The slang “Japa”, a Yoruba word meaning to “run” or “flee” has gone mainstream, making its way into the Nigerian English lexicon, accepted wholeheartedly by the public. Lately, the number of Nigerians emigrating has increased exponentially.
Japa syndrome is becoming an epidemic eating deep into the hearts of Nigerians. In fact, even those not yet japaed are either incapable of, or are in the process. Properties and life savings are being liquidated to finance the costly procedure of japaing. Japa is not only escaping the hardship in Nigeria, it has now become an achievement.
The situation in Nigeria is so bad that anywhere is now better than Nigeria, this anywhere concept is more appealing to the uneducated who will consider Pakistan, Bangladesh, or even Bolivia; Nigeria is untenable they will argue. A report by the government of the United Kingdoms revealed that approval to Nigerian nationals for its workers visa programme increased by 11,854 between December 2019 to June 2022. According to the report, this an increase by 303% making Nigerians the second highest recipients of work visas to the UK.
We may wonder why emigration of Nigerians has gone mainstream, but the answer is simple: the search for greener pastures. It is no news that the major reason for the mass emigration of Nigerians still boils down to the illusion that life somewhere else is easier or better. A similar trend does exist between rural-urban migration within the same border in the search for a better living standard, this is nothing new, humans tend to pour where there is a likelihood of having better offers, that driving force has remained the same for millennia.
It is no surprise that the living standard in the West offers even in their modesty, a standard of living more or less, invariably better than those in Nigeria. Access to healthcare, education, security, and a pillar of interaction between the various sectors of a country, something arguably absent in Nigeria, is another attraction for the japa generation.
Whatever the reason for wanting to emigrate, it will be disingenuous to debunk the lack of opportunity in Nigeria as not the foundational motivator for wanting to leave. A country with an 18-year average age, some of the youngest in the world, in their tens of millions, lost in translation in their own country, obviously, with the advent of social media and the internet, they will want to venture out by all means possible – this is not rocket science.
Consequently, japa has brain-drained an already shortfall in the various sectors of the Nigerian apparatus. Those leaving the country are some of the skilled bearers required to float the economy, should this continue, the effect caused by the void of their departure will only further deepen the misery.
Lawmakers recently passed a bill requiring Nigerian trained medical personnel to undergo at least six years of work before japa could be allowed. In other words, passports could be denied to potential medical personnel, this if successful, could be extended to other sectors.
Adjacent to skill gap inflicted on the country by the japa generation is the talent drain. Quite similar to skill drain, talent are individuals who are spotted for having exceptional skills; such individuals given the slightest opening compared to the dire situation in Nigeria would want to grab hold.
How can Nigeria retain its dissipating population? Do the people in charge care? With a new president in place who has promised to reverse the fallout, it would seem like his policies with his first month in office has driven more people into poverty. What is left for Nigerians? Will his (President Tinubu) policy first tighten the grip then spread its seeds of ease as it would seem he is proclaiming, or will it continue to deepen in the opposite direction.
With a labour force of over 80 million, those aged between 25-34 take the largest cut with about 23 million.
The 35-44 closely follow with about 20 million; by that, it is clear to see that Nigeria boosts a youth population, but without the proper economic platform where their youth can be exploited, it would have all gone to waste.
We are not a country with a standardised well structured regulated taxation system, so the government generates more revenue from the oil sector further strengthening its dependence on natural resources. Without proper investment in its human capital, creating a business-friendly environment conducive for FDI and other small businesses, backed by a manufacturing sector, Nigeria will continue fading thus the japaing.
Statistics from the Federal Government pointed to a N625.39 billion as Value Added Tax (VAT) generation in the third quarter of 2022. With a corporate income tax standing at 30% for large enterprises, it is SME that should be encouraged as Nigeria is flooded with SMEs. Though a meagre amount for 200 million people, this can be improved. A government without financial leverage spells catastrophe.
The Federal Inland Revenue Services raked in N10.1 trillion in tax revenues in 2022, imagine what could be achieved if the ground was secured, business-friendly, transparent, and bureaucracy in the system cut down to prepare the ground for FDI, within a decade, Nigeria could have reversed a lot; this will open the door for those who left to return home.
To help mitigate this challenge, it is the role of the government to address the root cause of our current dilemma. Nigeria is a consuming nation, it is not productive, this cannot change without a speedy move to productivity. We cannot depend on natural resources, especially oil, the world is going on clean energy, electronic automobiles are overtaking traditional petroleum dependent ones, if careful planning is not implemented, we may be caught off-guard, the consequence of this could be catastrophic from an economical viewpoint.
Additionally, we need a total revamp of our educational system, it is archaic, non-reflecting of contemporary reality. We are not educating our people with the right kind of skills that will enable them to compete with the best in the world. We must provide top-notch-quality education to our Nigerians, being equipped with the right skillset is the key to reducing unemployment and increasing government revenue through taxation. The STEM field should be the priority, it is the new gold rush in the way of human capital equipping. Nigerians are not employable because they were given the right education that will put them on a par with their peers in other developing countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, and many others.
Japa is not likely to slow down in the foreseeable future, the bleeding must be stopped, then the revamp of the structure that has not worked in the last four decades must be dismantled and replaced with a workable, transparent system that will kickstart a new Nigeria. Does President Tinubu have the capacity, will, and vision to spearhead this? Based on his performance so far, it is hard to make of him such a person.
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