Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Antidote to illegal migration of Nigerians


You possibly have seen the picture of black people lined up by a wall in a place supposedly in Libya. It was said that many of them are Nigerians who are about to be shot for illegally migrating into Libya.  Two friends sent it to me on WhatsApp. This was what the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa was reacting to last Monday when she said “While the authenticity of the pictures and tapes in question cannot be verified, it is a known fact that Libya has been executing alleged black illegal immigrants for years.” That North African country has also been deporting Nigerians back home steadily for some time now. I have seen footage of many dead persons in the Sahara Desert as they tried in vain to illegally migrate through North Africa into Europe. Virtually every week, there are reports of many Nigerians and people of African descent who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to illegally migrate from Libya to Europe

News report has it that Illegal migrants from Nigeria, account for 21 per cent of the total 171, 299 immigrants that braved the Mediterranean odds to arrive Italy in 2016. Figures from the Italian Interior Ministry as at November 2016 estimated the record of Nigerian arrivals at 36,000, with most of them claiming they were running away from Boko Haram insurgency or Niger Delta crisis. The flow of Nigerian immigrants to Italy via the Mediterranean backdoor allegedly began in 2008, declined for five years but began to soar again from 2013.

There are hundreds of thousands of Nigerians living illegally abroad. Some may have entered legally but remained in their host countries illegally after the expiration of their visa. There have been sportsmen and women, musicians and other entertainers on tour, people on holy  pilgrimage to Israel and Saudi Arabia who simply bolt away on arrival at their countries of destination because of the erroneous believe that the streets of such countries are paved with gold. There have been many students who went to study overseas but refused to return home on completion of their studies. Reading ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche was an eye opener for me in this respect. 

 

Many Nigerians tell incredible lies with forged documents in order to seek asylum in Europe and North America. Many of these illegal migrants not only end up doing menial jobs they would never have done in Nigeria in order to survive in their host countries, several  of them also fall victim of xenophobic attacks. Prisons of South Africa, Malaysia and China among other countries are filled with Nigerians who are illegal migrants who also involve themselves in anti-social activities such as drug peddling, internet fraud, human trafficking, prostitution and many more

It is believed that the main motivating factor for illegal migration and indeed brain drain is pecuniary interest. Many of those who risked their lives and life-savings to embark on the search for Golden Fleece or greener pasture do so with the hope of a better life abroad. Unfortunately, only an infinitesimally few out of the lot get lucky in those climes. Majority of them being illegal migrants cannot get good jobs even if they have genuine academic certificates from Nigeria. They are perpetually watching out for police raids which are regularly carried out and during which many of them have had to be repatriated back home when caught. Those are even the lucky ones. Thousands of others get dumped in the prison or simply murdered and declared missing. What a life!

With the assumption of office of Donald Trump as the 45th American President last Friday, January 20, 2017, many illegal migrants from Nigeria are already jittery about their fate under the new regime. The new POTUS has not minced words about his plans to deport millions of illegal migrants to America back to their countries of origin. Yes, while we are justified to blame the hawk for wickedness, we must also condemn mother hen for exposing her children to danger.

Nigerians will not ‘check out’ like Andrew in the popular television advert of the 1980s if the conditions at home are salutary. Under succeeding administration, things continue to move from bad to worse. There is untold hardship in the land, high dependency ratio, deplorable state of social infrastructure, shrinking job opportunities, inclement business environment, high level corruption, social inequalities and injustices and many others. Self- preservation is the first law of nature. Therefore, one cannot be too harsh on those who want to venture outside of the shores of Nigeria in search of better life.

It behooves our political leaders to fix the rot in our society so that my compatriots will reduce their inordinate quest for greener pasture outside the country. Nigeria is too blessed to be poor. Our population is optimum given the enormity of our untapped potentials in many spheres of life. Our arable land can conveniently feed this over 170 million population if the right policies are put in place and implemented faithfully. Look at the enormous potentials in our solid mineral sector. That sector still has illegal miners as the major players in the industry. The opacity in the management of our oil and gas sector has made many analysts to conclude that we are suffering from resource curse. For over fifty years that we have been engaging in oil and gas exploration, Nigerians are yet to see significant tangible benefits of being an oil producing nation. Sixth largest exporter for that matter!  Simply put, our monies have not been made to work for us. Our tourism potential is second to none in Africa with about hundred tourism destinations many of which have been neglected and allowed to become decrepit.

This is a country so blessed with good weather conditions all year round and which rarely experience natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunami, typhoon, hurricane landslide, etcetera. Nigeria’s major challenge is effective management of our God given resources for the overall benefit of the populace. Buhari administration must do things differently in order to inspire the confidence of Nigerians in his government. Thus far, the PMB government is yet to wow Nigerians with memorable positive achievements. The administration has been loud on rhetoric and short on delivery, giving credence to the eternal words of Mario Cuomo, former New York Governor who said that “politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose”. If there is high standard of living in Nigeria, am sure many of us will stop risking our lives to go and hustle illegally abroad. Nigerian government at all levels must make the country livable for all and sundry, then and only then will this craze to travel abroad willy-nilly abate.