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Fleeing in droves: How insecurity, hunger, others, force Nigerians out


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For young Nigerians leaving the country in droves, insecurity, unemployment, infrastructural deficit, search for greener pastures, and hunger laced with failure of Nigeria’s system to provide them with opportunities to excel, have been identified among factors as fuelling their exits. Although, it could be risky sometimes, they said there are better opportunities in foreign prisons than moving freely in Nigeria. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports that even trained medical personnel are relocating to the detriment of Nigeria’s health sector

“Nigeria go survive, African go survive, my people go survive ooo, Nigeria go survive” was a chorus of a popular song by Veno Marioghae, released in 1986 with the title, ‘Nigeria Go Survive.’ This song tended to give hope to the hopeless and discouraged the prevailing mass migration of Nigerians at that moment.


Unfortunately, 36 years down the line, the hope is fading as the expectations of a better Nigeria is still a mirage while the country is currently facing worse challenges than she faced three decades and half ago when the song was released. Insecurity, mindless killings, hunger, unemployment, lack of justice system, infrastructural deficits or nonexistent, brain drain among medical doctors, nurses and other professionals are getting worse than what the country experienced in those 35 years.

Thus, the optimism for survival of the most populous black nation on earth and African second biggest economy, the 10th biggest oil producer in the world, is diminishing as all indices of good life, growth and development, are against her, owing to the high rate of insecurity and the reign of unpopular economic policies in the country. Also, enmeshed in this heightened conundrum, “Which Way Nigeria,” became another question, song title by the late Sonny Okosun; a query in his confusion, trying to decipher the direction of the country.

Today, as Nigeria seems directionless, majority of Nigerians, both young and old, are still asking the same question without answers from the successive captains of this ship, Nigeria, 37 years after the song was released in 1984. Regrettably, those who couldn’t fathom ‘which way Nigeria,’ are now leaving the country in droves.


They embark on desperate trips abroad in search of better life, peace, security and most importantly, employment to put food on their tables and live meaningful lives. According to a Nigerian Research Fellow, Dr. Egbuta Ben, migrants are attracted to sources of wealth as a moth is to light, saying that Europe is the foremost part of the industrialised world, well-endowed, and better governed, the reason Europe is the destination of many migrants. “It’s its fabled wealth that many migrants are irresistibly drawn to, yet Europe is a fortress which only the rich and powerful could easily access.

In spite of its insurmountable odds, Nigerian migrants, many of them deluded by the grandiose wealth to be attained, stake everything, their patrimony and even life to attain,” he said. Consequently, he noted, Nigeria is gallantly losing her trained labour force to other countries of the world due to reckless killings, insecurity, poor infrastructural development, hunger and shelter among others, seeking asylum in different foreign land, leading to further obliteration of the country with its grave consequences. Sunday Telegraph learnt that many forged travel documents to actualise their quest to partake in this alchemy that would send away severe poverty in their lives.

Others stow away in ships under turbulent seas to reach their destination-Europe, while a lot more defy the Sahara Desert to cross the perilous Mediterranean Sea Islands of Lampedusa and Spanish Canary Islands to embrace the cherished El Dorado more often in vain. It was also learnt that the migrants’ attempt to get around this fortress Europe, in some cases, have resulted in the death of many. Between January and early July 2014, over 500 migrants were drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea on boats off the Italian coast.

Others who tried to enter the country of their choice illegally via land border were killed by buried land mines and security operatives. Yet, despite these hues and cries over the drift caused by these factors and the need to address them, especially the brain drain among medical professionals, the Nigerian government seem not perturbed as President Muhammadu Buhari said anyone who is not comfortable with Nigeria should go. “Anybody who thinks he has any other country than Nigeria, Goodbye…” said his spokesman, Femi Adesina, on October 22, 2018.

Sunday Telegraph gathered that these fortune and better life seekers are also not happy leaving their country, kinsmen, families and friends just to stay alive, yet they see it as a necessary evil, the only option available for them to succeed in life. Some of them, who spoke to Sunday Telegraph, argued that they are worse off in their own country where their intelligence, effort and hard work do not count. Rather, parochialism, nepotism, tribal sentiments and wicked political atmosphere, where people are killed or maimed for airing their views, saying the truth or their minds on a particular issues.

