…Yet, can’t return home
Stories about Nigerians selling their property in search of a greener pasture abroad have been trending on social media of late. If for anything, it shows the desperation of many Nigerians to escape from the current socio-economic challenges back home for a foreign and supposed better life abroad.
However, many of these stories of immigrating abroad don’t usually end up as thought. Many have had reasons to bite their fingers in regret following unsuccessful migration to abroad. For this set of travellers, it is like standing between the devil and a deep blue sea. Returning home is not an option on the table for many, and staying abroad is like a death sentence.
Earlier in February this year, a video of a Nigerian man who sold properties to travel abroad went viral as he expressed deep regret over his decision to sell his properties and travel abroad to seek greener pastures. He lamented that after selling two of his properties in Nigeria he ended up stranded in a foreign land with no immediate solution in sight.
His story however, mimics the extent many Nigerians were willing to go in their desperation to relocate abroad. It is also worrisome that many of the places Nigerians are immigrating to are currently facing similar socio-economic challenges, which beggar the question; why travel to a foreign land with an empty tank filled with hope?
“Out of disenchantment with the system, with sadness, the best of our youth are fleeing the country in droves, via the Japa syndrome, in search of greener pastures,” Taiwo Akinola, the presiding bishop, Rhema Christian Church and Towers (RCC&T), told BusinessDay.
According to him, going abroad is not the solution to the current socio-economic challenges facing Nigerians, especially if God doesn’t have a place for the individual abroad. He said going abroad will only result in suffering.
“I also do not believe if God has not opened a door for you; do not begin to beat the wall – it will endanger you. So, those who sell everything, particularly those who try to use a ferry across the Atlantic or walk through the desert – I don’t know what they are looking for. In this country, if people are hardworking they can still make some level of end story,” Akinola said.
This was the story of Deola, a young Nigerian man who left his landed property in Akure to travel abroad in search of greener pastures. He left Nigeria for Canada in 2018 and things were fine with him up till late 2022 that he returned to Nigeria for his traditional and court marriage.
However, things have not been the same with ‘Deola since his return to Canada in December, 2022. At first he was incommunicado for the first few months in 2023.
On his return to Canada he was unable to return to his job on the back of returning late to Canada after his marriage.
This was because Deola got stranded in Nigeria after his hook-up with his woman at the Ikoyi marriage registry, and it took the intervention of his family members who had to help raise some money before he could travel back to Canada.
However, his family members complained about seeing him online, but he doesn’t respond to any of their communication.
The communication improved again sometimes around June/July, which indicated an improvement in his stay abroad.
But, in mid-October the wife called her mother-in-law to complain about him and didn’t want her to disclose to Deola that she reported to the mother-in-law.
However, she confided in the mother-in-law that if Deola does not return to Nigeria before the end of the year that she is going to marry another person.
But, by month end, Deola in one of his chats with his elder sister based in Lagos said he might visit Nigeria in December.
This information was however, received by the family members in bad faith wondering why he would want to return to Nigeria considering that they had to raise some money the last time he visited before he could return to Canada.
“What is he coming to Nigeria to do again; he should just remain there and sort himself out,” Funke, his younger sister, told BusinessDay.
When asked about the plight of the newly wedded wife who has been alone in Nigeria since the marriage was consummated in October 2022, Funke said, “what wife; who even consider her as a wife sef?”
According to her, things seem to have gone south for her brother since the marriage was consummated in 2022. “I believe the wife and her mother are responsible for brother ‘Deola’s decision to want to return to Nigeria,” Funke added.
For many Nigerians Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) have been the preferred destinations; however, like the popular clique ‘everything that glitters is not gold’. This is so with many Africans living in the UK.
The UK has been battling with a high cost of living crisis that has been exacerbated by rising prices of essential needs such as energy, fuel, and food. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the Consumer Prices Index has risen by 9.2 percent in the 12 months to February 2023, up from 8.8 percent in January.
The Ukraine-Russia crisis has also contributed to the situation by disrupting global supply chains, leading to high prices. While several people from various backgrounds are feeling the pinch, no studies have been done to highlight the condition of African immigrants residing in the UK.
