Youth Migration Challenge: Failure of Governance and Challenge of Nigerians in diaspora
There is no doubt that our country Nigeria is facing monumental challenges in the process of its development. Very soon we shall be celebrating the 50th independence anniversary. Is it really worth it? Things that are supposedly to work are not working. Nigeria is an importer of what it produces – a rich country with poor people blessed with oil that it yet imports. Social amenities are not functioning. No thanks to the 7-point agenda, power has become not only erratic but also non-existent in some communities thereby throwing a lot of Nigerians into further poverty. Vision 20-2020 cannot see any vision for Nigeria to be one of the 20 topmost economies of the world as industries are relocating to neighbouring countries while many are folding up. Our roads are death traps causing more carnage than any other source of deaths even than malaria and HIV/AIDS do. Nigeria is one of the countries that may not meet, let alone exceed, the MDGs by 2015 because of our leaders’ greed and graft coupled with executive treasury looting.
Religious and ethnic crises have become the order of the day as Bokom Haram, talakato sects and other fundamentalists in the north are unleashing terror on innocent Nigerians. On Tuesday September 7 2010 the members of Bokom Haram went to a Bauchi prison with superior fire arms to the police and sent their members who had been detained free after which they set the prison on fire. We still recollect on Christmas Day December 25, 2009, a 23-year old northern stock Umar Farouk Mutallab was arrested for trying to blow up himself and a United States airliner. As a result, Nigeria was/is unfortunately placed on the terror watch list of America. While our leaders were impudently displaying ego boosting blowing hot and cold that America should delist Nigeria from the terror watch list, then the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Ojo Maduekwe, was pontificating that Nigeria was not on that list. Who is fooling whom? Jos welcomed 2010 in January with yet another senseless religious riots in which many lives were lost. Of course, the absentee Mr President was not around to speak for us in the face of Nigeria being placed on terror watch list or to douse the tension in Jos. Religious crises especially in the north shall continue unabated unless government is ready to bring to book the killers in the name of religion.
Our educational system from primary to tertiary level is in shambles while our health systems are in abysmal decay as our national budget on health has never reached 15% as canvassed for internationally. Our political office holders owe Nigerians explanation why they have failed to patronise made in Nigeria health facilities in the face of their deteriorating health conditions requiring medical checkups. After all, the poor are patronising the same health facilities that are suffering from government prolonged neglect. In 2009, ASUU was on strike for more than three months but the Education Minister was immorally relishing in his 50th wedding anniversary with several millions of Naira squandered on that charade. The President has acquired three additional presidential aircraft in order to escape the maiming and death tolls, experienced by poor Nigerians, arising from Nigerian craterlike roads due to government neglect and insensitivity to the plight of the people. Part of the over 20 billion dollars expenses on the aircraft would have been used to fix some of our bad roads as lives are being lost to these bad roads on daily basis. Human and material security is lacking as robbers are carrying out their antics unmolested in the day light while sometimes police watch helplessly. The security situation has deteriorated to the extent that armed robbers now frequently visit police barracks to steal arms to use in their operation. Where is our security then?
Youths are passing out year in year out without jobs thus turning some of them to emergency robbers while many are desperate to get out of the seemingly God forsaken country called Nigeria. Of much concern to this discourse is the precarious condition that our youths are finding themselves as a result of wanting to leave this youth-hostile environment. Migration has become the only option despite the palpable danger the Nigerian youths are likely to face in their bid to seek for the greener pasture. Do our youths make informed decisions about migration?
Evidence gathered by some scholars, as well as nongovernmental organisations, supported by international and regional organisations including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) indicates that the large majority of potential undocumented migrants make the decision to undertake the migration process based on negligible or inadequate information about the risks involved. The effects of the current economic downturn on migrant realities remain uncertain. However, potential effects signalled by the UK’s Migration Policy Institute include higher unemployment amongst migrants, more hostility from a pressurised workforce, less successful integration and more determined policies to physically prevent irregular migration and repatriate irregular migrants. The IOM estimates that 120,000 migrants from West Africa arrived in North Africa in 2008, out of which 38% intended to continue their journey to Europe. According to ECOWAS, Women account for 47% of the 17 million immigrants in Africa and are mostly from the West African sub region. The Nigerian government estimates that there are at least 59,000 Nigerian citizens without valid documentation temporarily resident in Maghreb countries and countries along the West African littoral awaiting onward transit to Europe.
There are two main methods of irregular migration: overstaying a visa and crossing sea or land borders without transit documentation. According to the monitoring group, Fortress Europe, at least 13,444 people including Nigerians have died since 1988 along European frontiers. Even seemingly safe vessels hold a potential threat and 152 migrants have died from asphyxiation or drowning on registered cargo ships, or ferries. Whilst deaths at sea attract the most media attention, the land routes from countries of origin to points of embarkation are also potentially lethal. Crossing the Sahara desert involves an arduous journey through a desolate and dangerous environment to the destination/transit countries of North Africa. At least 1,677 people have died making this crossing since 1996. Nigerian migrants also face the threat of collective deportation and abandonment in the desert. Given the extreme climate and the dangers of war or banditry these figures are likely to be much higher.
