Oxford Street, London
By Chinedu Eze
There are indications that over 500,000 Nigerians have emigrated from the country since 2016.
This was disclosed by a source at the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), who stated that the number could be higher because many Nigerians who travelled as visitors have stayed back and the NIS documents still captured them as visitors.
The major reason adduced to the high movement of Nigerians out of the country was economic hardship.
A senior Immigration official told THISDAY that most hit is the private sector where bankers, telecom and other professionals are trooping out of the country. The official said despite the economic crunch, many parents are sending their children to schools overseas, as a way of taking them out of the perceived difficulties in the country.
Informed source also disclosed that even highly placed officials in government agencies are resigning and travelling out of the country.
Some women who travelled to deliver babies stay back and seek for asylum, THISDAY learnt.
THISDAY also learnt that the number of Nigerians seeking for passports has multiplied, which was partly responsible for the scarcity of passport booklets witnessed by the country recently.
When THISDAY visited the passport office of the Nigerian Immigration Service Ikoyi, Lagos on Tuesday, thousands of applicants crowded the place.
On daily basis the Ikoyi office alone, issues the highest number of passports of about 800, while Festac and Ikeja combined, issue 1000 passports daily.
Ordinarily the demand used to exceed supply by about 25 per cent, but since last year the excess demand has multiplied to over 100 per cent, the source told THISDAY.
In the same vein, Abuja issues about 500 passports daily, while Kano, Asaba, Ogun and Ibadan which also ranks top in mobility of passports issues about 500 passports altogether. Other states in Nigeria issue about 2,000 passports daily.
“During economic hardship people tend to emigrate and run away from their country and when the economy improves people return. In the 1980s it happened to Ghana and many Ghanaians were in Nigeria seeking all kinds of menial jobs. Now many of them have gone back to their country,” the official said.
THISDAY also learnt that many Nigerians who are seeking for asylum and receiving positive response, especially people from Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Zamfara, and other states where high rate of violent killings had been recorded.
“These countries are more abreast of events in Nigeria than us Nigerians so they know what people are going through and they know the states that are under attacks. So when Nigerians from these states request asylum they grant them. The most humanitarian is Canada. If you come from these states under six months they do permanent resident documents of you,” the official told THISDAY.
Speaking on behalf of the NIS, an official who wished to remain anonymous told THISDAY that part of the reasons why passport offices are crowded was because there are backlog of applicants that have completed the process to obtain their passports.
“Hundreds of applicants cannot get their passports. So, we have been given a mandate to clear the backlog. Our production department is working 24 hours. In fact, on Wednesday the machines stopped working due to over usage but the will get back on track,” the source told THISDAY.
The Immigration official also said the NIS may not have the figures of Nigerians seeking permanent residence or who have been granted permanent residence overseas because many of apply and leave for short stay trips.
He said that some apply to go and visit their relations, some for religious reasons while others are for holidays but when they go there they stay back.