By Oluwatosin Ojebisi
As Nigeria continues to confront several institutional failures, bad governance, an extremely high level of youth unemployment and a poorly funded education sector, so many young and educated Nigerians are considering going abroad, either to seek for greener pastures, study or escape the inherent economic hardship.
Meanwhile, testimonies of those who successfully made it out of the country keep pouring in on social media, to inspire and motivate those waiting to be granted a travel visa, still applying or yet to make up their minds on why leaving Nigeria may not necessarily be the right thing but the best thing to do in the face of the current realities and to secure the future of their unborn children.
According to Mr. Franz Celestin, The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Chief of Mission, he said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)that, social media is a major tool influencing young Nigerians to want to migrate to foreign countries in search of greener pastures. “One of the strongest push for migration is aspiration and not just poverty, conflict or disasters, it is actually aspiration.
“Yes, the economic part of this is also a push factor, but of all the people returning from outside, and pretty much from Libya, less than 0.2 per cent of them comes from the North East. Why is it that over 49 per cent of them are from Edo and 17 per cent of them from Delta, then Lagos, Imo and Ogun. When you have these five states combined, they account for 89 per cent of those coming from Libya and if you look at these states, they are far ahead of the Northeast in any human development index.”
While several Nigerians who made the decision to leave the country legally or through other means, after a few years are glad they did. However, some have returned worse off than how they left. One may wonder why a person would return to Nigeria with next to nothing. The answer is not farfetched. Some school of thoughts believe that the picture painted about some of those western countries are not as they may seem because stories of the challenges faced are usually not glorified and well covered in the media.
Speaking with Olaoluwa Adesina (pseudonym), who legally left Nigeria for the United States of America over five years ago, she said, “I had no choice but to leave Nigeria because all efforts to secure an admission into the Lagos State University proved abortive. I got frustrated and then decided to migrate so I could further my education, which I did. I initially had the intention to return home after my education but I realised that I was better off here. Fortunately, I got the opportunity to join the military which is the best thing that ever happened to me.
“Although I faced some challenges – particularly racism. When I arrived here, the people in the neighborhood I lived often stare at me like an alien from another planet. A little girl once asked me where my tail was, which was very embarrassing. After a while, I moved to another community where I was not just the only black but the only African and every time I walked on the street, I had people open their window blind to peep at me. It was really depressing at first but then I got used to it after a while and moved out again.”
Nonetheless, some other Nigerians have not been as fortunate as Olaoluwa in their sojourn abroad. Recall that over 8,000 Nigerian migrants have been brought back to Nigeria since April 2017 after facing torture, abuse and exploitation in Libya according to the IOM. These returnees had hopes of crossing the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe from Libya. We are also aware of how young talented girls who leave the country with hopes of a good life later end up as sex slavery or sold into forced labour because they could not afford the high cost of legal migration. Some end up working as prostitute with little or no pay, become domestic slaves or find themselves in forced marriages just to survive. While young boys are introduced into despicable acts like robbery and drugs.
Beyond the challenges faced, fact remains that migrants have contributed immensely to the economy of the country in the aspect of remittances from migrants to their relatives in Nigeria. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), remittances sent to sub-Saharan Africa through informal channels, at 45 to 65per cent of formal flows, are significantly higher than in other regions. Overall, remittance flows are anticipated to keep expanding as a result of two factors: projected strong regional economic growth in 2019 and large intra-regional migration flows from the Sub-Saharan Africa region.
Similarly, in a White Paper Series by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC),titled: “Strength from Abroad: The Economic Power of Nigeria’s Diaspora,” it was estimated that migrant remittances to Nigeria could grow to $25.5 billion, $29.8billion, and $34.8billion in 2019, 2021, and 2023 respectively. Commenting on the White Paper Series, Partner and Chief Economist, PwC Limited, Dr Andrew S. Nevin, said the report is an analysis that shows the critical importance of the Diaspora to Nigeria’s economy.
Given the challenges and benefits of migration, there is an urgent need for the government to promote safe and legal migration by working with relevant stakeholders to prevent trafficking and smuggling of persons. With a large number of youths ready to risk their lives to travel abroad, especially under some traumatic conditions and some even end up dead, this is a wake-up call to the government to also develop policies that will promote safe migration which would enable migrant to contribute to socio-economic development of the country. The grass may not be as green on the other side, but it has continued to sustain the economy of the country.
• Ojebisi writes from Lagos