One 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
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
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,
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
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
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