Monday, May 13, 2019 11:45 am
Mr Johnson Babalola, a Nigerian – Canadian who is the Managing Partner of Topmarke Attorneys LLP; a Canada based law firm on the 7th of May 2019, delivered a paper, entitled “Asylum Requests And Limitations for Nigerians” in Abuja. That was at a joint conference organized by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja.
NAPTIP is a law enforcement agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria, founded in 2003 in order to combat human trafficking and other similar human rights violations. NAPTIP is one of the agencies under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Justice. The Catholic Church in general and the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja in particular have been at the forefront of campaign against irregular migration of Nigerians to foreign countries.
The theme of the conference was “Irregular Migration: A Disaster For Nigeria, Efforts To Stop It”. It was declared open by the Director General of NAPTIP, Barrister Julie Okah-Donli. Papers on how to curb irregular migration were delivered by a number of people including Catholic Church leaders, representatives of foreign governments, and representatives of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) etc
Participants, mostly youth, were drawn from a number of states including Edo, Delta and Kano. The participants spoke about the reasons responsible for a number of youths taking the high risks in leaving Nigeria through irregular means. As one of them put it during the conference: “I am already dead here in Nigeria, if I take the risk, I have 50% chance of making it to my destination. I will rather take the risk’. Another added: ‘When there is burial in our area, you see different beautiful canopies for people from Italy, people from Canada, US, UK etc. They pop champagne and our parents will task us to ensure we give them befitting burials like that when they die.” A young participant spoke about his experience in his church. He narrated how he had donated N10,000 from his hard earnings to the church but received no thank you while another youth with siblings overseas donated funds in foreign currencies received a special hug from the Pastor. The participants spoke and lacking confidence and trust in Nigeria as a country. A lady participant spoke about the pressure from their parents to travel overseas and succeed at cost. She put it thus: “ Our parents now push us to travel outside of Nigeria anyhow and make money to take care of them and their siblings.”
Babalola’s paper focused on the rise in irregular migration from Nigeria, the reasons that gave rise to it and recommendations to curb it. In his paper, he acknowledged that some Nigerian youths want to be successful ‘sharp sharp’ (as some of the participants had put it at the conference). However, Babalola said a major issue that is often overlooked is the fundamental reasons that a number of the country’s youths and adults are leaving Nigeria irregularly despite the known risks.
In his paper, Babalola further stated why these youths leave irregularly: “They have experienced failures from those that should be leading them at every stage of their lives: family members, religious leaders, academic leaders, government at all levels, traditional leaders et al. They attend schools with no academic facilities, they graduate and there is no employment, their lands and air are polluted, they have no access to loans to become self-employed. There is no infrastructure in place. When they are abused, the Police don’t protect them, they see corrupt leaders celebrated and so on. They see leaders read out prepared speeches at events after events without any concrete attention or plan to address their issues. Nobody seems to care about their needs and pains”. He added that a country that neglects her youth will not attain greatness. Additionally, Babalola added that abuses of youths, women and others in the country should be addressed.
In the words of Babalola: “The conference was a success but may become another conference like hundreds of others before it if there is no concrete plan in place to meaningfully engage the youths in our country. They will either continue to engage in crimes or leave our country irregularly. Our leaders at various levels (local, state and national) including those in political, religious, academic and traditional positions must become selfless. They must genuinely mentor the youths and engage them. I am truly concerned about the future of this great country if we continue to neglect our youths”
The lawyer revealed that as part of his own contribution, he is working on starting a youth mentorship Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Nigeria soon. He tasks every Nigerian home and abroad to help mentor the country’s youth and to speak out against abuses of all kinds.
He also advised that Nigerians have the right to migrate to other countries as migration of people from one place to the other is historical. He added that such migration must be done legally with proper documentation because irregular migration often leads to the abuse of the victims, death, and exposure to diseases. The few that make it to their destinations suffer from psychological issues, lack of access to healthcare, separation from their family for a long period of time and lack of employment. On the other hand, he advised that legal migration with proper planning enriches cultural export, academic and employment advancement and financial independence. He advised the youth present to focus on legal migration.
The conference ended with plans by the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja and NAPTIP to make this a yearly conference and to follow up with the youths that attended the event and others too. They plan to continue to provide information about the dangers of irregular immigration.