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Nigeria: More young professionals head for exit; air traffic rises by 91%

By Eniola Akinkuotu

Posted on October 7, 2022 12:04

 Abuja airport, Nigeria © Adam Abubashal/Anadolu Agency via AFP
Abuja airport, Nigeria © Adam Abubashal/Anadolu Agency via AFP

The rate of international air passenger movement in Nigeria has risen by 91%, as a mass migration of young professionals in search of greener pastures continues, a phenomenon now commonly referred to as ‘Japa’.

Figures obtained by The Africa Report from aviation authorities show that between January and June 2022, there was a 4o% and 91% increase in passengers’ movement via domestic and international flights, respectively, compared to a similar period last year.

“Two factors are responsible for the increase in international air traffic. First is the increase in migration of young professionals while the second is the re-opening of borders after Covid-19,” a top government official says.

The Africa Report notes that while 907, 722 international passengers were airlifted between January and June 2021, the figure rose to 1,732,624 within the same period this year.

Just look at the forex crisis, so as long as these conditions remain, the migration will continue

The rise in air travel comes despite an increase in the cost of tickets triggered by a hike in the price of aviation fuel and a scarcity of forex.

The figures show that between January and June 2022, cargo movement decreased by 36% when compared to a similar period in 2021.

However, an official attributed the decreases in cargo movement to forex scarcity, rising foreign exchange rate, closure of some airspaces due to re-occurrence of Covid-19, and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

Brain drain triggers

Nigeria has witnessed an unprecedented exodus of professionals in recent times due to its economic and security challenges, experts say.

Early last year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) pegged youth unemployment at 33.3% as a staggering 23.1 million Nigerians are said to be jobless. The NBS has not released any figures since.

Reports say the medical and the ICT sectors are the most affected by the mass migration.

Over 10,000 medical doctors trained in Nigeria now work in the United Kingdom alone, according to the UK General Medical Council. This is despite complaints by the Nigerian Medical Association that the country has a deficit of 315,426 medical doctors to cater to the health needs of its 215,266,984 population.

However, medical unions say the figure will rise soon even as a poll showed that eight in every 10 Nigerian doctors are searching for greener pastures.

Dr. Emeka Orji, president of the National Association of Resident Doctors in Nigeria, tells The Africa Report that insecurity and economy are the two major factors triggering the brain drain.

Existential crisis

However, Orji says things may get worse as the Nigerian government has not shown any commitment to addressing the plight of doctors.

“The thing has assumed a crisis dimension. I hope that the government knows the enormity of the problem because we have not seen any effort by the government.

I don’t think it is going to get better especially with the insecurity and the economic situation.

“First, we need an improvement in welfare packages. Our members are complaining about this. What I was paid as a house officer years ago is higher than what I earn today as a registrar because of inflation,” Orji says.

Latest figures by the UK Home Office showed that the number of Nigerians that received UK study visas rose by 79%, the highest for any nationality in the UK.

“It will get worse. There is actually a brain drain because professionals are leaving Nigeria. I don’t think it is going to get better especially with the insecurity and the economic situation. Just look at the forex crisis, so as long as these conditions remain, the migration will continue,” says Yejide Adewakun, a UK based influencer and expert on student migration.

February election

Seun Onigbinde, co-founder of non-profit BudgIT, tells The Africa Report that Nigeria is facing an existential crisis and mass migration has become a way out.

Onigbinde says for the trend to stop, Nigerians must elect a credible leader in next February’s election.

“It is dangerous to have entrepreneurs, doctors and mid-level to senior [-level] managers leaving. The next president must be able to give people hope to prove that this country can work again. This current government has not done well in managing the exchange rate and inflation,” he says.

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