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More Nigerians Migrating

FILE: Representative illustration of Nigerians at airport. Taken 9.11.2019

Nigerians, rich and poor, have migrated to greener pastures for decades. Today, though, anecdotal evidence suggests that among the middle classes, the outflow has become a flood, fueled by a slumping currency, worsening insecurity, spiraling inflation and corruption.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that among the middle classes, the outflow has become a flood, fuelled by a slumping currency, worsening insecurity, spiralling inflation and corruption.

Accurate figures for net emigration are hard to come by, and a government agency, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, cautions that while people do leave, some "constantly" return.

But these days, asking an educated Nigerian "what are your japa plans?" is as common as asking about their work or health, according to eight people from different backgrounds who spoke with AFP.

Not everyone can afford to emigrate, especially to countries that middle- and upper-class Nigerians aim for, like Canada, the US, the UK or other European countries.

Visas for those countries can be expensive and the authorities often require proof of funds for daily expenses, even after the visa has been paid.

But armed with patience -- it can take years to secure the paperwork -- and often with financial support from relatives, increasing numbers are heading abroad for work or study.

"Nigerians' assessment of their personal living conditions and the country's economic situation have worsened dramatically over the past two years," the pan-African survey group Afrobarometer survey wrote in August.

With almost 20 percent inflation in July, many Nigerians can no longer buy items they were once able to afford.

Chuka Okeke is a Lagos-based project manager with a degree in computer science who earns around 650,000 naira (about $1,500) a month.

"Three years ago, I would call myself middle class but now I'm just a privileged poor person," he said, half-jokingly.

For Stella Ohemu, a 30-year-old pharmacist living in the capital Abuja and who earns around 110,000 naira (about 260 dollars) a month, life is "a merry-go-round."

"I've been working for three years. I had two jobs at one point, but it still wasn't enough," she said, abandoning at least for now her dream of opening her own pharmacy.

She is applying for visas to work in Europe or in the US, where she is "sadly open to doing anything."

Even among those who earn much more, japa is enticing.

Augustine Ugi, a 36-year-old CEO of a software development company based in Lagos, earns "between five and ten million" naira (about 11,000 to 23,000 dollars) a month and employs more than 50 people.

"I am leaving because I have to sustain what I have built," said the recent father of twins who is moving to London but will continue travelling back to Nigeria to maintain his operations.

A civil servant in Abuja who asked to be identified only by his first name Victor also cited graft as a factor for leaving.

"They (politicians) are keeping what they have for themselves and it affects everything else," said the 34-year-old who earns about the same as Ohemu and is applying for a visa for Canada.

Many young people drew up plans to emigrate after a bloody crackdown in 2020 on protests for better governance.

"We had come out to say 'no more' and what we got was indiscriminate killings," said Victor. "That was when some people realised 'there are no options here, I'm done'."