Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, has called on the Nigerian Immigration Service and all relevant agencies to work together in curbing the influx of undocumented migrant workers into Nigeria, so as to reduce capital flight.
Keyamo made the call at a one-day summit in Calabar, Cross River State to launch decent jobs in the Gulf Nations and work-study programme in the United States, Canada, and the European Union, with the theme: “Utilising the gains of migration to advance economic development of Nigeria.”
The Minister said although migration could not be stopped, it must be properly documented to prevent different forms of crimes such as tax evasion, which might be difficult to trace.
He said any company in Nigeria that wanted to engage as a job recruitment agency, both in Cross River State or any other part of the nation, must be properly registered with the Federal Government because labour and migration were on the exclusive list.
He said: “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.”
In his remarks, Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa, Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, said migration in the 21st century must be controlled, adding that Nigerians accounted for the largest number of migrants from Africa seeking better opportunities abroad.
Bulkachuwa maintained that Nigerians are very enterprising and whenever they traveled to other countries, they exhibited their enterprising abilities and sometimes ran foul of the laws of the land and get punished.
He said: “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.
“At the end of this summit, I hope we can come out with recommendations that will solve the issue the Minister raised because labour and migration are on the exclusive list.”
Similarly, Michael Abuo, Director General, Cross River Migration Control Services Agency, said the summit became necessary to raise awareness of citizens on migration which had become a global issue.
Abuo said the government of Cross River State would be exploring opportunities outside the shores of the state and nation to provide better opportunities for its people to school and work under its work-study scheme.
“If the Federal Government could give licences to individuals to carry out labour migration, why can’t state governments have licences,” he said, adding that the state could partner with registered companies to carry out proper migration.
“The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics has said that close to 23 million Nigerians are unemployed and over 15 million are underemployed.
“This is close to 40 million people.
“Let us be truthful to ourselves: the jobs are not there.
“That is why this programme is targeted at helping our people who are skilled to get jobs within and outside the country where they are needed and in return they boost the economy of Nigeria when they send money back home.
“Those with first degrees in the sciences, social sciences, engineering and mathematics are given the opportunity to go abroad, study for their Masters, while also working with access to $50,000 student loan.”