The rate at which skilled workers are emigrating from Nigeria to more developed regions has increased significantly over the past four years, as more middle-class citizens search for better living conditions.
A survey by Afrobarometer revealed that more than one in three Nigerians have considered emigration, while the young and educated are most likely to consider going abroad as an escape route from economic hardship. Post-recession, an increasing number of citizens have become more pessimistic in their outlook for the economy and have opted to move to choice destinations like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, that offer better living standards compared to Nigeria.
Emigration as a scourge: The emigration crisis in Nigeria is not an entirely new phenomenon. The nineties was characterised by clandestine emigration, as many Nigerians resorted to migrate to Europe through the Sahara desert to Libya and then proceed to cross the Mediterranean Sea via overcrowded, rickety boats in a bid to reach Europe.
In 2016, Nigerians made up the largest migrant population entering Italy and Greece and were also identified by Eurostat as the largest cohort of migrants trapped in Libya in the protracted Mediterranean migrant crisis.
In recent times, less risk-tolerant Nigerians apply for US visas with the express intent to
illegally go to Canada to seek asylum. As of March 2019, Nigeria had more pending refugee protection claims in Canada than any other country globally.
In the US, data from the Department of Homeland Security revealed that the number of Nigerians suspected to be overstaying in the US with visitor visas had more than quadrupled between 2015 and 2018. Likewise, the overstay rate of Nigerian students studying in the US soared to 22% in 2018 from 4% in 2015.
Wealthier emigrants, on the other hand, opt for a formal path to economic immigrant status in the United Kingdom, the United States, and more recently Canada. Currently, Nigeria sits comfortably among the top three countries of origin of permanent residents admitted into Canada. This is a sharp contrast to 2014 when Nigeria did not feature on the top ten list.
The loss of talents and professionals: The liberal immigration policy being implemented in some developed countries is a strong pull for Nigeria’s top talents that face rising living costs and stagnant incomes. Since 2015, inflation has been at double digits while unemployment has been on a steady rise.
The health care industry is one of the most affected sectors by the exodus of professionals.
The result of a survey conducted by NOI Polls revealed that nine out of ten medical doctors
in practice are exploring work opportunities abroad. In Britain, data on the UK General
Medical Council (GMC) website revealed that there are currently 6,312 medical doctors of
Nigerian origin practising in the UK – an increase of 44% when compared to 2015.
The remedy: There is no gainsaying that professional firms and major corporations have been affected by brain drain, occasioned by exodus of skilled workers. Against this backdrop, we believe that the Nigerian government should stem the tide of skilled labour migrating to other advanced economies. There is the dire need of the creation of an economic and social environment that is sufficiently attractive to retain them and stimulate productivity.