Nigerian conducts that threaten Labour Migration

Migration is a social issue where people migrate regularly or irregularly for greener pasture outside their places of origin. In the recent times, the International Labour Organisation, ILO, is in forefront in the campaign that migrant workers are treated with decorum and their rights given them in the places of their destination.

From ages, the country now called Nigeria is known for internal or international migration, especially during the slaves’ trade era in Africa between 1400 and 1900. However, ILO, characterises trafficking in persons as Forced Labour, not Labour Migration.

In Labour Migration, the ILO suggests that it has become a global issue for people to migrate for the economic potentials of such migration; but the world has and may not accept human trafficking, such that happened during (and after) the slaves trade in which 12 million slaves were exported from west, west-central, and eastern Africa to the European colonies in the Americas beginning in the 15th century, christened transatlantic trade.

In the category of Force Labour, which ILO does not support, there were the trans-Saharan, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean in which 6 million Africans were traded. And this began before the transatlantic trade. A country that had the definition of Labour Migration in Nigeria, which ILO is championing today, was Britain.

But the English carried out their type during the era of physical colonisation of Nigeria in the mid-19th century. The English had a scaffold for all-encompassing migration of Nigerians to work in their farms, mines and administration to increase the British workforce, but not as slaves.

Nigerians were not trafficked; they were moved through an organised framework as migrant tenant farmers, migrant traders and whatever that was then positive.

Researchers like Blessing U. Mberu wrote a thesis, June 30 2010, captioned, “Nigeria: Multiple Forms of Mobility in Africa's Demographic Giant”, published by the Migration Policy Institute, MPI, with a hypothesis that Nigerians have been known as travellers.

“During the British arrival, migrant labourers from different parts of the country, especially from rural areas, moved into Nigeria's regional headquarters and administrative and market centers in search of trade and gainful employment; destination cities included Lagos, Kano, Zaria, Enugu, Ibadan, Sokoto, and Kaduna, among many others. Of particular importance to rural-urban migration was the creation of mining towns and the linking of seaports in Lagos and Port Harcourt to rural areas via railways,” the source said.

The source further said that migration of people internally or internationally in search of a better life was the preoccupation of Nigerians.

For example, the thesis said, “About 257,000 people left Nigeria's northwestern region according to Nigeria's 1952-1953 census. Their destinations included the Gold Coast, Dahomey, and Togo, out of which 28,000 people were mostly from Northern Sokoto. Substantial emigrant streams were particularly reported for the Yoruba of southwest Nigeria to Côte d'Ivoire, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey, Mali, Togo, Niger, and Ghana. These movements were linked to the artificial nature of colonial boundaries, which split the people of common culture and ethnic groupings into different countries.”

But, today, political and ethnic colourations undermine Labour Migration no matter the promulgation of policies, to abide by the ILO’s crusade today that every migrant worker gets justice, labour right and fairness.

Today’s Nigerian political and ethnic colourations on Labour Migration

Over 72 Igbo people from the South-East political zone, who were residents in Lagos State in the West, were deported to their various states of origin at the dead of the night in 2013, by the ex-Governor Raji Fashola-led Lagos State Government.

Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, from the South-East and Chairman South-East Governors’ Forum in the year in quote, took the matter to the presidency, with the view that Fashola’s action violated the rights of the deportees, because the 1999 Constitution guaranteed Nigerian citizens to reside in any part of the country.

Apart from Obi, some Yoruba people, the tribesmen of Fashola like the factional leader of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasehun; and human rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu (now late), satirized Fashola for his action. In short, many Nigerian voices rented the air in condemnation of the action.

Some Lagosians stereotyped the action and made it a tribal issue. Veteran actor and Lagos prince, Jide Kosoko in a statement published on Nigeria Films website in 2013, defended the then embattled Lagos State Governor, Fashola.

"We don’t need to shy away from the fact that Lagos is over-populated, because of its commercial advantage. Anybody doing a legitimate work here is entitled to stay, but a situation where they are turning themselves to a nuisance in the state and they would go as far as inviting others to come, is not acceptable," Kosoko apparently said.

