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Migration in Nigeria: A Country Profile 2009


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Number of pages : 121
Format : Softcover
ISBN: 978-92-9068-569-2
Language of Publication: English
Year of Publication: 2009

Nigeria is an important destination country for migrants in the West African region. The latest available figures indicate that the number of immigrants residing in Nigeria has more than doubled in recent decades, from 477,135 in 1991 to 971,450 in 2005 (NPC, 1991). The number of immigrants is expected to increase to 1.1 million in 2010 (UNPD, 2009). However, immigrants make up only 0.7 per cent of the total population.

The majority of immigrants in Nigeria are from neighbouring Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries (74%), in particular from Benin (29%), Ghana (22%) and Mali (16%) (DRC, 2007). Resident permit data from ECOWAS indicate that the share of ECOWAS residents has increased considerably over the last decade, from 63 per cent in 2001 to 97 per cent in 2005 (ECOWAS, 2006).

Refugees constitute a small proportion of the overall immigrant stock (0.9% in 2007), the majority of whom are Liberians. The majority of asylumseekers are from the Great Lakes Region (65%) (NCFR, 2008).

Relatively few foreigners have been identified as being the victims of trafficking (2,537) in the past four years (NAPTIP, 2009).

Nigeria is also a destination country for highly skilled migration. According to the latest data, immigrants figure prominently in categories such as general managers (2.73%), corporate managers (0.89%), and physical, mathematical and engineering science professionals (0.43%), and less so in clerical work such as customer service clerks (0.21%) or manual work. Most of the immigrants working in the professional/technical and related workers’ group are from Europe (47.37%), while most of the immigrants working in clerical jobs are from the neighbouring ECOWAS countries (42.84%) (National Manpower Board, 2004).

Emigration from Nigeria

Although Nigeria is traditionally an important destination for migrants in the region, there are more people emigrating from, than immigrating to, Nigeria. The net migration rate (per 1,000 people) has increasingly become negative in recent years, decreasing from -0.2 in 2000 to -0.3 in 2005. This trend is expected
to continue. According to recent estimates, the net migration rate will decrease to -0.4 in 2010 (UNPD, 2009).

Estimates made by the Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty (DRC), based on the 2000 Census Round, indicate that 1,041,284 Nigerian nationals live abroad (DRC, 2007). Most Nigerians abroad live in Sudan (24%), rather than the United States (14%) or the United Kingdom
(9%). Many Nigerian emigrants also settle in neighbouring Cameroon (8%) or Ghana (5%).

Although it is difficult to obtain information on the skills level of emigrants, there are some indications that the propensity to emigrate is particularly high among the highly skilled. According to the latest estimates in 2000, 10.7 per cent of the highly skilled population who were trained in Nigeria work abroad, mostly
in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. In the United States and Europe, 83 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively, of the Nigerian immigrant population are highly skilled. On average, 64 per cent of the Nigerian emigrant population have tertiary education (Docquier and Marfouk, 2006). In the medical field, 14 per cent of physicians who trained in Nigeria worked abroad, 90 per cent of whom live and work in the United States and the United Kingdom (Clemens and Pettersson, 2007).

In OECD countries, Nigerians appear to work predominantly in the health sector (21%), followed by the real estate and wholesale sectors (both with 12%).

There has been a marked increase in the number of Nigerians emigrating for educational purposes. From 2000 to 2006, the number of Nigerian students
abroad more than doubled, from 10,000 to 22,000 (UNESCO, 2008). The majority of these Nigerian students (approximately 6,000) study at universities in the United States. Based on the past growth rates of student migration, some studies estimate that the Nigerian student population in the United Kingdom
may increase from 2,700 in 2007 to 30,000 in 2030 (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2009).

According to the latest data available from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the inflow of remittances to Nigeria increased dramatically from USD 2.3 billion in 2004 to USD 17.9 billion in 2007. This increase took place despite high transfer fees that averaged 10 per cent of the amount transferred. In 2007,
remittances accounted for 6.7 per cent of GDP.

In terms of formal remittance flows, the United States is the biggest remittance-sending country, followed by the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Spain and France. On the African continent, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and South Africa are important source countries of remittance flows to Nigeria, while China is the biggest remittance-sending country in Asia.

As regards Nigerian nationals living in host countries who wish to return to their place of origin in Nigeria, the IOM Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) Programme offers various forms of assistance, especially for vulnerable persons. However, in general, IOM AVR of Nigerian nationals abroad has been carried out
on a small scale, involving 614 Nigerians between 2003 and 2008 (IOM, 2009b).

