nigerian community.
He, therefore, pleaded with the consulate to help through the provision of accommodation.
“Acting on false impression, many of our people come here from Nigeria only to start suffering and dying in the streets of America.
“I put some of them in churches, because when I find them in the streets, I am not happy about it.
“I have somebody right now dying in a shelter, and the people don’t care. They just want to see that the woman dies so they can throw her away.
“I want to know what you are doing about our children who are deceived from home with false stories of America being a heaven, only to come here and discover that it is a different story,’’ she said.
Adenike Oyejide, another participant and Vice Chairperson of the African Advisory Council, Bronx, New York, said that Africans in the Diaspora were part of the problem.
Oyejide said that that besides promoting corruption back home, they usually paint false pictures of America, a situation which encouraged their family members, friends and relations to think that money grew on trees in the country.
“Starting from some years ago, some of us encouraged the politicians to come here and buy houses worth millions of dollars when you and I working here in the rain, sun and winter cannot afford to buy a 100,000 dollar home cash.
“Two, some of us when we go home, we paint a different picture of what America is all about. Most of us do not tell our people the truth that in America you don’t pluck dollars from trees.
“If you work for a white man or even black man in this country, if you don’t work for an hour you will get nothing. Even that one hour pay, they will deduct the taxes and give you the change.
“When we go home and they tell us they want to come to America, we encourage them even when we know they don’t have enough education or skills to be relevant here.
“For me, that is human trafficking because you don’t tell that person the right thing. We don’t ask them what they want to do here. They come here and become a problem.
`So, we in the Diaspora should start rethinking and refocus what we say when we go home of have a phone call with our people,’’ she said.