• Monday, April 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

How Nigeria’s passport power, human development are shaping migration trends

nigeria migration

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has experienced a significant issue in recent years. The country has observed an exodus of its manpower, citizens seeking better opportunities and higher chances of success outside its borders.

This imbroglio is common on the tongues of countrymen as ‘japa‘, a Yoruba indigenous word meaning “escape.”

According to World Bank report, more people leave Nigeria to settle in other countries than those who move to Nigeria. Since 2021, approximately 200,000 more Nigerians migrated to foreign countries than moved into Nigeria. Recent reports by the international financiers also record net migration in Nigeria at -59,996 as of 2023.

The decision to leave Nigeria is multifaceted but not far-fetched. As thriving economies continue to advance, they increasingly become attractive to residents of developing and underdeveloped nations who are running out of time.

A 2019 PEW research survey revealed that about 45 percent of Nigeria’s adult population planned to relocate within five years, the highest among 12 countries surveyed across four continents.

A report by the African Polling Institute revealed that seven in 10 Nigerians would be willing to go abroad if they had the resources.

“Talk to any young, educated, relatively middle-class Nigerian and they’re likely to be preoccupied with one issue more than any other: their plans to emigrate and seek greener pastures elsewhere,” was how Aanu Adeoye, FT West Africa correspondent put it.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in its annual global migration report measures a country’s ability to retain its citizens with the overall quality of life.

The human development problem

Nigeria’s Human Development Index (HDI) value stands at 0.548, a slight increase from the previous year but still significantly below the global average of 0.739, placing Nigeria 161st out of 193 countries.

The HDI, which measures life expectancy, education, and income, is a critical indicator of the quality of life in a country.

The average life expectancy at birth in the UK, a top destination for Nigerian emigrants is 82 years. In Nigeria, it is approximately 54 years.

This can partly be traced to the country’s loss of its skilled healthcare workers. In 2023, over 30,000 nurses and care workers relocated to the UK from Nigeria, a 625 percent increase from the previous year.

Education has slowed, especially in remote communities. In Nigeria, the expected schooling period is 10.5 years, the United Nations says. However, the country records 7.6 years as the mean schooling period. This discrepancy reveals a low level of access to education.

As of 2022, about 18.5 million children in Nigeria do not have access to education, according to UNICEF. This figure is up sharply compared to 2021, when it was estimated at 10.5 million.

This has crippled citizens trust in the public sector and motivates individuals, particularly those seeking better educational opportunities for themselves or their children in globally respected institutions, to migrate, regardless of the cost.

While there is a slight increase in Nigeria’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita – $4,755, up from $4,716 in 2021, it is still relatively low compared to the global five-figure average.

This is because Nigeria continues to accommodate more than it can tend to, and the nation’s income struggles to compete with its over 218 million people. This pushes its anxious citizens and skilled workers seeking value for effort to move in search of better living standards in less-crowded settings.

The world migration data of 2022 showed significant differences between highly ranked human development countries and others, explaining that mid-ranked development countries, like Nigeria, can simultaneously be significant source, transit, and destination countries.

The United Nations predict that If the global HDI value continues to evolve below the pre-2019 trend, as it has since 2020, losses will be permanent.

The red flag of the green passport

The overall quality of life by country, and the ability to migrate in terms of visa access, reveals that the availability of migration options is partly related to the lottery of birth and in particular the national passport of the potential migrant.

Nigeria’s passport is ranked 95th on the Henley Passport Index, a global ranking of countries according to the entry freedom of their citizens.

The report shows that Nigerian passport holders can only travel to 45 countries visa-free, one less country than the previous year, and 16 positions below since 2014.

Nigeria’s ranking is significantly lower compared to Canada and the UK, which are popular destinations for Nigerians.

The Canadian passport is ranked 6th, offering its holders visa-free access to 189 countries, while the UK passport is ranked 3rd, with its holders having visa-free access to 192 countries, placing them among the strongest in the world in terms of global mobility.

Recently, the UAE announced its five-year multiple-entry tourist visa for all nationals, with Nigeria excluded. Flights between both countries were stopped in 2022 after Dubai’s Emirates Airline suspended its operations in Nigeria, citing trapped revenues.

These visa restrictions expose the difficulty in regular migration pathways, compelling desperate emigrants to resort to irregular pathways, which turn out to be the most realistic, if not the only option available.

Nigeria’s low ranking reiterates global perception of the country as a higher risk than reward investment globally. This can be attributed to concerns about illegal migration and security.

A fragile state

Nigeria’s current score of 98.0 on the Fragile State Index ranks it in the third to worst category – a dire situation that has remained unchanged even during the pandemic. Such a high level of fragility is often associated with political instability and unprovoked conflict.

In several parts of the country, especially in the north east, banditry mostly fuelled by ethnic tensions has displaced millions of Nigerians which have triggered waves of migration.

Just recently, gunmen kidnapped hundreds of school children in Kaduna state, and demanded about N1 billion ($621,848) threatening death. Although many have been released, affected families have been displaced and forced to flee their houses in fear.

At least 17 other schoolchildren in northern Sokoto state were also rescued two weeks after they were taken hostage, according to the Sokoto state government.

At least 1,400 students have been kidnapped from Nigerian schools since 2014 when Boko Haram militants seized hundreds of schoolgirls from Borno state’s Chibok village.

President Bola Tinubu, under rising pressure to end the mass kidnappings in northern Nigeria, promised his administration is “deploying detailed strategies to ensure that our schools remain safe sanctuaries of learning, not lairs for wanton abductions.”

The IOM said that the estimated number of international migrants has increased over the past five decades. “The total estimated 281 million people living in a country other than their countries of birth in 2020 was 128 million more than in 1990 and over three times the estimated number in 1970.”

If Nigeria is to have a chance at retaining its young population or bringing back its best talents to strengthen the workforce, refocused reforms are necessary to boost governance, security, and diplomacy.