The director-general, Cross River Migration Control Agency, Prince Michael Nku Abuo, has called for enactment of a legislation to back labour migration in order to engender national development.
Abuo made the call at the Cross River State Migration Summit held in Calabar, the state capital on Saturday.
The DG, who also represented the state governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, at the summit, pointed out that several solutions by both federal and state governments have been given to address the issue of unemployment in order to curb the challenge, but the way forward is to tackle the menace was through labour migration.
According to him, Cross River Migration Control Agency was exploring and advancing for opportunities for citizens of the State who are at home and in the Diaspora under a work study programme that will give access to student loans and jobs, and at the end come back to the State to inject their expertise in developing various sectors of the state economy as part of developing human capital resources.
He also added that as unemployment continue to soar high based on the report received from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which as at March 15, 2021 stood at 33.3 per cent or 23,233,333 million Nigerians are unemployed including 15.9 million underemployed Nigerians, that puts the nation under serious time-bomb, and this will trigger more migration and brain-drain.
The summit had in attendance, the Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Festus Keyamo (SAN); chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa; His Royal Highness, the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V; deputy vice chancellor (Administration), University of Calabar, Prof Mike Okom; Rev Dr A. K. Ocansey; Prof Bryon Price; Ms Susan Gong; the representatives of the government and people of Oyo and Benue States, Hon Bonlanle Sarumi and Hon Emmanuel Doughough respectively.
Others include partners, International Organisation for Migration and the President and members of JIFORM, the Director-General, National Directorate of Employment, NDE, Abubakar Nuhu Fikpo; the Director General, NAPTIP, Imaan Suleiman-Ibrahim; the DSS, the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mohammed Babadede; Cross River Broadcasting Corporation, (CRBC), and Correct FM.
Abuo said: “It is true that there are challenges and concerns of human trafficking, modern day slavery and abuse or human resource drain etc but these challenges and concern can be addressed with adequate legislation, feedback and follow up mechanisms, sanctions and sensitization and awareness creation.
“It is this passion to raise awareness that led to the Governor even before creating this agency to make MIGRATION the theme of an episode of our Africa’s Biggest Street Party.
“Rather than having people explore deadly avenues/means and offer themselves to be trafficked we can and should legislate, facilitate legitimate alternatives which can and should be monitored.
“It is in this regards that we are setting up modalities to facilitate towards regular labour migration within and outside the state via our skilled migrant programme.
“With this initiative in partnership with reputable organizations we will create a job centre and facilitate admissions for first degree holders in the area of Science (Social and Pure Science), Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to study for their Master’s in the EU, Canada and United States under a work study program that will give the access to student loans and jobs. In addition we will also facilitate our indigenes to gain more skills and link up those with skills to where it is needed globally not just in the gulf nation.”
However, he noted that, “This thought and action as ambitious and daring as it sounds is doable and not a single person from our state under this scheme will be keyed into any initiative where they will be exploited and that goes against global best practices or and breaches our constitution.
“This move and is implication is beyond just Cross River State but this template if implemented and replicated is one that will boost our nation’s foreign reserves in billions of dollars as proven by remissions in tens of billions made by our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora and create millions of jobs as well.”
Meanwhile, explaining the vision and mission behind the creation of the Cross River State Migration Control Agency, which is first of its kind in Nigeria and also the first sub-regional agency set up to address the issue of migration not only in Nigeria but Africa, he said it was the brainchild of the Ayade-led administration in the state.
“The agency was, therefore, primarily created to coordinate, provide and explore opportunities within and outside the state/country to regulate the move of our people in quest of economical survival, address concerns of IDPs, street kids, refugees, work out anti trafficking measures and irregular migrant concerns within the state.
“So far within a year and few months our agency have made progress by ensuring we create access to opportunities for almost 10,000 persons, yes 10, 000 under different schemes/initiatives, we have documented evidence for this, this would not have been possible without my 34 adhoc staffs and team members working in my office.
“These 10,000 and more are geared at providing economic opportunities for our people and this is the hallmark of the Sen Prof Ben Ayade led administration, in addition to the above he has appointed over 5, 000 persons comprising of Cross Riverians and non indigenes and have created agro-processing industrial layouts across the state such as a cocoa, pharmaceutical, rice, groundnut, chicken and noodles factories and of course a garment factory employing over 2, 000 persons. Mostly youths are the beneficiaries of this scheme,” he stated.
For his part, Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Barr. Festus Keyamo, said traveling abroad for greener pasture is a personal decision and a right of citizens as far as it’s for genuine cause, and such cannot be stopped.
But he also pointed out that there are persons who are also migrating to Nigeria for greener pastures and are well documented including Lebanese, Chinese and others for legitimate businesses.
“You cannot stop people from wanting to go abroad because there are people who genuinely want to travel.
“As Nigerians are going abroad for greener pastures, people are also coming here for greener pastures like many documented workers who are Lebanese, Chinese, and others.
“We must, however, improve on our provision of decent jobs and stop slavery in the name of work in Nigeria, so as to reduce the excessive desperation to go abroad even as an illegal immigrant,” he said.
Also speaking, the chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa, called for control of 21st century migration, and said Nigerians traveling abroad should be good ambassadors of the country in the their host countries.
“Any Nigerian leaving this country must be prepared to obey the laws of the land he or she is traveling to, because there is nothing the federal government can do other than appeal if they break the law and are arrested.
“If the Nigerian mission doesn’t help Nigerians in the Diaspora, it is not because they don’t want to, but because they see that the Nigerian truly broke the laws of the land, all they can do is get a good lawyer to defend the Nigerian or beg,” Bulkachuwa said.