A new migration trend has since developed out of Nigeria: supposed Europe-bound migrants are taking the Senegal route, except that they don’t make it to Europe. Yet nearly all of them return sooner than later, pulling enormous wealth behind.
It is a mystery agitating the minds of aspiring migrants as well as migration watchers in the West Africa region. But there is some explanation, according to Emmanuel Obiyan, executive director of the NGO Global Initiative Against Illegal Migration (GIAIM).
In a recent interview with Nigeria’s The Nation, Obiyan, whose organization has been monitoring the trend shares interesting insights on what is going on.
“Using the South-south region of Nigeria, where Global Initiative has a footprint, we have discovered that 99.9 percent of returnee migrants travel as poor persons and return very rich. This is the aspect I am most concerned about.
“As we speak, we have about seven undocumented but verified cases, where unemployable persons would travel the irregular routes to Senegal and between six to nine months, return very rich, such that within what you may term a twinkle of an eye, they lift their parents out of poverty. They tell their fathers, ‘Daddy, I no longer want you in this house, I want to break it down and put up something befitting for you. And such child puts up a massive building for their parents within six months.
“However, it doesn’t stop there. Give another three months, and it’s either the father dies in a mysterious circumstance, or the mother or one person from that immediate family dies. The question is what is responsible for this? These young men are not going to Senegal to prostitute; they go to Senegal to do something we do not know.
“Unfortunately, people are not able to link the calamity with the trip and sudden wealth, because often what you hear them say is, ‘Oh, this man could not even stay to enjoy what his son has done for him a little.’ They never stop to worry about why that son was not at the burial of the father – because they never attend. That’s why I wanted the Senegalese ambassador present at our recent symposium in Lagos in January, to throw some light on their activities, but they told me the invitation was too short.”
Asked whether such wealth is a result of fetishism, Obiyan responds:
“I would actually be very generous to use the word cultism – because cultism is more accepted to the international community than when you say fetishism. I want to believe that there is this cult that they get initiated into and the consequences of the initiation is that in one fold, they get rich, in another fold, they pay a priceless price.”
He says fighting irregular migration is complex: that migrants discover new routes when old ones are shut, and that both traffickers and victims’ parents are in bed, hence reporting and prosecution are hard.
GIAIM, based in Edo State, partners government and international agencies including foreign embassies to train returnee migrants in vocational skills. Only that some of the migrants head back to the road after all the support, more so amid the pandemic. Others return and don’t go back to their homes, instead they stay in Lagos, lying to their families that they are still abroad.
While stressing the need for funding, Obiyan said other NGOs fighting irregular migration are contemplating a door-to-door campaign to push back against what has become endemic in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Just in the past week, over 600 African migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya, among them Nigerians. Thousands, including Nigerians, have died in the past decade.