“Nigeria under Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) has become like a mother that eats up her children to empower others’ children. Tell me why this administration has not done any meaningful rail development in the country, yet finds it suitable to do such for another country that treats her citizens like slaves,” worried Bonaventure Agiri. “Shedding of innocent blood is now a celebrated achievement where Adesina would say that killing and shedding of blood of innocent Nigerians under Buhari is less than that of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. “I’m tired of reading the news of innocent people being killed on a daily basis and young girls being gang-raped by these criminals that appear to be under the protection of this administration. We are living in hell here. I am leaving the country soon. I am waiting for a number of things first,” he added.

However, despite stringent COVID-19 protocols, major airports in Nigeria, especially the international gateways – Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja – began to record an influx of passengers leaving the country. Also, it was learnt that foreign embassies in Nigeria, especially the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, continually receive verification requests from skilled Nigerians, including medical doctors, nurses, engineers, artisans, among others, who are leaving for better opportunities.

According to figures from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the MMIA recorded over a million passengers in the first quarter of 2021 (January to March). This comprised a total of 739,560 domestic passengers and 323,751 international passengers. Sunday Telegraph learnt that this is just as a total of 149,557 passengers arrived while 174,194 departed through the international wing of the airport during the period, bringing the total passenger traffic to 323,751.

A total of 17, 286 aircraft were recorded at the airport during the first quarter of the year. The figure, it was learnt, indicated 12,744 domestic aircraft movements while international aircraft movement was 4,542. It’s also expected that the figure less than twice what was recorded in six months (July to December 2020), after the industry reopened from the COVID-19 lockdown.

In 2018, according to Afrobarometer, one in three Nigerians has considered emigration, mostly to find economic opportunity. An academic doctor, Oluwole Oje, said migration has become a top-of-mind and highly politicised issue in the country as the government pays more attention to 2023 elections than addressing the issue. He noted that in a context of high poverty and unemployment in developing countries and demand for skilled young workers in many developed economies, global streams of people are likely to continue, saying that migration can have positive as well as negative consequences for both origin and destination countries.

“In destination countries, emigration may fill gaps in skilled and unskilled labour. In origin countries, family and friends receive remittances, which help the economy through increased spending. On the other hand, ‘brain drain’ hurts emerging economies as the best young minds seek education and employment abroad,” he stated. 44-year old Nelson Jideofor said the only reason he is still in Nigeria is because of his newly wedded wife, who is currently studying nursing, saying that as soon as she is done, he will be leaving the country for good with his family. He said: “I’m just waiting for my wife to graduate from nursing school.

Then, I will get out of this country. She is not waiting a second to practice in Nigeria as she has started making some good plans towards travelling. She will be graduating next year but I have started looking for an occupational visa for the family. I am looking at Canada and Australia. “I have seen people roaming round the streets of Nigeria and the moment they traveled, things turned around for them. These are some wasted lives, humiliated, and concluded, but the moment they have the opportunity to travel, they come back big and spend big money. So, you can’t compare life in Nigeria and abroad. It’s like comparing death and life.

“My graduate friend, who was wasting in Nigeria, got an opportunity and traveled to the US. After one year he left this country, he started sending money home, buying plots of land in the village. He was doing menial jobs there but he’s seeing the money to spend. Money doesn’t smell, it doesn’t say where you got it. “So, tell me, who in his right senses, will see all this and will not start making arrangements to travel abroad? A domestic servant in the US is richer than a professor in Nigeria.

I will rather serve jail terms in the US than stay in Nigeria and die by hunger or killed by criminals. “Look at what is happening in Afghanistan. The country has collapsed and this is the path Nigeria is on. Very soon, bandits will force everybody out of this country to become refugees in foreign land. They are getting darker every day; yet, the government is treating it with kid’s gloves.

