Core “push” factors responsible for irregular migration in Nigeria
From the foregoing, what core factors could then be deduced from the experiences of the migrant returnees to be the reasons for this culture among the Nigerian youth? Notably, the highly fragile nature of the Nigerian state makes it difficult for most Nigerians to live a decent life6. Public sector workers are not paid for months7 and unemployment rates are very high among the youth8. Many Nigerians have lost hope that the current regime will be any better than the previous one. Together, these factors have led to a situation where many have resorted to extorting money from parents and young people that are desperate to seek opportunities in Europe (Ikuteyijo, 2013).
The study’s findings suggest that disinformation and greed are fuelling the massive irregular emigration of youth from Nigeria.
Many young people rely on information from friends and family members who have succeeded in entering Europe or who have close relatives who have succeeded but do not tell them what kind of life they live, the jobs that they do and the life that awaits those who intend to come. As Flahaux and De Haas (2016) put it, they are presented with information on the European “El Dorado” that awaits them. As noted in preceding section, the returnees
Irregular emigration of Nigeria youths 63 were already in a position where they were prone to accepting any offer which tends to take them out of their current situation and as such in their naivety, they fall for such push as identified earlier. While scholars and columnists have recounted the pain and agony of many Nigerians who have succeeded in leaving the shores of Nigeria, it would appear that these are ignored by Nigerian youth.
A case in point is Joseph Ugboulo who narrated his ordeal abroad:
It is so pathetic how Nigerians are being lumped together by foreign hosts as people without a future, and or direction. Here in South Korea, my fate is hanging, and 1 have no future. We are about seven Africans sharing an apartment that could barely accommodate three persons comfortably, and if you feel so disturbed, someone waiting would gladly take your position and you will be thrown out on the street. The conditions of many of us in South Korea aptly capture the pathetic condition back home in Nigeria as a good number of us would rather die than come back to Nigeria as a nobody.
Joseph’s sentiments resonate with those of some of the migrants interviewed by Kemp in the detention facilities in Libya. Migrants recalled in tears how they left their countries with the hopes of never returning, only to return home without nothing to fall back on (Kemp, 2018). The youth are also influenced by middlemen/agents who promise them smooth transit to Europe and a better life when they reach their destination. As a result, they sell personal property to raise the funds demanded. This validates the assertion of Flahaux and De Haas (2016) on the role access to information and networks plays vis-à-vis irregular migration and would continue to play.
The government’s failure to properly serve its people, as well as the luxurious lives lived by politicians, encourages migration in search of a better life for themselves as well as their families back home as they hope to send remittances. Many parents have lost all hope and will even sell their property to enable their children to leave.
Many young migrants are pressured by friends, family members and society itself to seek greener pastures. Two major factors could explain this. The first is the mindset that success can only be achieved by leaving the country. Secondly, wealth accumulation by any means has become an acceptable norm, especially given politicians’ excesses and anti-corruption agencies’ failure to prosecute them. In their testimonies, to raise the needed funds for the journey, many who were artisans sold off their equipment, some individual and parents sold off their landed property, while others took a loan with interest putting them in perpetual debt (Interview with returnee migrant,
13 December 2019). Upon return to Nigeria, the returnees were stigmatised by both family members and society, especially because they did not return with money. Many said that they felt like returning immediately while others were ready to endure the treatment they received. According to Gloria, “their suffering is worsened by families who blamed them for the abuses, ostracized them, or complained that they returned without money.”9 If they are not reintegrated into society, returnees might feel inclined to make further efforts to leave the country.
In addition, some migrants interviewed by Kemp in the Sahara Desert who were southerners claimed to have been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency. They noted that their properties have been destroyed by the insurgents and family members killed in the process and as such, they are left with no option than to leave for a greener pasture. This assertion is not true. Though, there were some returnees from the north, majority of the migrants are southerners (Interview with returnee migrant, 13 December 2019). This finding conforms with De Haas (2007)’s assertion which noted there tends to be an increase in migration in more developed spaces than in the poorly developed spaces. The southern region of Nigeria being more developed than the northern region, explains why it experiences a high level of migration.
The two factors discussed as core “push” factors which are disinformation and greed have been identified to be the major underlying factors responsible for the drive in the Nigerian youths towards irregular migration. The fragile nature of the Nigerian state leading to anomie has facilitated the popularity of this phenomenon in Nigeria. Unfortunately it seems like this situation is far from ending based on the expressions from some of the returnees. Many of the males noted that they are still in touch with some of the smugglers and friends in Libya who keep persuading them to come over as the situation en route Libya and in Libya has improved. As for the ladies, they totally condemn the act; however, one of them noted that she has been in touch with a smuggler who promised her of a safe and smooth journey back to Libya. There is a danger in this as there is a tendency of them being pressured into this act again. Many factors could cause this. The returnees who still have a feeling that their mission has not been successful coupled with the rejection by the society as pointed out by Gloria, Loveth and others10 could come to a point in which they feel they have nothing to lose any more if they try a second time. This thus depicts irregular migration as an unending phenomenon in Nigeria.