Exodus: Regular and irregular migration of the people

April 16, 2019 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Prince Charles Dickson



Let me start with this short story, as told to me by a colleague—during the civil war in Nigeria, at one of the frontiers, neighboring villages bothering Nsukka would go in to take the spoils of war.


On this particular day several boxes were carted away from the village, and when they arrived back, as the boxes were to be opened voices started coming out of the boxes. The whole village ran away and by evening the village Dibia (native medicine man) came.


The whole village was behind watching. He spoke to the boxes, and the voices replied, and the Dibia told them that the gods of the village were we carted the boxes from were inside and annoyed. So we had to appease them and take the boxes to the border road.


The village got the sacrificial items and did as instructed. On getting to the border, they left the boxes, the villagers ran, the boxes moved into the bush on its accord.


In his classic book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis warned of two possible errors in thinking about demons. On one extreme is the refusal to believe in their existence. On the other extreme is the equally dangerous mistake to “feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. Which of these tendencies do we most see, reminds me of the subject matter of migration. Migration is like a demon; it’s also an angel. What do we see on either side?


How many of us saw the screaming headlines the other day, “Nigerians heading to Canada” or that report of more than 50% of young Nigerians who are eager to leave Nigeria…Oops, did you miss the video that went viral of Nigerian trained Doctors that were being interviewed to leave the country to go practice in Saudi Arabia?


There was that story of a “practicing prostitute” allegedly from Nigeria who was killed by her customer in Italy for not satisfying him. He went to report it himself!


Well, the General Elections of 2019 have come and gone, and till 2023. There was no real conversation around migration, as a people or nation; we have no migration policy that states deliverables, a direction, needs, wants or benefits. Key discussions, including migration management, labour migration, irregular migration, return and reintegration, mobility and international protection are alien to our policy makers, stakeholders and gatekeepers.


It is in this light that one begs for the conversation which started with the IOM Dialogue with Nigerian Editors and Heads of Media that has to continue.


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) began operations in Nigeria in 2001 with the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme in Lagos, one of the organization’s global initiatives, which helps stranded migrants who wish to return home safely. Following a cooperation agreement with the government of Nigeria, IOM created the country mission in 2002.


Over the years, the Organization has expanded its range of activities in the country to include emergency response in the north-east region, migration health assessment, capacity building for government officials, integrated border management, among others, and off-course various trainings and capacity building for media professionals.


To contribute to the prevention of irregular migration and human trafficking, IOM is also currently implementing several awareness raising projects in Nigeria including the Aware Migrants project, funded by the Government of Italy, which is designed to promote behavioural change among potential migrants and their families and friends by helping migrants make safe and informed decisions about their migratory journey.


In 2017, there were 119,369 migrant arrivals by sea via the Central Mediterranean route, of which the majority were Nigerian (18,158). According to the Italian Ministry of Interior, this number dropped considerably in 2018 to 1,250 Nigerian arrivals to Europe via this route. Despite the decrease in arrivals, the Central Mediterranean route continues to be deadliest migratory worldwide with 1,314 deaths recorded in 2018 and 165 deaths recorded so far this year (as of 2nd April).


What remains sad is that despite the best of efforts by Nigerian agencies like NAPTIP, Immigration activists, Media and Development practitioners, as a country we have abandoned our responsibility to citizens, in saving and protecting the lives of migrants and refugees, breaking the business model of smugglers and traffickers and providing legal pathways, while addressing the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement.


The above is seen or handled more as an EU policy. While the consensus is that from exodus there has been migration and will not stop, the dangerous, unprotected, and exploitative forms of migration are borne out of despair, not aspiration, and must be checked.


Nigeria is a source, transit and destination country for women and children victims of sex trafficking and forced labour in the forms of prostitution, domestic servitude, begging and sometimes trafficking in human organs. The IOM has identified 749 victims of trafficking among the returnees, and more than 3,172 with vulnerabilities.


Adekunle Gold in his song ire sums my thoughts up:



The grass is greener on the other side

That’s what I thought before I took the ride

I burned my bridges so I never look back

But if I had known the life I was

searching for is looking me right in the eye ooo

if I had known the life I was searching for was already my own oo

Ire benile ooo, (ire ayo)

Ire ire ire

ire ire ayo

Onpemi oo (Onpemi kin ma bo o)

Oni kin ma bo (ire o)

Oni ki ma bo


Ire ire ire (ire ooo)

ire ire ayo

Onpemi oo (ire, ayo)

Oni kin ma bo (oni kin ma bo)

Oni ki ma bo (oni kin ma bo)


The grass is greener when you water the ground

That’s what I found when I took the ride

I realised the mountain I have been

climbing is nothing but standing oo

I didn’t know I already had the answer

No I didn’t know

For if I had known the life know (if I had known) the

life I was searching for was looking me right in the eye oo

If I had known the life I was searching for was already my own

Ire ire ire (ire o)

ire ire ayo

Onpemi oo (Onpemi o)

Oni kin ma bo (oni kin ma bo)

Oni ki ma bo (Oni kin ma bo)


Ire ire ire (ire ooo)

ire ire ayo

Onpemi oo (its calling out to me dekunle it’s calling out to me)

Oni kin ma bo (oni kin ma bo)

Oni ki ma bor (oni kin ma bo) (ire o)


Ire ire oo ire ayo (distance chorus)

Onpemi kin ma bo (ire)

Edami shatokun fun Ese Mi

Jen pada sile

Majen sin won waye

Majen rin arin ra…

Alantere ooo

Ire she gudu meje

Oro shepete

Oro shepete

Ire Fi le poti o Fi ona roka

Kin ma bo (Ire)




To the Nigerian media, Ikechukwu Attah, Florence Kim, the IOM team, and all of us that love Nigeria, we can do more, we will do more. Is the grass greener here or there, is migration a demon, or an angel, can our beloved Nigeria become the heaven we want, or are the gods so angry that no sacrifice can appease them? Only time will tell.






Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.

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