Socio-economic context of migration

Immigration made an important contribution to Nigeria’s recent economic growth. There are indications that overall immigration has increased at a faster rate than emigration and that this increase coincided with economic growth. On average, the economy grew about 5.5 to 6.4 per cent each year from 2004
to 2007 (CBN, 2007b; NISER, 2008). While the oil sector is still the primary engine of growth and a magnet for migrant workers, the marginal economic growth of 2006/2007 has been attributed to non-oil sectors, in particular telecommunications (28%) and wholesale and retail trade sectors (12%). The
latter constitutes the country’s main informal sector, which has traditionally been attracting low-skilled internal as well as international migrant labour. The increasing immigration rate shows that the Nigerian economy is attractive to labour migrants from the region and elsewhere.

Nigeria requires highly skilled labour to sustain growth. Although evidence seems to suggest that the vast majority of immigrants in Nigeria are low skilled, Nigeria’s economy also relies on highly skilled immigrants to fill labour shortages, especially in the technical professions. According to the National Manpower Board (2004), the occupations that had vacancy rates higher than 10 per cent included doctors, agronomists, pharmacists, veterinarians, physicists, statisticians, mechanical engineers, surveyors, architects and technicians. The Ministry of Health stated that nearly 8 per cent of its 39,210 doctors and 2,773 dentists are foreign nationals (IOM, 2009a).

In Nigeria, there are difficulties in terms of retaining, as well as producing, adequate human capital to meet the demand for highly skilled workers in the labour market. The overall number of tertiary educated persons has been declining, from 90,579 in 2002/2003 to 39,509 in 2005/2006 (NUC, 2005).The decline is particularly notable in disciplines that are in great demand. An example of such a discipline is agricultural studies, in which the number of (male) students has been dropping, from 4,433 in 2002/2003 to 690 in 2004/2005.

Part of the problem is the lack of facilities at universities as well as their shortage of material and human resources to increase graduate output. The emigration of existing and potentially highly skilled students exacerbates this trend.

The pressure to emigrate is likely to continue, especially as a result of demographic factors. Despite declining official unemployment rates (from 12% in 2005 to 9.9% in 2008), labour supply is still outstripping demand and this is likely to continue in the near future. Nigeria is one of the ten most populous countries in the world and has one of the fastest population growth rates (2.38% in 2008) (Library of Congress, 2008).

If these growth rates continue, in 25 years’ time, the Nigerian population will be double its current size of an estimated 146 million people. Unless the labour market is able to absorb the surplus labour resulting from population growth, unemployment is likely to increase and give rise to more emigration.

Policy framework governing migration

Nigeria is one of the few countries in West Africa to have developed a draft national policy on migration, which still awaits ratification by the National Assembly. The policy is comprehensive, covering migration and development, migration and cross-cutting social issues, national security and irregular movement, forced displacement, the human rights of migrants, organized labour migration, internal migration, the national population, migration data and statistics, and funding for migration management. In addition, the draft policy proposes the establishment of an agency or commission to coordinate the different management aspects of the migration policy, among others. In 2009, through a presidential directive, the National Commission for Refugees was mandated to become the focal agency on migration responsible for revising and, in close coordination with other agencies, implementing the draft national policy.

Currently, various ministries and agencies with mandates related to migration issues are functioning independently without coordination. This situation can lead to duplication and incoherence in terms of policy planning. Furthermore, the institutions dealing with migration lack the capacity to respond adequately to migration issues. For example, some ministries, such as the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, have created a migration desk to give migration a higher profile in their work. However, such desks do not have the capacity to collect, collate and publish the relevant migration data.

Migration barely features in Nigeria’s main development plans, such as the National Economic Employment Development Strategy (NEEDS) and the state and local government counterparts (SEEDS and LEEDS), as a development factor. The draft national policy on migration is, therefore, an innovative initiative as it covers migration and development issues.

Data gaps

In order to facilitate the updates of the Migration Profile, the timeliness, processing and analysis of migration data need to be improved. A review of the data sources available for the Migration Profile of Nigeria revealed that most of the data available are stock data and outdated. The 1963 and 1991 Censuses and the 1991 Post-census Enumeration Survey (PES), which were carried out by federal government institutions, do not always examine the standard four migration variables: place of birth; citizenship; previous place of residence; and place of residence at a prior fixed date. The only relatively comprehensive data source for Nigeria was the 1991 PES of the National Population Commission
(NPC, 1998). Although the Nigeria Immigration Service collects a wealth of administrative data on entries, departures and registration, the lack of data disaggregation by sex, age and other relevant characteristics makes meaningful analysis difficult. There is no known collated official data on Nigerian emigrants from any of the Nigerian ministries or agencies. Embassies may collect data, but these are not made available to the public. Another challenge to developing a database is the issue of confidentiality in collecting and sharing migration data, as well as the lack of unified documentation at the local, regional and international levels.

Number of pages : 121
Format : Softcover 

Reference Number: 978-92-9068-569-2
Language of Publication: English
Year of Publication: 2009