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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Nigeria mourns for Damilola
Damilola Taylor
Damilola Taylor bled to death in a stairwell
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By Sam Olukoya
Lagos, Nigeria
line

The London court verdict that set two brothers free over the murder of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor made bigger headlines in the UK than in his home country, Nigeria.

"British Court Frees Damilola's suspected killers," was a front page headline of Nigeria's leading newspaper, the Guardian.

However, other newspapers buried the story on their inside pages in the belief that this story had more to do with crime in London than the dangers faced by ex-patriate Nigerians.


My dream was to study electronic engineering in Britain, but now that dream is gone

Kolade Busari
School-leaver
But many young Nigerians with dreams of travelling abroad have keenly followed the Damilola issue since he bled to death in the stairwell of a block of flats on the North Peckham estate, London, in November 2000.

Damilola lived in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, before travelling to Britain in search of a better life.

Like Damilola, thousands of youths in the city are in search of a better life and they see Europe - especially Britain - as the ultimate destination.

For some of these youths, the Damilola issue has negatively changed their perception of Britain.

Dream gone

Kolade Busari, a 22-year-old school leaver seeking university admission in Europe, said he now perceives Britain as an unsafe place.

"Before Damilola's death, my dream was to study electronic engineering in Britain, but now that dream is gone," he said.

Busari has shifted his quest for a better life to France.


Everyone including the best brains want to leave

Linus Ukamba
Nigerian trade unionist
Safiya Yahaya, a 21-year-old polytechnic graduate, sees Damilola's death and the freedom of his suspected killers as the product of hatred for Nigerians in Britain.

For her, British hatred for Nigerians dates back to more than a century ago when the British arrived Nigeria to colonise the country.

"They treated us badly during the colonial days and things have not changed up till now," she says.

She says even in the face of hardship caused by a high crime rate, unemployment and inflation in Nigeria, Nigerians at home do not face the kind of indignities their counterparts in Britain face.

Greener pastures

But for many other youths, the Damilola issue is not enough to kill their dream of going to Britain for a better life.

A visit to the visa section of the British embassy in Lagos proves this.

The place is crowded every morning with youths seeking visas for Britain.

"They want to leave Nigeria for greener pastures, everyone including the best brains want to leave," says Linus Ukamba, general secretary of Nigeria's workers union.

He attributes the desperation to leave the country in spite of uncertainties abroad to the low wage in Nigeria. Many Nigerians earn as low as little as $50 US a month.

The low wage contrasts sharply to what Nigerians abroad earn.

Tunde Benjamin from Lagos, Nigeria
Like many of his friends, Tunde Benjamin want to be a footballer
Sports pages of Nigerian newspapers are daily inundated with reports of foreign-based Nigerian footballers earning millions of dollars.

Many Nigerian children of Damilola's age hope to play football in Europe when they grow up.

These children are a common sight in Lagos playing football on street corners.

Eleven-year-old Tunde Benjamin, who plays football at a street corner in Agege, a Lagos suburb, says in future he wants to play football in Britain.

"I want to be like Kanu Nwankwo, the Arsenal striker," he said.

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