Around 1.4 million people, or 2.5 percent of the population of England and Wales, are estimated to be of African origin, according to the UK Government.
Evidence from SBM Intelligence suggests that a sizable number of Africans emigrated from their home countries to the UK to seek better education and career opportunities. However, like other communities in the UK, they face challenges due to the high cost of living.
Samuel Odugbesan, immigrated to the UK about two years after graduating from Festac College to join his parents who had been living in the UK for some years. However, he disclosed to BusinessDay that he cannot afford to work for a day because of the rising cost of living.
Odugbesan, who recently accommodated an old school mate narrated that many Nigerians are stranded in the UK and are not in a position to return home anytime soon. “Richards joined us in Ireland with his family, and we have to accommodate him.”
According to him, Richards was warned before making the decision of traveling to the UK with the entire family, however, he decided to move the entire family to the UK with two young children.
“Baba, I warned Richard against bringing his entire family to the UK. The guy sold his car and when that was not enough, his wife sold her shop in Idumota to finance their travel. Now, he is stranded and we have to accommodate a family of four that we didn’t plan for,” Odugbesan said.
According to him, the agreement with Richard was for him to come to the UK to see things for himself, stabilize a little bit before inviting his family over. However, he took his entire family to the UK without considering the current cost of living crisis.
The times can be described as enormously tough for African immigrants in the UK. An analysis published by the UK Labour Group to coincide with Race Equality Week (7- 13 February) shows that over 1.2 million (78%) adults from households headed by someone from a Black or African background reported having less than £1,500 in savings and investments. It further states that over half a million (24%) reported zero savings, according to a recent survey conducted by BHM UK.
Job security is the biggest financial concern of African immigrants in the UK with 28.6 percent. “A fifth of working accountants have said their job progression is being negatively affected by the cost-ofliving crisis and more than one in four believes the crisis has meant there are simply fewer opportunities available at work,” a report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) stated.
The World Bank estimates that Africa’s Diasporas’ remittances reached over $80bn sent to and within Africa in 2020. The cost of living crisis hits African immigrants in the UK hard as 77.3 percent of them support family and friends back home in Africa. Among these people, 75 percent say they have issues keeping up with this responsibility.
According to findings by the survey, with rising prices, African immigrants face immense pressure on their finances.
In October, 2022, the UK government cut up to £1,040 (US$1,439) per year from social security support to people on the Universal Credit system, despite widespread warnings that doing so would further exacerbate poverty.
While 84 percent of the respondents do not claim public funds, this decision can inherently affect other Africans who have lived in the UK their entire lives.
The findings reveal a paradox in the circumstances of these people; they are regarded by their loved ones at home in Africa as well-to-do with the capacity to send money back. Sadly, 59.7 percent of them have had to ask for support from family members in recent times.
Reports had it recently that some Nigerians who travelled to Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and regarded such as an achievement are regretting their decision.
For some of those who left the country in pursuit of a better life, their experiences are fraught with struggles.
Giselle Okorie, a US-based Nigerian, was recently quoted as saying that relocating abroad opened her eyes to the harsh reality of surviving in a foreign land.
school teacher in Lagos recounted her experience with some Nigerians residing in the United Kingdom when she travelled there.
“It is not everybody that lives in London that is rich. When I travelled there the last time, they were asking me if I came on sponsorship or I paid for myself? I said to them that I came on my own. In fact, I dashed some of them money. Can you imagine that? The truth is that the environment is good and better to live in than ours; but if you have a good job, there is no need relocating. To visit and come back is good. Many of them over there cannot come home in ten years and most of those children born there will never return to Nigeria to live; so, what is the essence? There is no place like home,” she said.
She also said that many Nigerians are stranded in foreign land and would wish to come back to Nigeria without success.
“Do you know that even many of those who japa-ed not long ago are regretting because what they imagined is not what they are seeing. There is nowhere people pick money on the ground or pluck it on the tree. In fact, they are under pressure more than we are. Many of them keep multiple jobs to make ends meet. They hardly rest. Are there those who are making it abroad, the answer is capital yes; just like some people are building mansions, buying big cars and doing other big projects despite our bad economy. The advice is that people must seek divine guidance before taking decisions;” the tutor said.