But a Senior Journalist with The Sun Newspapers, Robert Obioha, an Igbo from the South-East condemned the word ‘nuisance’ inter alia in his column of August 16 2013, saying, “The hypocrisy of Fashola’s action is that Hausa beggars are still at Ebutte-Meta in Oyingbo and Alaba Rago in Ojo. Some Yoruba beggars are also lurking around. Throughout the eight years that Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu was in power, such illegality was not witnessed.

“This is the second time that officials of Lagos State’s Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) will be visiting such inhumanity to people from the South-East. A similar incident was carried out September last year at the same ungodly hour and in the same circumstances when 100 people of South-East origin were dumped at Upper Iweka, Onitsha. Later checks by Anambra State government revealed that most of the victims were not from the state.”

Fashola was not the only person when in public office that deported Nigerians who were searching for greener pasture back to their states of origin; this habit cuts across all divides of the workforce spectrums in the country.

General Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, immediately he won the presidential election and was sworn in later, reportedly said, “Naturally constituencies that gave me 97% cannot in all honesty be treated ON SOME ISSUES with constituencies that gave me 5%".

What that meant was that there will be dichotomy in the work distribution of the Buhari-led government: The States Buhari believed that gave him high rate of votes at the polls will be given every preference in work opportunities than those that gave him low votes.

The Governor of Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole, who belongs to the All Progressives Congress (APC), in August this year, was fingered to have made a disparaging comment against the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and his cabinet members, a People’s Democratic Party member.

“If Nigerians have the full details of the loot under Jonathan, they stone him and cabinet members to death,” supposedly said Oshiomole.

During the Fashola’s saga, the Lagos PDP was angry that the ACN-led government could inflict such injury on fellow Nigerian citizens, as if the PDP that led the Nigerian government for 16yrs before power changed hand was any better.

The Nigerian Labour Law
The Nigerian labour law is none bias. Last year, the federal government through the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved the National Migration Policy, NMP, to aid the chances of migrants to earn employment in the country. The National Policy on Labour was also approved, and it has two existing policies.

“The reason behind the policy is to structure how labour migration will be better managed. Until recently, Nigeria had no national migration policy. All migration issues discussed were based on bilateral agreements. Migration agreements had not been driven by the policy. Now that we have a policy, I believe migration will be better managed,” said the Assistant General Secretary, AGS, in charge of Education and Labour Migration in the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. James Imoyera in an interview with Vanguard.

What that meant was that a Nigerian or foreign migrant in search of greener pasture is entitled to work in any part of the country, since the country has harnessed its migration policy. However, in many parts of the country there is preference in job employment which is not occasioned by the Nigerian labour law.

The indigenes of any state in Nigeria would prefer that their teeming unemployed population is employed before people who are non-natives whether they are regular or irregular migrants are employed.

Again, what most time impair the chance of irregular migrants not to get a job or fight for their rights when denied any is the dearth of the prerequisite immigration documents to openly look for work in the country. In the Nigerian labour organisation it is believed that labour issues are social issues, according to James Imoyera.

There were cases were workers have been abused and they did not fight for their rights. This could be believed to be left that way because of the assertion made by James Imoyera, “Labour issues may not be too legalistic and again, you cannot approach the court now without a lawyer.”

The labour scribe believes “the court now is no longer a labour court. So, if I don’t have money to hire a lawyer, I cannot approach the judge.” Hence, Mr. Imoyera reiterates how pertinent for foreign migrants to have their up-to-date documents.

James Imoyera says that the economy of Nigeria is a push factor for people to migrate irregularly and the people need a lot of sensitisation and enlightenments about Labour Migration.

"There is need to educate Nigerians on NMP. It is not just enough to have these policies in shelves but Nigerians must know about them. There are better ways to migrate than to follow the irregular roots," he said.

For ILO, "Today, there are an estimated 232 million international migrants around the world. Globalization, demographic shifts, conflicts, income inequalities and climate change will encourage ever more workers and their families to cross borders in search of employment and security.

Migrant workers contribute to growth and development in their countries of destination, while countries of origin greatly benefit from their remittances and the skills acquired during their migration experience.

"Yet, the migration process implies complex challenges in terms of governance, migrant workers' protection, migration and development linkages, and international cooperation. The ILO works to forge policies to maximize the benefits of labour migration for all those involved."

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State, Nigeria. ([email protected]). Tel: +2348057778358.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Odimegwu Onwumere