That Nigeria is losing thousands of her highly skilled workers to the western world, which its requires to build a virile nation is no longer news. Thousands of Nigerians, young, middle age and adult, who are moving out of the country either through employment opportunities, education, marriage and many other illegal means had given rise to a code name ‘Japa Nation’
The reasons for this mass exodus of Nigerians are traceable to many factors. There is economic, security, social and many others. A few other consider stability and opportunity to plan a life with almost exact precision in a society where systems work. Whichever way we look at it, lots of risks are involved. Where there is no risk, the financial implication of ‘Japa nation’ is huge.
In 2018, 29, 734 Nigerians immigrants overstayed their visas. This is the number of known Nigerians who entered USA legally but refused to leave at the right time. Many actually ‘got lost within the system’. The report did say 29,734 Visas were granted to Nigerians between 2017 and 2018, 29.000 out of the numbers showed no evidence of leaving the country when their Tourists visas were due. ‘
This was one of the reasons President Donald Trump put a lot of restrictions on visa issuance to Nigerians then. President Trump then also activated deportation of illegal and other undocumented immigrants in the USA. Despite this, Nigeria still has one of the highest numbers of African students studying in United State with estimated number of 12,860
With United Kingdom, many of the emigration to this country by Nigerians are for study and short visits. United Kingdom is more friendly in accepting Nigerian students because of its close educational syllabus and curriculum. The number of Nigerians studying in the United Kingdom (UK) had risen from 13,020 in the 2019/2020 academic session to 21,305 by the 2020/2021 session.
Canada and Australia, Sweden, Finland, Germany and even Ghana, Kenya and South Africa are not left behind in this rush by Nigerians to leave the country by all means.
Old disease, new name.
The story of Nigerians running away from the motherland did not start today. Unlike in the early 1970s when Nigeria was the darling of many nations. Then because of oil boom and a perceived better management of the systems which yielded quality education, better infrastructure etc many across the world came here for; the economy was also a great appeal to many of the African and western nations. But from early 1980s, the economic downturn as well as dictatorship regime occasioned by Military rule, Nigerians began their journey into exile. The common slang for the movement of young adults, politicians trying to run away then was ‘Andrew’. A popular Nigerian musician, Veno Marioghae, had to appeal to Nigerians through her songs to have hope.
The 1990 mass emigrations were the worst of it all. This was majorly by youth who were desperate to leave. Many Nigerians died in the deserts and many other illegal routes. The evil effects of this were everywhere. A Nigerian Journalist and former Presidential Spokesperson, Olusegun Adeniyi, spoke and wrote extensively about this in different fora because he actually lost a brother in the process. This in no way deterred many who did not see hope in their fatherland.
As already noted, there were several routes Nigerians do annex. A common practice is through school. Especially those who have the means. People who annex this route are majorly children of the rich, bank employees and many other individuals who have the funding. Few who do not have the funding but are exceptionally brilliant individuals do find their ways around it. There are several funding opportunities like Chevening, commonwealth Scholarships for United kingdom bound students and Erasmus Mundu and many others in Europe.
As long as you have the means, know your way, this had opened the way for many Nigerians and their dependants in drove. In actual fact, United Kingdom recently raised an alarm over influx of Nigerians and their dependants that had entered United Kingdom in the last one year. United Kingdom had also considered visa restriction over the surge. Canada, United States of America, Germany, Sweden, Finland and many other countries had stories of gain in this area though this requires heavy financial flight.
The other route that opened recently was professional route. In the past five years Canada had opened its door to many Nigerian professionals in IT, Medical any other specialised skills immigration. United Kingdom also has a lot of gain in this place, thanks to BREXIT and its associated implications of shortage of skills.
Verifiable evidence had shown that ‘an average of 509 software engineers, since the beginning of this year have secured better offers abroad, majorly in Canada, U.S, and the U.K. Just recently, the UK licensed 266 Nigerian doctors in two months’. This is just the documented number.
Many Banks in Nigeria were mostly hit by this exodus. With regards to Doctors, Nigeria Medical Council did say average of 9.000 Doctors had moved to UK and Canada in the last 2 years where a total of 6,068 had left under President Buhari’s administration
Refugee and other illegal routes.
According to a data, 31.185 Nigerians are currently seeking refugee status across the world. Many of these are either Nigerians who had overstayed their visas or those who had gone through and survived illegal routes: deserts, seas and many other.
Before the Covid-19, Many Nigerians who were able to secure United States of America visas found their way through New York route connecting Canada where almost everyone who was admitted was allowed to stay in Canada pending their appeal. This propelled Canada and United States of America as well as Nigeria to call for restriction then.
