The series of consultation with civil society on irregular migration, organised by the Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN), kicked off in Abuja on Saturday [18 August].
The Stakeholders’ Roundtable Dialogue on Migration brought together youths, parents and multipliers, such as journalists, artists, educationists and religious leaders, among others, to exchange ideas and experiences on the issues deriving from irregular migration.
In his welcome address, Hon. Kenneth Gbandi, Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE), said the aim of the MEPN was to save lives as Nigeria could no longer afford to ignore the enormous costs that irregular migration was exacting on the nation.
Gbandi, who is the Director of African-German Information Centre in Hamburg, Germany, which implements the awareness campaign in partnership with The African Courier Publishers, gave a moving PowerPoint presentation, graphically illustrating the tragedy and suffering that irregular migration causes.
Femi Awoniyi, Publisher of The African Courier magazine and co-director of MEPN, gave a brief presentation on legal ways of migrating to Europe with a focus on education opportunities. A 2-page information on how to study in Germany, authored by the journalist, was distributed to all the 132 participants at the event.
The panel discussion – with the theme ‘What are the Opportunities?’ – dwelt on how best to promote a realistic attitude to migration among youths, encouraging them not to neglect opportunities in the country.
Professor Nick Eze, an Abuja-based entrepreneur, revealed at the event that he lost a cousin to the Sahara Desert. He therefore cautioned the youths to be mindful of the grave dangers entailed in irregular migration.
The economist, who is the CEO of Aulic Nigeria Limited, advised would-be migrants to seek proper information before making up their mind to travel out of the country. “Life in Europe is not always better than life in Nigeria,” Eze warned.
In a brief speech, Friedrich Birgelen, the First Secretary at the German Embassy in Abuja, commended the work of the MEPN, which is supported by Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The diplomat, who is also responsible for Refugees and Migration in Nigeria and the Ecowas region at the German Embassy, emphasised that his country welcomes legal migrants.
Birgelen, who attended the event in the company of Ludwig Jung, the press officer at the Embassy, advises whoever wants to travel to Germany to visit the embassy’s website for information on what to do.
Sola Ajibade, a young bank manager, told the youths that there were many opportunities in Nigeria and they should not only focus on paid employment.
He pointed to the production of food as a very lucrative business they could go into without having a lot of money, naming poultry and fish farming as an example.
Ajibade advised the youths to believe in themselves narrating how he engaged in trading to finance his university education. He warned against obsessing with migration as the only way they could make it in life.
Tolulope Esan of the German-Nigerian Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration in Abuja, acknowledging that unemployment drives irregular migration, calls for more training for youths to equip them with skills necessary to become gainfully employed.
Ms Esan talked about the work of the Centre, which provides information on legal migration and supports the re-integration of voluntary returnees.
The Centre regularly runs free training courses for youths in Abuja, Lagos and Benin-City to improve their employability. Esan advised youths to build personal capacity as it enables them to access opportunities available in the country.
Other speakers at the event, including Dr Kenneth Ibe-Kalu, Busayo Oluwadamilare, Jonathan Daniel of Arise O Nigeria, Oduenyi Elizabeth Onuoha of the Nwachinemerem Elizabeth Oduenyi Foundation, emphasised that youths must endeavour to explore opportunities at home and that the task of developing the country laid on their shoulders.
Dr Ibe Kalu, an entrepreneur and politician, tasked the youths, asking to affirmative uproar in the hall, “even it were possible for you to all travel out, who will develop your country for you?”
Several youth participants commented that the event had sensitized them to the complexity of the issue of migration and promised that they would pass on the message of the awareness campaign to their communities.
The Stakeholders’ Roundtable Dialogue on Migration – a series of consultation with civil society on irregular migration – will hold also in Enugu (25 August), Lagos (8 September) and Benin-City (15 September).
The forum seeks to engender a better understanding of the many sides of migration with the ultimate objective of putting an end to the unnecessary suffering and deaths of young Nigerians who are misled into irregularly migrating to Europe.