“People are dying like fowls every day; the government is playing politics. I can’t stay here to be cut off by these demons. I pray that God continues to protect me and my family until I get out of this country. This country is gone. I do not want to witness the next election in this country by God’s grace.” Mr. Abel Jonathan is in his mid-30s and his destination is Canada. He is a graduate of Political Science with Second Class Upper grade. He has sought a job for over three years after graduation. He has tried to start up a barbing salon but is frustrated by lack of electricity and excessive taxation.

He said: “I’m so tired of this country. Nothing is working here. I have tried a number of things to survive in the country but nothing is happening. I have gone to school, graduated and there is no job. My mates who traveled abroad are better off. They command the wealth that I have not seen.

I am working towards leaving too.” For Osondu Chinedu, his travelling documents are being processed and he will be leaving the country immediately the papers are already. Although, he doesn’t have any one in Poland, where he is headed for, he believes he will find his way to his destination. Chinedu is the oldest of his five siblings whom nature has given him the responsibility of taking care of, following the demise of his father. He believes that to train and take care of his siblings properly, he needs to jet out of the country and bring in his younger ones and his widowed mother when he balances. “With the death of my father, I have a lot of responsibilities to shoulder. My father left my mother and children behind and there is no one that can do this for me except I do it myself.

I’m not happy to leave my mother and younger ones behind but this is the only option left for me,” he said. A couple with three children, Mr. and Mrs. Chibuike, a clearing agent at Apapa Wharf and a pre-school teacher in one of the schools in Oshodi, are currently in Abuja, processing their family travelling documents and hoping to travel to US by end of January 2021, in search of meaningful life and safety. They are both tired of feeding from hand to mouth and now found an opportunity to better their lives through a family friend’s invitation after seeing what they go through. Mrs. Chibuike has been a teacher in a private school in Oshodi and hasn’t made any serious progress in the job. She has about three students she takes on after school lessons to add to her monthly income. She goes to their respective homes to teach and comes back late each day, except for two days in a week when she doesn’t fix lessons. She gets home tired in most cases and often complains of headache and stress, but the husband, a Clearing Agent at Apapa survives by small jobs he gets at Apapa as he’s attached to another agent who pays him from on commission. Following this, he decided to travel abroad, and got a family friend’s invitation. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Nigeria is one of the three leading African sources of foreign-born physicians, saying that doctors leave for a variety of reasons depending on where they are in their careers. It noted that many leave immediately after graduation to pursue international residency training and this category of doctors usually don’t return to the country, saying that they prefer to work where their newly acquired skills can be put to better use. OECD noted that young doctors exodus is fuelled by their inability secure a job or space for residency training, stating that there are those who leave five to 10 years after graduation for better pay, while others leave after specialist training, which can be up to 10 to 15 years after graduation to seek better prospects in other countries. A report by the British General Medical Council shows that 896 doctors of Nigerian nationality sat for the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test between September 2016 and June 2017. The PLAB test is for doctors, who have qualified overseas and wish to practice medicine in the United Kingdom (UK) under limited registration – there are two parts to the PLAB test. “The nationalities most frequently recorded in 2016-2017 were, in order, Nigerian, Pakistani, Indian and British,” the report says, adding that 74.6 per cent of the Nigerians that sat for the exams passed. Sunday Telegraph learnt that the Nigerian doctors, who left the country for foreign lands are good at their job but could not stay back due to lack of enabling environment to serve their father land. In spite of the fact that brain drain is a major challenge facing the Nigerian health system, leading to a dramatic reduction in the number of trained doctors in the country, Labour Minister, Chris Ngige (a doctor) said the government is not worried about how medical doctors are leaving the country in droves. Ngige toed the path of President Mohammadu Buhari, who said anybody who is not comfortable in Nigeria should goodbye, when he compared the brain drain to the exportation of surplus products. Also, former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in 2019 general elections, Atiku Abubakar, while reacting to these statements, wrote in his Twitter handle, “Young Nigerians aren’t just leaving Nigeria because of bad pay and working conditions. They are leaving because there is no hope.” Dr. Duyilemi Ugunbunmi, said the only thing that stands between her and Canada where she wishes to further her practice is her child in secondary school, who