Once in the transit countries, migrants often endure a precarious existence, facing potential physical abuse and exploitation. There is a lack of official data, but in the context of Libya, Human Rights Watch has reported arbitrary arrests, beating and torture of migrants in detention centres. For example from September through October 2009, 734 Nigerians were deported. According to the report, some of those repatriated, though with impunity, were sentenced to life imprisonment but later pardoned by the President Muammar Gaddafi government. The North African nation also claims the latest deportees were sent packing for offences ranging from illegal immigration to criminal activities. Only recently, a ship full of illegal migrants capsized off the coast of Spain. Many of the immigrants were Africans, Nigerians included. The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has condemned the action of these Nigerians, saying that they expose themselves to untimely deaths in the process of running away from their fatherland. But the fatherland offers youths no hope in despondency; it offers no job security in joblessness; and offers no food in the face of starvation. So, they have to move otherwise they will be moved by hunger and starvation.
Many migrants remain in the transit countries, unable to afford the high prices charged by smugglers to facilitate the clandestine sea journey to Europe. However, those that do make it to a European destination country continue to meet with threats to their well?being. Irregular migrants arriving by sea are routinely detained whilst their status is nebulous and uncertain. This period of detention can be lengthy. A proportion of these individuals are deported and not necessarily to the migrant’s home region or indeed country. In some situation, irregular migrants could be asylum seekers who are illegally deported to his country where he is going to face persecution which is against the UDHR article on refoulement. A distinction in international law is made between smuggling of persons which is held to be essentially a business arrangement and trafficking of persons which is held to be intrinsically exploitative. The former concept might not be done with the consent of the victim whereas the latter concept is usually carried out with his/her consent to traffic him or her. However, in practice, smuggling often transmutes into trafficking. While many of our youths volunteer to migrate irregularly some are smuggled while some are trafficked with their consent.
There is a well?documented threat to migrants, most particularly women, of sexual exploitation. There is a threat of labour exploitation. In the destination countries, irregular migrants are found in a variety of employment sectors, including agriculture, construction, nursing, hospitality care, menial, and domestic work. These industries typically require large numbers of low?paid, flexible, seasonal workers, sometimes in difficult or dangerous conditions. Coercion and deception are used to control and exploit migrants. They may experience debt?bondage, the withholding of identity documents, threats and abuse, degrading or dehumanizing treatment, reduced or no pay at all, excessive working hours, dangerous conditions, poor accommodation and discrimination.
According to Afrol.Com (5th July 2009), more than 10,000 Nigerian girls held captive as sex slaves in Morocco and Libya were repatriated. The girls reportedly from Edo State, the southern part of Nigeria, aged between 13 and 17, had been held captive by sex slave traders, the statement said. Some of the girls were reportedly pregnant and infected with various diseases including HIV/AIDS, and had been sent to jail in the two countries while others were at the mercy of their slave masters according to reports. The Libyan and Moroccan authorities are reportedly fed up with the presence of the girls, putting them in jail time and again. The girls are also living at a high risk as they could be eliminated or subjected to different inhuman or degrading treatment by the host nations.
According to ThisDay newspaper of 30th August 2009, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 52 Nigerians were currently on death row across the globe for various offences. A statement signed by the ministry's spokesman in Abuja, Mr. Ayo Olukanni, also said that 3,132 were serving various terms of imprisonment and while another 1,640 were in detention, 3,719 others were to be deported. About 5,145 Nigerians abroad, mostly girls, are victims of human trafficking, while the offences some committed included, drug trafficking, armed robbery, credit card scam, formation of cartels, membership of secret cults, trafficking in persons and prostitution.
Resolving the issue of migration is a joint effort of us all. While the CSOs are constantly reminding governments of the need to account to the Millennium Pledge they signed in 2000 in New York, governments should develop all necessary political will to make life as much comfortable as possible for the citizenry. The need for youth-friendly policies is of paramount importance. Circulating old cargoes as political appointees to the detriment of the youth would not augur well for the development of our country.
We also need to make our infrastructure work. Rather than allowing them to be folding up, more industries should be set up while government might give incentives like tax holiday to encourage budding entrepreneurship where youths could take a centre stage of the economy.
NIDO and other similar organizations have a tremendous role to play in nation building and helping our youths. Nigerians in Diaspora are men and women full of brain and brawn ready to use their intellect and other resources at their disposal to fix Nigeria. Their remittances home have been of significant development impact on the lives of families and Nigeria. Any little diasporan investment done at home would go a long way in transforming the lives of our youths. Unfortunately for the fear of EFCC, our money bags and rich politicians are no more investing their ill-gotten wealth in the country for our youths to be gainfully employed. Some industries are relocating to neighbouring countries like Ghana because of incessant power outage or lack of it. NIDO could invest in power generation and establishing refineries.
There should be a forum where Nigerian Diasporas and migrants (irregular/regular) could meet and engage in socio-policy issues affecting them and affecting the development of our country Nigeria. There should be proper coordination. This writer is ready to collaborate with such groups of people interested in the development of our dear country by considering the feasibility of establishing a centre christened NIGERIAN CENTRE FOR DIASPORA AND MIGRANTS FOR DEVELOPMENT. I am developing a concept paper on this and would love to share this with individuals or groups that are interested in this project. We have no other place to call our own and together we should salvage Nigeria.
Dr. Tola Winjobi (Ph.D)
Principal Coordinator, CAFSO-CPCM
National Coordinator, GCAP/MDGs Nigeria
Plot 5 Akingbade Street, Opposite New Gbagi Market,
Off Old Ife Road,
Box 15060, Agodi P. O,
+234 80 306 18326
+234 80 820 08222