A 2022 survey by the Africa Polling Institute showed that a staggering 69 percent of Nigerians would ‘japa’ (a Yoruba term meaning “to run quickly”) out of the country with their families if provided with the opportunity.
Even more striking is that nearly 80 percent of respondents in the survey indicated their intention to emigrate this year, compared to a mere 39 percent in 2019.
BusinessDay conducted a survey and found that many Nigerians are willing to come back if the government can tackle major challenges in the country.
About 43.8 percent of the respondents expressed their desire to come back home, while 37.5 percent said they were not willing to do so. The remaining 18.5 percent were indecisive.
They urged the government to address monetary issues, insecurity, and unemployment.
They also suggested that the federal government should revise the educational curriculum and enforcement policies and restructure the compensation, training, architecture, and community relations of the Nigeria Police Force.
Addressing insecurity and monetary issues
Notwithstanding the government’s efforts to curb insecurity across the country, reports of killings, kidnappings, terrorism, banditry, and cult violence, among others, are still rampant.
Hence, experts believe new strategies and more effective measures are needed to secure the country.
Lasisi Lukman, a master’s research assistant at LBS Public Sector Initiative, said Nigeria’s security needs a comprehensive overhaul as it has become a critical issue.
“The current situation is not solely centred on financial concerns. It has reached a point where individuals are forced to make a difficult choice between leaving the country and preparing to pay a ransom,” he said.
He pointed out the fact that in Nigeria, some individuals with high-paying jobs still opt to travel abroad due to the prevailing insecurity.
Lukman reiterated that addressing inflation, price instability, and exchange rate volatility is imperative to entice these individuals to return and contribute to the nation’s progress.
“A stable macroeconomic environment is essential in this endeavour. Furthermore, instilling accountability within our systems and ensuring fairness and justice in our society are equally important,” he said.
“Creating a level playing field where everyone has an equal opportunity to voice their concerns and participate in the nation’s development is crucial. Once our system becomes just and inclusive, people will be more inclined to return and actively engage in building a better future for Nigeria,” he added.
Create more jobs
In Nigeria, unemployment is a serious issue as many people are either unemployed or underemployed. The unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force.
Africa’s biggest economy, with more than 200 million people, had an all-time high unemployment rate of 33.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020. It fell to 4.1 percent in Q1 2023 following the new methodology adopted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which was widely criticised for not reflecting the reality.
Olawale Olonade, a senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Covenant University, said it is important to understand why the youths are leaving the country in large numbers. “Because until the reason is known, the government may not be able to proffer solutions.”
According to Olawale, Nigerian youths are exiting the country largely because they have lost faith in it, with unemployment, rising economic crisis, poverty, and insecurities among the major factors.
“As a way of solution, the government must do all it can to provide jobs in the country. Attract investors and make the country conducive enough for businesses to thrive. Economic challenges must be addressed holistically, and insecurities solved,” he said.
Good governance and enforcement of policies
Despite the provisions of the Police Act to protect human rights, there are still many reports of police brutality.
Joshua Olorunmaiye, an associate at Banwo & Ighodalo, said: “It is my belief that the ‘japa’ wave is attributed to a conglomeration of many factors, such as lack of faith and reduced hope in the governance and systems of Nigeria, dearth of skills in many countries which has made migrants a ready labour market, the advent of technology which has made information on migration options more accessible and the devaluation of the Nigerian currency which makes the purchasing power of income earners even less significant.
“In my view, reduced hope seems to be the biggest factor, because although no country is perfect and nation-building is not a walk in the park, the absence of hope makes the problem we face, as a nation, seem even more daunting.
“Normally, good governance should serve as a buffer, such that even when there is a period of adversity, people should trust in their government to ameliorate the situation or at least empathise with them.”
He expressed concerns that the trust Nigerians have for the government has over the years seemed to have reduced drastically, thereby kicking in both extreme sensitivities to citizens’ stark realities as a nation, and the survival instincts of many who can at least afford to emigrate.
Olorunmaiye said governance, whether at the national, state, or local level, must not only provide hope but must be seen as offering short-term solutions that can offer a lasting sense of fulfilment.
“These speak to policies and systems, and how they work together to make the lives of Nigerians easier or better,” he said.
Address supply-side challenges, revise educational curriculum, deepen internet access, and revamp the police force
Violations of human rights, assaults, recklessness and extrajudicial killings have long been associated with the police.
Kelvin Emmanuel, energy sector expert and co-founder/CEO at Dairy Hills, highlighted the exit polls conducted recently on the reasons for the surge in ‘japa trend’.
“First, wealth destruction from exchange rate depreciation and devaluation and its impact on net worth. Second, security profiling of young people especially from officials of the Nigeria Police Force, with a special emphasis on the notorious and unprofessional Special Anti-Robbery Squad,” Emmanuel said.
According to Emmanuel, for the government to address this trend and slow down the ‘japa wave’, it needs to: “One, work on supply-side challenges for inflation on food and energy as a tool to provide forward guidance on inflation, exchange rate, and interest rates.
“Two, revise the educational curriculum in Nigeria as a tool to include coding and non-coding skills required for young people to succeed in tech.”