June 4 2016
There are strong indications that the number of Nigerians emigrating to other countries in search of greener pastures may have increased significantly following the economic downturn in the country.
Findings indicate that visa applications by Nigerians to embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the United Arab Emirates had increased in the past 12 months.
It was learnt that desperate applicants besiege the embassies of economically-prosperous countries where they believe they could get better economic deals.
For instance, between January 2015 and March 2016, the UK mission in Nigeria said it issued visas to 14,231 Nigerians, making them one of the top 10 nationalities granted visas in the world.
Others are China, 92,715; India, 84,663; US, 34,278; Australia, 21,605 and Pakistan, 17,664. The list also includes Saudi Arabia, 17,586; Turkey, 13,474; Philippines, 13,262; and Russia, 12,503.
Although our correspondents could not get the total number of applicants from Nigeria for UK visa, the Press Officer, UK High Commission in Nigeria, Joe Abuku, said UK had reduced the number of visas granted to Nigerians.
Data from the mission show that there is a 25 per cent decrease in the number of visitor visa grants to Nigerians in the last one year, Russians (32 per cent), Pakistanis (20 per cent), Bangladeshis (39 per cent) and Iraq (52 per cent).
Findings also showed that at least 220,000 Nigerians applied for non-immigrant visas to the US Mission in Nigeria in 2014, but only 66 per cent of tourist visa applications were approved.
But the mission received over 300,000 applications for 2015 fiscal year which started in October, 2014 and ended in September, 2015. The data for 2016 is not ready yet, but the figure is expected to triple, according to US embassy officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In 2015, 2,031 Nigerians were issued preference visa for employment by the US, which is the highest in Africa.
This was followed by Ethiopia, 1,569; Egypt, 953; Ghana, 930; Kenya, 452; Cameroon, 429; and Cape Verde, 699.
Preliminary data for fiscal year 2015 from the US embassy further show that 156,147 Nigerians were granted non-immigrant visas (including border crossing cards) compared to 141,527 in 2014.
Checks indicate that the numbers of Nigerians leaving the country has been steadily increasing year by year.
In 2010, 64,279 Nigerians were issued visas by the US mission in Nigeria, but the number dropped to 63,503 in 2011.
In 2012, the figure increased to 83,944 and to 113,503 in 2013 and to 141,527 in 2014.
It was gathered that 42 Nigerians were granted special immigrant visas out of the 116 issued to Africans last year. The US Press Attaché, Sean McIntosh, was not available to shed light on the different categories of the beneficiaries.
Under the employment fourth preference (Immigrant Waiting List By Preference Category) for year 2016, Nigeria is third with 4.7 percentage of the waiting list. Others include, India, 32 per cent; Afghanistan, 5.5 per cent; South Korea, 4.5 per cent; Mexico, 4.2 per cent; and other countries, 49.1 per cent.
The employment waiting list refers to prospective workers and their spouses and children entitled under the law to derivative preference status. The fact sheet noted that in several employment categories, the waiting list totals provided significantly understate real immigrant demand.
In February, a civil servant, Ayo Oludeji, with his wife and three children emigrated to Canada through its immigration scheme.
Oludeji, a geologist, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that he and his family had to leave Nigeria because it was getting harder for them to survive.
Although Oludeji and his wife have yet to get jobs in Canada, he said he was optimistic that their children would be guaranteed better lives in his home, which he described as “next to heaven.”
Oludeji said, “Everything works perfectly here and crime rate is one of the lowest in the world.
“We understand that jobs are not easy to get any longer but the environment itself is a testament to the numerous opportunities that abound here. We have power supply 24 hours a day and even the public schools here are very lovely unlike the situation in Nigeria.”
An employee of Stanbic IBTC Bank in Lagos, simply named Ola, told Saturday PUNCH that he was also planning to relocate to Canada with his family as soon as possible due to the economic uncertainty in the country.
Ola said his quest to relocate out of the country anytime soon was due to fears of being sacked just like his colleagues.
He said, “A friend of mine has just been sacked after spending about seven years working in the bank. He could not make his target, so he was asked to go. There are fears that some workers will also be laid off soon, whether targets are met or not.”
Due to the current economic hardship, Ecobank Nigeria fired over 1,040 of its employees during the week.
The PUNCH had also reported on Tuesday that Diamond Bank Plc sacked over 200 members of its workforce, while FBN Holdings, the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, recently said it would prune the number of its employees by 1,000.
Ola further said he was “just being prepared” for any eventuality.
He said, “You cannot predict what is going to happen next. Things are really hard here. I have three kids and a wife to cater for; I must be willing to sacrifice today for their future.
“A friend of mine, who works in Diamond Bank, resigned in April and has relocated to Canada together with his family. Now he has settled down there and after attending several interviews, he told me he had got a job.
“He is also furthering his education there. His two children have started schooling too. By God’s grace, I hope to also relocate there soon. Work is in progress. The economy is really bad here and I think it is better to go to a place where there are better opportunities than starving here in the name of love for the country.”