The desperation and the motivation
Given the fact that Nigerians know that not everyone who applies will get the visa, Nigerians and many foreign visa agents had seen an opportunity to appeal to the emotions, swindle or cajole Nigerians to look at various forms of helps they can offer. There is a spiritual undertone where Nigerians are encouraged to seek ‘anointing’ that will get them easy access at the various embassies. For some others, they present as professionals who can give them the code.
The cost of ‘Japa’
Beginning from filling the application, visa agents are making a hell of money from Nigerians, a visit to VFS Global in Lekki Lagos that collects and transmits applications,passports to several embassies milk Nigerians dry. For instance, if applying for South African visa, the visa fee itself is Seven Thousand Five hundred (N7,500.00) Naira only but service charges can range from ten to forty (N40000,00) Naira. We did not get access to what other countries pay
There are several costs to ‘Japa nation’. There is obvious loss of countless lives either on the sea or at the desert. Some Nigerians have also been killed, murdered as well as used by organ harvesters across the globe. This has made Nigerian government to raise an alarm. But there are other less life-threatening costs to this.
Whichever way we look at it, there is a cost to ‘Japa’. None of the routes used by Nigerians above is free. Kate (not real name), a Nigerian, who used the New York Route to seek asylum in Canada and who is now lucky to have won her Permanent Residence(PR), who doubles as close associate to the writer and had being encouraging this writer over a year ago to follow same route did say “I have to first get Tourist visa(Bi.B2)of the United State Visa and travelled to US as a tourist first in other not to give impression that my final aim was Canada’’.
According to Kate, she was lucky to have been given two years’ tourist visa with her kids. They travelled the first time and came back but just four months later, she left with her kids and went to Canada in 2017. Today, through hard work, she had won the case and now and had been given her PR in Canada. But at the end, the project cost her like Five Million (N5.000.00) Naira then.
Roland, not real name, who spoke to this writer, when asked what does it cost to immigrate as skilled/professional with HI Visa to USA said, “it all depends if you want to do it alone or you want to use an immigration lawyer”. Because he did not want to take chances, he used immigration lawyer and that cost about Fifteen Thousand US ($15.000.00) US Dollars minus Air tickets for the family and cost of settlement in the USA.
Another business man, Seyi Olukayode, not real name, who is around 58 years did say, “the purpose of my japa is not because I was not relatively doing well in Nigeria. But I am considering my old age and health management opportunities. Beside I also considered my children with regards to quality education”. This process of getting a business settlement in Canada cost him around Eighty Thousand ($80.000.00) US dollars to move a family of six. This is also minus the cost of Flight tickets and accommodation.
Mr Seyi Olukayode also sound a note of warning to those who have the means, the environment is different. A man, even if he is the breadwinner, must be ready to support his wife over here. Be ready to help in dishes and taking the children to school otherwise it will not be long before there is a crack in the family.
Funmi, a young woman in her middle 20s who just left for United Kingdom to pursue her masters’ degree has her parent to thank. When asked how much did she invest on this expedition, she said “an average of seventeen Million (N17.000.000.00) Naira including the exorbitant Two-Million-naira air ticket I had to pay when my visa did not come out on time and I was already late for resumption”.
The burden on Nigeria and Nigerians.
Looking at the scenario above, the cost of ‘Japa nation’ is huge, No serious nations should allow such a level of capital flight as well as other economic benefits to other nations. In UK alone, it is already estimated that Nigerians will contribute an average of close to 2 Billion Pound Sterling to the UK economy. What a colossal lost. Nigeria has continued to lose highly skilled professionals through this medium in a country where there is heavy shortage of such skills.
Nigerian students’ in USA alone invested in 2018 about $514.000.000 US Dollars aside from Nigerian direct investment to the USA. Aside from this over 500.000 Nigerian-born Americans are hugely contributing to the USA economy.
While this portend a danger signal. Some believe that Nigerians moving abroad is good omen as there is high possibility of foreign or increase diaspora remittance to Nigeria. In fact, World bank data revealed that the Nigerian Diaspora population remitted $65.34bn in three years – 2018 ($24.31bn), 2019 ($23.81bn), and 2020 ($17.21bn) – to boost economic activities in the country. So some see ‘Japa nation’ as a blessing in disguise.
Whatever we say it is obvious “poor governance systems in Nigeria with itys attendant poor planning and disregard for future generations are all too conducive for the maintenance of the ‘Japa nation”.