The director general, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Professor Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan has urged all stakeholders to focus on innovative ways of leveraging youth migration (aka Japa) and empowerment for national development.

Prof. Ladan made the call last Thursday in his lead presentation on the 2023 International Migrants’ Day Commemorative Dialogue on the theme: “Leveraging Youth Migration (Japa) for National Development, organised by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and IDPs at the Banquet Hall of the Aso Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Having highlighted the negative and the positive sides of youth migration, the NIALS Boss who commended President Tinubu for coming with youth-fruendly policies and programmes stressed the need for all to align with the vision of government which focuses on stemming youth migration on one hand and leveraging it on the other hand for national development.

He said, “Your Excellencies, Honourable policy, decision and law makers; it is a fact that Nigeria has recently witnessed massive “JAPA” migration or Brain Drain of highly skilled migrant outflows to the UK, USA and Canada (about 500,000 between 2019 and 2023, with 85% of them being youth between 18 and 35 years), and about 2 million of them across the globe.

“It is also a fact that many Nigerian youth job-seekers have become stranded as destitutes, hungered and jobless in the UK, USA and Canada after paying travel agents thousands of pounds and dollars to travel on skilled worker Visa only to realize that the jobs don’t exist.

“It is also a fact that most countries seen as choice destinations for Nigeria youth have been rolling out hostile migration policies. but in every instance, the “JAPA” generation breaks the hurdle, either travelling by road, sea or even through human smugglers.

“On the positive side however, Nigeria’s youth migration (JAPA) can boost capital flows particularly Remittances, (hopefully reaching 25bn dollars in 2023 / 2024 making Nigeria the 2nd major Recipient in Africa), Trade promotion and investment, enhancing knowledge, skills and technology transfers.

“The big Questions are How, when and why?

“On the How?, His Excellency, Mr President, having realised that the youth is Nigeria’s greatest asset, both in terms of size (about 70% of 200 million people under 35 years; accounting for the 3rd largest youth population in the world after India and China) and potential for innovation, technological advancement and economic development of the country; the well-intentioned father of the nation, has introduced the following strategic policy, legislative, programmatic and budgetary interventions in the last six months to achieve two broad objectives, namely: stemming youth migration to grow Nigeria’s next generation expertise, and leveraging youth migration (Japa movement) for national development.”

According to him, programmes such as the National Artisan Registration and Development Programme (NARDEP) that would drive the actualisation of the National Talent Export Programme (NATEP), which is expected to deliver one million service export jobs over the next 5 years, increase foreign exchange earnings and revenue for Nigeria, create and stimulate growth of ancillary industries and support services and, improve skills amongst others; the Students’ Loans Scheme 2023, which is an interest free loan to Nigerian students in tertiary institutions aimed at funding their higher education with ease; and the committed to implement the Start-ups Act (2022) by removing all bottlenecks to investments, and repositioning the economy to favour the youth are a testament to that.

He maintained that the time to rise in action is now, given the huge amount of money proposed in the 2024 budget, such as the 50bn naira students loan scheme, the 100bn naira Consumer Credit Fund, the 21bn naira Infrastructural Development Fund, etc., for the actualisation of all that.

On what should be done, Prof. Ladan explained, “To leverage Youth Migration (JAPA) for National development, the following are viable options: –

“Ensure that while exploring the role of Bilateral Labour Migration Agreements or MOUS, we must have clauses that promote human rights-based labour migration that give effect to migrant workers’ rights set out in international law and labour Standards (at all stages of JAPA-origin, transit and destination countries).

“Such Agreements / MOUS should facilitate low or no cost transfer of
migrants’ savings and remittances during their stay and upon termination of their stay. Urgent review of both the National Youth Policy 2019-2023 and the National Migration Policy 2015 – to reflect the current practical realities, developments in law, policy, innovative interventions and management of data on migration, under the current Renewed Hope Agenda (2023-2027).”

He also highlighted the National Climate Change Act 2021 and Policy 2021 that jointly underpin the need to accelerate climate change adaptation in displacement and human mobility in Nigeria.

In his words, “it requires critical stakeholders to focus the dialogue on evidence-based and inclusive solutions to youth unemployment and strategic investment in education, health, infrastructure development, job creation, while leveraging technology to deliver sustainable development at scale that slows down outward migration and protects Nigerian youths in diaspora.

“Nigeria must comply with her treaty obligations under the ECOWAS Protocols on Free Movement of PG & S & Residence and Establishment that Nigeria had signed and ratified – legally binding (even without domestic incorporation as required by section 12 of the Constitution) to benefit and protect Nigerian youth migrants for greener pastures (JAPA) against hostile migration policies.

“Nigeria Needs to urgently sign and ratify the AU Protocol of FREE Movement of Persons etc. (2018) which seeks to promote shared prosperity, peaceful-coexistence and unity amongst Africans. It further seeks to promote greater employment opportunities, higher gains in trade and tourism and poverty alleviation, all of which helps to drive down security concerns relating to cross-border movements.

“There’s need to develop a national implementation framework for the implementation of the re-enacted / expanded mandate Act on the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs in Nigeria 2023.”

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