From Japa to Sapa: Nigerians struggle with life abroad

In the recent past, the UK has continued to battle with a high cost of living crisis, exacerbated by rising prices of essential needs such as electricity, fuel and food. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the Consumer Prices Index has risen by 9.2% in the 12 months to February 2023, up from 8.8% in January.
The Ukraine-Russia crisis also contributed to the situation by disrupting global supply chains, leading to high prices. While several people from various backgrounds are feeling the pinch, no studies have yet been done to highlight the condition of African immigrants residing in the UK. Around 1.4 million people, or 2.5% of the population of England and Wales, are estimated to be of African origin, according to the UK Government.
Evidence from SBM Intelligence suggests that a sizable number of Africans emigrated from their home countries to the UK to seek better education and career opportunities. However, like other communities in the UK, they now face serious challenges emanating from the high cost of living.
Job security is the biggest financial concern of African immigrants in the UK. “A fifth of working accountants have said their job progression is being negatively affected by the cost of living crisis and more than one in four believes the crisis has meant that there are simply fewer opportunities available at work,” a report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) stated.
On another level, the World Bank estimates that Africa’s Diaspora remittances reached over $80bn sent to and within Africa in 2020. The cost of living crisis has hit African immigrants in the UK so hard. Yet, 77.3% of them still support family and friends back home in Africa. Among these people, 75% say they have issues keeping up with this responsibility. According to findings by the survey, with rising prices, African immigrants face immense pressure on their finances. In October, 2022, the UK government cut up to £1,040 (US$1,439) per year from social security support to people on the Universal Credit system, despite widespread warnings that doing so would further exacerbate poverty. While 84% of the respondents did not claim public funds, this decision could inherently affect other Africans who have lived in the UK their entire lives. A school teacher in Lagos recounted her experience with some Nigerians residing in the United Kingdom when she travelled there. “It is not everybody that lives in London that is rich. When I travelled there the last time, they were asking me if I came on sponsorship or I paid for myself. I told them that I came on my own. In fact, I dashed some of them money. Can you imagine that?
The truth is that the environment is good and better to live in than ours; but if you have a good job, there is no need relocating. To visit and come back is good. Many of them over there cannot come home in ten years and most of those children born there will never return to Nigeria to live; so, what is the essence? There is no place like home,” she said.
She also said that many Nigerians are stranded in foreign lands and would wish to come back to Nigeria without success. “Do you know that even many of those who “japaed” not long ago are regretting it, because what they imagined is not what they are seeing. There is nowhere people pick money on the ground or pluck it from the tree. In fact, they are under pressure more than we are. Many of them keep multiple jobs to make ends meet. They hardly rest. Are there those who are making it abroad? The answer is capital yes; just like some people are building mansions, buying big cars and doing other big projects despite our bad economy. The advice is that people must seek divine guidance before taking decisions;” the teacher said.
The story of Deola, a young Nigerian man who left his landed property in Akure to travel abroad in search of greener pasture is another angle to the narrative. He left Nigeria for Canada in 2018 and initially things were fine with him up till late 2022 when he returned to Nigeria for his traditional and court marriage. However, things have not been the same with ‘Deola since his return to Canada in December, 2022.

At first he was incommunicado for the first few months in 2023. On his return to Canada he was unable to get back to his job because he returned late to Canada after his marriage. Deola got financially stranded in Nigeria after his hook-up with his woman at the Ikoyi Marriage Registry. It took the intervention of his family members who had to help raise some money to enable him travel back to Canada. His family members later complained about seeing him online while he refused to respond to any of their communications.

Communication improved again sometimes around June and July, which indicated an improvement in his stay abroad. But, in mid-October the wife called Deola’s mother to complain about him. She didn’t want her to disclose to Deola that she reported him to the mother. However, she confided in the mother-in-law that if Deola did not return to Nigeria before the end of the year, she was going to marry another man.
But, by month end, Deola in one of his chats with his elder sister based in Lagos said he might visit Nigeria in December. This information was received by his family members in bad faith. They wondered why he would want to return to Nigeria so soon, considering that they had to raised some money the last time he visited before he could return to Canada.
Many Nigerians see relocation to other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States as an achievement that is worth celebrating. For some of those who left the country in pursuit of a better life, their experiences are fraught with struggles.
Giselle Okorie, a US-based Nigerian, said relocating abroad opened her eyes to the harsh reality of surviving in a foreign land. “Upon my arrival, it almost felt like I had made it in life. It wasn’t until the reality of paying bills and standing up for oneself kicked in. No one advises you to brace yourself for the amount of hard work you have to put in to make ends meet,” she said.