she’s waiting to graduate. She said: “I have a daughter studying Neurosurgery in the US and her younger brother is already a final year student at Covenant University and will travel immediately after his graduation for masters. It’s only my last daughter that is keeping me here. This country has gone so bad that our youths do not have any hope and life here. “Surviving in Nigeria is a tough one for our youths. Their futile struggles in this country hurt me as a mother. Every parent wants to see his or her children do well after going to school but today, at 25, these young graduates still sit at home, being fed by their parents. It is bad and I can’t stand it for my children. “As soon as my little girl is done, I’m gone. The government does not do anything for the masses. We provide private security to protect us and our property; we provide water for ourselves; we construct our roads being abandoned by the government, generators everywhere and yet we pay taxes for them to embezzle. It’s sad.” More so, reacting to the mass exodus of doctors, Dr. Abdulquadri Idrisu said Nigeria has a system that is not working but abroad there is already a system that works that would propel a doctor to do their job with passion, ready to sacrifice their lives to save a patient. He said: “The more people that leave Nigeria, the more the system suffers over here though we are still around because there is no means yet as no doctor would want to remain in Nigeria if he had the resources to go abroad.” According to statistics, with Nigeria’s population at about 200 million, the ratio of doctor per patient remains one doctor per 5, 000 patients as against the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation of one doctor per 600 patients, which poses severe risk on the health of the populace as health indicators may continue to decline and get worse with this mass exodus. Also, a former Ambassador to Pakistan, Dauda Danladi, said brain drain was a major challenge facing Nigeria, saying that Nigeria had been losing its best brains to different parts of the world, leading to a dramatic reduction in the number of professionals, including medical doctors. He said: “According to credible sources, Nigeria is one of the three leading African sources of foreign-born physicians. This exodus has led to a drop in the quality of healthcare service delivery, absence of qualified teachers, computer eggheads, as well as engineers. It has created a vacuum that is retarding development in Nigeria due to the absence. “It is regrettable that till date, Nigeria has not been able to get on top of her problem. Nigeria was the only African country listed among the 20 top exporters of physicians in 2004, with a loss of 5,499 doctors, up from 1,519 in 1991. “Apart from pay packages that are low, actual payment of salaries is often irregular. In some states, government workers’ salaries aren’t paid on time every month. Another major driver is poor working conditions. This includes having to work extra hours due to inadequate facilities. Doctors are not valued here but abroad, they are experts and sought after. “To reverse the brain drain, the Nigerian government should create a conducive environment that will ensure employment opportunities and reduce poverty. It must provide the needed infrastructure, such as good roads and transport systems, affordable and functional education, water supply, security, stable energy, in addition to a good healthcare system. “On their own, these won’t be enough to prevent the brain drain among medical doctors and other professionals. It would need to be supplemented by other strategies. These should include providing financial and other incentives to make them stay. Institutional capacity-building that promotes career development should be fostered, along with mentorship.” Addressing this issue in an earlier statement, the Director of Operations at National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Mr. Daniel Atokolo, warned that the situation in the countries Nigerians are rushing to, are not palatable, blaming the development on multifaceted factors. He said: “When you have a father that is doing everything possible to sponsor his daughter abroad for unethical jobs, it becomes parental irresponsibility. “We believe that some people would not have been trafficked if the subliminal social amenities were available. Some people got trafficked because mere electricity is a big issue to them.

If a man in the village, who is a barber has a shop or he is a fashion designer and he is assured of constant electricity, he would not move out of his village to the city centre.” However, as a way of discouraging mass departure of Nigerians, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recently barred over 20 Nigerians from travelling overseas due to poor and unconvincing documentation about their destination. The travellers were stopped from travelling recently at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos. It was learnt that most of those stopped from travelling out failed to give tangible reasons for wanting to travel out of the country and could not give details of their travels. Sadly, an average Nigerian is a local government of its own. He provides water, security, power supply, constructs government roads, and even pays taxes to the government. Yet, the government has failed in one thing the masses ask of it, security of lives and property.

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