Government steps in after student deaths in Ghana

Nigeria has asked Ghana's government to investigate the deaths of four Nigerian students and a school pupil in that country. And on campuses countrywide leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and National Association of Nigerian Students have called on President Goodluck Jonathan to tackle the issue of student safety in Ghana, with a view to preventing the breakdown of bilateral relations between the two countries.

There are as many as 75,000 Nigerians in tertiary institutions in neighbouring Ghana, which is known for providing friendly working and living conditions for foreign students.

Last week five students at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana were arrested after the gruesome murder of Nigerian social science student Godwin Ayogu, 19. He was apparently killed after trying to recover money he had lent to a fellow student.

His death followed the drowning of two Nigerian students from Knutsford University College in Accra while on an outing with university officials, and the mysterious death in October last year of 15-year-old Nigerian Austin Ogukwe, a student at Ideal College in Tema.

Nigeria's human rights community has also lent its voice to those worried about student safety in other countries. "The sanctity of life cannot be compromised under any guise. The rights of foreigners must be adequately protected," said Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, executive director of the Centre for Constitutionalism and Demilitarisation.

He said the issue not only posed the question of how safe Nigerian students were on the Gold Coast and in other countries, but also how interested university managements were in the well-being of foreign students, most of whom were teenagers.

Last month another Nigerian student, Adelabu Tunde, was shot dead by Malaysian police. He was killed while walking home from his studies at Legenda University.

A member of Nigeria's house of representatives, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, recently tabled a motion entitled "The Killing of Nigerian Students Abroad".

In line with the motion passed by the house, and supported by the senate, lawyer Babatunde Fashola - who is also executive governor of Lagos - appealed to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to ask his Ghanaian counterpart John Mahama to take up the issue.

According to reliable sources, the presidency has sent a senior diplomat to meet the Ghanaian government about the student deaths.