Experiences fraught with struggles


Okorie lamented the tuition international students are required to pay. “My research shows we get charged at least two and a half times what people born here are charged,” she said. She complained that “racism is very real”, saying: “The racism didn’t hurt till it started to hurt. People are of the extreme, they either overreact or under-react. I wouldn’t say I haven’t had good times; they just come at a price. The price of working endless shifts so you can afford to be where you need to be. Time waits for no one, being punctual is part of the country’s system. So far, I would say I have managed to make those ends meet but at the cost of working while going to school, to me that counts as success but at the price of me coming back home every day and feeling extremely tired. Some days, I get home so tired I fall asleep with my shoes on. Meanwhile, most people my age (23) back home aren’t stressed as much because our culture permits us to relax at our parents’ house and not be bothered by anything.”
While some have been able to weather the challenges experienced abroad, there are some who found themselves drowning under the weight of one pressure after the other. Gladys Okoroafor, who relocated abroad with her entire family to the UK, also shared her experience. She said: “We secured a single-room apartment in Southern Wales within a shared flat where we had other residents. At one time, we were told by our old co-tenants that we could not use some of the appliances. My first job was as a caregiver in an old people’s home. Yes, many people back home thought we were rich because of the exchange rate gap between the dollar and the naira. However, the truth is that even with the income of my husband, we found it hard to make ends meet over here.”
Some Nigerians work as hospital volunteers where they have to wheel out bodies from the morgue to the chapel of rest for families to view. Others do menial jobs such as security guards, caregivers, and cleaners to survive. Despite the odds, many Nigerians are managing to pull through by dint of hard work and determination.
William Ajayi, who got admitted to a tertiary institution in the UK, was also given a work permit that enabled him to work while in school, and his children were admitted to high schools free of charge. “Though there are bills to pay, what I earn in a month when converted runs in millions of naira. If you don’t have someone over here to assist, it could be difficult. But with determination and focus, I tell you, it is far better than living in Nigeria,” he said.
Another Nigerian who migrated to the UK about two years ago described her experience so far as “the most interesting challenging experience I have ever had.” The young lady said: “As an immigrant in another country, you are not considered a priority; you are not a citizen, so do not expect it to be rosy. I found it very challenging trying to adjust when I came in. With the opportunities available at the time and then combining them with school, I would rant that if this was not what I wanted for myself, my country would have been much better. But the challenges so far have changed me in so many ways. These challenges sort of build you up, they change you, they toughen you up, it is a whole lot of different experiences.”
Omoniyi Ade, who relocated to Canada, could not hide his joy for the opportunity to give his children quality education and a good life over there. “There is life in Canada. I mean, there is a complete peace of mind here,” he said.
The rising cost of living and insecurity are pushing Nigerians to relocate to other countries for further development, employment prospects and a brighter future. Most of those surveyed by Phillips Consulting indicated plans to relocate to Canada, the UK, and the US. Tunji Adebiyi, a Nigerian based in the US, said life abroad is not all freedom from challenges as there are hurdles to scale through. There are so many fraudsters out there these days pretending to render immigration services. How do we tell the real ones from the fake ones? Due diligence can never be over-emphasized, especially when there is a need to put your money into something. Proper research, both online and offline, on the company in question should be paramount before engagement. Many young people usually migrate via the study abroad programme. Why is it the preferred route for migration? The study route remains one of the legal pathways to migrate to different foreign countries because it gives double honour—that is, you get a degree or certificate and then residency and citizenship eventually through the right and timely process. Why would anyone need the assistance of a firm to get a work visa, when you can make your way to the embassy and get on with the process at no extra cost? Visa processing is a technical process that most often requires experience and a lot of expertise to get done. You need the assistance of an immigration firm to avoid errors and unnecessary mistakes that may eventually lead to a visa denial or ban. This also saves you a lot of time and hassle. If you do not know what you are doing, you can easily make mistakes that will delay your application or even lead to its rejection. An immigration consultant will handle all the paperwork for you and ensure everything is done smoothly. Inevitably it can save you a lot of money in the long run. If your visa application is denied, you will have to start the process again, which can be expensive and time-consuming. By hiring an immigration consultant, you can avoid these risks and ensure that your application is successful the first time.

UK Embassy in Nigeria


What are the dangers inherent in a poorly processed study programme? This is where you need the services of an expert. Not only will the application be rejected, but you also get to waste further time and resources on the process. Investment immigration is something that most Nigerians are not aware of, except for the extremely rich. Many people are not aware of it, probably because, just like the name implies, investment immigration, it is a very capital-intensive pathway in which an investor financially invests in the host country. It was set up to improve the economies of the host countries involved and also provide employment for their citizens, which also rewards the investors with either instant citizenship or residency. With a focus on study-abroad programmes, investment immigration, work visa, flight booking and insurance services; your immigration consultant will guide and assist you every step of the way. Whether it’s helping students choose the right programme, facilitating strategic investments for citizenship or residency, arranging seamless travel for work visa holders, or ensuring comprehensive insurance coverage, your consultant’s services empower individuals to explore new horizons, pursue educational and professional goals, and navigate the complexities of global mobility with confidence and peace of mind.
What are the current emerging immigration opportunities? What does the trend portend for those who might want to migrate or travel to study in the near future? Just like in all seasons, there is a constant addition or change in the immigration system for everyone. The UK recently launched the Teacher’s Immigration Pathway. There is also a new change in the Canada Visitor-Tourist Visa that can enable a person to get a job while in Canada and eventually change visa status.

Courtesy Business Day Newspaper of Nigeria

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