As an attorney-at-law was assigned a “watching brief” for disgruntled Nigerian students who came to study in Barbados, Government announced that it would step in to help resolve the problems they are facing.
Nigerian-born lawyer Esther Obiora-Arthur, who lives in Barbados, is looking out for the 90 Nigerian students on behalf of the Nigerian High Commissioner in Trinidad & Tobago.
Since arriving in late December to pursue hospitality studies at the Barbados Community College, the students have been publicly venting their frustrations about unsatisfactory accommodations at the Casa Grande Hotel in St Philip. They were originally booked at another hotel but after their arrival earlier in the year had been postponed over Ebola fears, the rooms became unavailable.
Speaking at a media conference called to discuss the country’s tourism performance, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner said Government was “very distressed and concerned” about the reported saga.
“There will have to be a Government intervention because our country’s reputation is at stake. We are concerned. I will tell you now that the Government of Barbados is very distressed and concerned at the developments because these students came in good faith to this country,” the Government official said, although she could not say how soon the Government was likely to get involved or what steps were likely to be taken.
“The Government understands the challenges they had at the height of the season, because the thought was to come in summer when we had a different type of occupancy level. It happens now in the winter season when everywhere is practically booked so the choices were not that wide. Therefore, the organizers in their wisdom chose somewhere that would accommodate everybody in the same place and that was done and it is unfortunate that it turned out as it did.”
Sandiford-Garner pointed out that the Freundel Stuart administration was never involved in any negotiations regarding the students’ accommodation.
However, she suggested that any similar future initiatives should have “some level of Government monitoring and advice, if not control, given the potential fallout should things go wrong as in this case”.
“We have never had it happen before but we now have an occasion to review these types of arrangements and ensure that we are involved as a Government to protect the reputation of our country, because I am sure the organizers meant well. I can’t speak to what had transpired at the hotel but I do know that, as a Government, we will have to take greater interest in such initiatives going forward,” Sandiford-Garner contended.
Meantime, addressing a Press conference along with some of the students and members of the Pan-African movement in Barbados today, Obiora-Arthur lauded David Comissiong and his colleagues for offering representation to the Nigerian students.
“When you find yourself without a voice it is very frustrating. When you are speaking and it is as if you are speaking to a wall, it is very frustrating. I know my people. They are people who will manage but when you try to shut them up they will react. There was no bridge between them and the people at one point. There was nobody for them to turn to, nobody to give them feedback. That was the issue. They now feel that they can be heard with the intervention of Comissiong going forward,” she said.
The attorney promised the students that she would report to the Nigerian High Commissioner that they now have a voice with the intervention of Comissiong and other Pan-Africanists.
Earlier, the four students present asked that they be relocated as soon as possible because they were dissatisfied with the accommodation provided.
Stressing that they were not violent individuals, they said they were annoyed that on three or four occasions lawmen were summoned to the hotel and, in one case, armed soldiers turned up.
Comissiong argued that the training at BCC gave the Nigerians an opportunity to reconnect with their “brothers and sisters” and that the project was too important to allow it to fail.