A banker couple, John and Temi Oduwole, who also had a successful application to emigrate to Canada with their two children, said they would be leaving for their new home in August.
The bankers said they would soon resign from their jobs to fully have time to prepare for their departure, adding that they would have no problem forfeiting their banking jobs for the opportunity to leave Nigeria.
Temi said, “We are particularly afraid for our children’s future with the way the economy and security situation in Nigeria are getting worse. We are happy that we can finally leave this country and hope for a better future. After our application, we went through medical examinations and after that, we were asked to send our passports. Our passports came back stamped and we are expected to leave within a few months from that time, before the results of the medical examinations would expire.”
The harsh economy in the country has apparently forced some families to relocate aboard and some, preparing to leave the country any time soon.
Speaking to one of our correspondents, Mr. Uzoma Ijele, who got a Canadian visa, has vowed not to come back to Nigeria until the economy improves.
He said, “Everything looks bleak. I tell you, I actually gave testimony in church when I got this visa. I don’t think there is anybody in Nigeria who is not facing this hardship. I cannot bear it again, I have to leave and my family will join me later.”
Also, a 44-year-old Nigerian, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he got a UK visa recently, adding that he is not likely to come back even when his six months visitor’s visa expires.
He said, “I have already got divorce papers from my wife here. Yes, we had to arrange it. I will certainly get married when I get there in order to facilitate my papers. Thereafter, I hope to divorce the British lady and re-marry my wife.”
Sunday said he had already arranged with a British woman whom he would pay 5,000 Pounds for the arranged marriage.
“When I get my papers, I hope to bring my family down here eventually,” he said.
Already, 34-year-old Marck Uchegbu, a one-time banker, had already left the shores of the country.
Uchegbu, who said he had not been able to secure a job since he was affected by the bank restructuring some years back, added that he was lucky to secure a Swedish visa and he quickly had to relocate.
Even as he said he is doing menial jobs in Sweden, Uchegbu said it is better than the hardship he was facing in Nigeria.
He said, “I know that so many Nigerians will be envying me now despite the odd job I am doing now. But as it were, I still see food to eat and I am in a decent country with decent economy. I wonder where our country will be in the nearest future. Well, that is not my business, I have taken off and I am overjoyed with where I am now.”
A recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics has revealed that no fewer than 1.5 millions of Nigerians lost their jobs in the first quarter of 2016 alone. This is different from the same number of people who became jobless in the second quarter of last year.
More medical practitioners seek opportunities abroad
A medical practitioner resident in the US, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described to one of our correspondents how his colleagues had been relocating to the country from Nigeria.
She said some of her family and friends had also been relocating to the US in the past three months.
She said, “In the past three months, I have received notices from friends and a few extended family members planning to leave Nigeria, all of them professionals in different fields and in the middle class. Some of them are already here, I can tell you.
“This summer has seen an influx of many Nigerians to the US. A friend is currently staying with me in Huntsville as I write. She is a medical doctor. She also told me that several of our friends in Osogbo, Osun State, are planning to relocate too. They are being owed salaries.
“About four other medical doctors at different national hospitals have relocated here in the past two months. One of them is a paediatrician and the other a surgeon. Two of them are physiotherapists. There are many nurses who have left in the past three months, I am telling you. I think people are slowly giving up. Some have already given up.”
The immediate former National President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, who confirmed this development, said doctors had been moving out of the country in large numbers and that it would not be surprising if the current economic hardship has further pushed the number up.
Enabulele said if the brain drain is not checked in the medical sector, it would impact negatively on service delivery in the country.
He said, “The movement of doctors out of the country has been a yearly thing. The challenges facing the professionals still remain and an average of 650 doctors leave the country annually. Last year for instance, about 640 doctors left the country. We will continue to have this problem until we address the factors that are pushing them abroad.
“The current hardship in the country may have accelerated it so I will not be surprised if at the end of the year if we are recording almost three times the number we have recorded annually in the previous years. Currently, there are close to 3,500 Nigerian doctors in the UK and 5,000 in the US.
“The problems in the economy, security challenges, unfavourable work conditions have been responsible for the trend so they keep moving. One can project that it may be worse this year. And with just about 37, 500 doctors currently practising in a country of 180 million people, service delivery will get worse if the situation continues.”
Professionals leaving for Ghana
Investigations also indicate that the number of Nigerian professionals leaving for Ghana has doubled in recent times.
Sources told Saturday PUNCH that some professionals, especially lawyers, had relocated to Ghana and enrolled in the country’s law school in order to practise in the country.
It was learnt that with less than N5m, one could get a decent home in Ghana.
“So many lawyers have enrolled in Ghana Law School and other professionals are relocating,” the source added.
It was learnt that those leaving believed that the economy of Nigeria’s neighbour was doing better and could thus absorb them and their skills.
The Nigeria Immigration Service could not furnish the number of Nigerian professionals who had recently moved to Ghana. It’s spokesman, Ekpedeme King said the data of Nigerians that had emigrated to the country was yet to be collated.