Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Rescuing Nigeria migrants in search of fortune

national-assemblyOne of the outcomes of the recent Federal Executive Council Meeting, at the State House Abuja was the confirmation that a new labour migration policy would be implemented in the
country. I was indeed elated by the policy which the minister of labour extolled as very crucial to protecting Nigerians travelling or working abroad.

The vision of the policy document which had been waiting since 2010 is to build an effective, responsive and dynamic labour migration governance system in Nigeria, and it has a three-pronged mission of providing an appropriate framework at national level to regulate labour migration; ensuring benefits to Nigeria as a country of origin, transit and destination and ensuring decent treatment of migrants and their families and contributing to development and national welfare. It poignantly affirmed that ‘Protecting all workers, particularly migrant workers, both those lawfully resident and those in an irregular situation, is a cardinal policy objective’.
Migration, a reality of globalization, is a historical and natural necessity driven by the quest for self-preservation and actualization or economic emancipation, and a huge industry of human exploitation has grown around it.
Child labour, sex-slavery, drug trafficking are mostly the ills that signpost migration where victims gain little while the cartels behind it distort the values of the society with their obnoxious wealth. The various aspects of the new labour migration policy are, of course, essential to regulate those recruitment agents operating as modern day slave dealers not interested in the plight of the migrants, but in what they could make from them.
Among other stringent measures, the policy stated that government would undertake close supervision and monitoring of the recruitment activities of overseas employment promoters or agencies, to minimise malpractices and abuses against those seeking overseas jobs. In addition to the cancellation of licenses, criminal proceedings would be introduced against serious offenders.Happily, the policy has also stipulated that private (electronic) employment agencies would have to register with the Ministry of Labour and Productivity for the purposes of regulating and monitoring their activities to forestall bogus job advertisements, trafficking in persons, smuggling, and other fraudulent activities.
The policy further promised that Special attention would be paid to the recruitment and deployment of categories of workers –such as female domestic workers – who are especially vulnerable to abuse. And for Nigerians travelling abroad, the document required the recruiter to expose the intending immigrant worker to his/her contract of employment in the presence of an authorised Labour Officer before the migrant embarks on his or her journey.
In the last seven or eight years that I was opportuned to travel to a number of Asian countries on academic and professional missions, I have been exposed to different cases and fortunes of many Nigerians who sojourn in such countries.
Although, I met many who are credible ambassadors of Nigeria working as expatriates and professionals and who I am always proud, the situation of
many others is of grave concern. In the oil-rich sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, there is a small but vibrant community of Nigerians, mostly engineers and geologists, working in Brunei-Shell Petroleum Corporation.
In that country’s main referral hospital, RIPPAS, a Nigerian is a consultant physiotherapist. At the country’s premier university, I met another group of
Nigerian scholars engaged in teaching and research at the university. A few of them, on completing their contract, returned to either Australia or UK. An exception is Dr. Ibrahim Abikan who graduated with a Ph.D in law from a top Malaysian University, taught at UBD briefly and returned to the University of Ilorin from where he took a study leave.
In Malaysia, I encountered hordes of young Nigerians pursuing graduate programmes. Many have completed and are retained as lecturers, but the
story I heard of many Nigerians in that Asian country is not palatable. I met some of them working as waiters in some hotels in Kuala Lumpur. I witnessed a meeting between the Nigerian High Commissioner (with concurrent accreditation to Brunei) and members of Nigeria in Diaspora Organization, NIDO, (Malaysia) in 2008 where the high commissioner practically lampooned the members that most of them
were a disappointment.
When some of them alleged that the high commission was not protecting their interest, he declared, ‘I was not sent here to come and be hobnobbing
with fraudsters and 419’. Sometimes in 2009 while attending an international conference organized by the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre in New Delhi, India, I visited the Nigerian High Commission to interview its senior officials; one consular officer gave depressing reports of Nigerians languishing in various Indian jails for a range of offences.
While in transit at Dubai International Airport on one occasion, I met a Nigerian stranded at the airport. He claimed he was a footballer and an agent who was to facilitate his movement to a European club side messed up his plans while the Vietnam alternative he gave him was also problematic. He
was practically a beggar at the airport, living off Nigerians on transit to connect other flights. From these experiences, I concluded
that majority of Nigerians in search of greener pastures abroad were not prepared for their journeys nor did they have the requisite qualifications and means to sustain them as migrants.
The question I always raise is how they find it easy to leave Nigeria and become a nuisance abroad. It is on this account that I heaved a sigh of relief when the federal government announced that a labour migration policy would come in force in the country. Indeed, it is a long overdue policy given what many Nigerians endure living abroad and the image they presented of the country.

Believing that the government will live up to the promises contained in the policy through full enforcement, hopefully, it will assist in addressing many of the issues and abuses thrown up by migration motives and patterns in the country.Abdulwarees is of the Strategic Planning and Corporate Development Department, Voice of Nigeria

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