The House of Representatives, on Thursday, unanimously voted against a motion seeking to make the Federal Government address the issues causing Nigerian professionals to migrate to other countries en masse, in search of greener pastures.
A new member of the House, Philip Agbese, had moved a motion titled ‘Need to Declare Emigration of Young Nigerians Abroad A.K.A Japa Syndrome a National Emergency,’ urging the government to “convene a national summit with key stakeholders to effectively address the ‘Japa Syndrome.’
The phenomenon is popularly known as ‘Japa,’ a Yoruba word that simply means to go away from a problem or trouble.
Agbese also prayed the House to “declare a state of Emergency on the factors that predispose young Nigerians to give up on Nigeria in preference for other nations.”
The lawmaker cited statistics from the Nigerian Economic Summit, which says a growing number of young Nigerians are relocating abroad. He also said recent reports by the African Polling Institute indicate that 69 per cent of young people would opt to relocate abroad if given the chance or if the opportunity presents itself.
He added that there is a 40 per cent increase in the number of young Nigerians leaving the nation, compared to the number captured in 2019, as the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs reported that international emigration from Nigeria in 2020 total 1.7million, which is a substantial increase from 990,000 in 2010.
Agbese said, “The House is concerned that the growing statistics of young Nigerians leaving Nigeria and securing permanent residence in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada portends a grave danger for our nation in many ways from economic to intellectual and social aspects.
“The House is also concerned that the Nigerian population is made of two-thirds of persons under the age of 30 and a good number of these persons are already afflicted with what today is acceptably referred to as the ‘Japa Syndrome,’ as estimates indicate a staggering tens of thousands have relocated to the USA, Canada, South Africa and, even, Gambia over the last two years;
“The House is worried that the eagerness to migrate to countries that offer hope seems to have a compelling influence. The House is also worried that those leaving Nigeria are not just the poor but middle class who possess skills/workforce, including bankers, lecturers, health care practitioners, doctors, nurses, and trained manpower, all of whom were trained in Nigeria and emigrating at a time when their services are needed to build a strong and vibrant economy in Nigeria.
“The House is disturbed that if this scenario continues with our able minds, brains and skilled personnel leaving, Nigeria may fall into a grave crisis in our critical sectors from education to healthcare, thereby making a bad situation worse.”
The lawmaker pointed out that the young population remains one of our greatest assets. “Though the prospects of a growing Nigerians in the Diaspora could be beneficial in a way, it should not be at the expense of our needed manpower,” he added, stressing that it bothers on national pride “when our young bright minds leave the country in droves, conveying an impression that ‘Nigeria is a sinking ship that everyone is rushing to get out of.’”
Agbese also stated that life-changing decisions, whether to stay in one’s country or emigrate, should not be anchored on challenges ranging from insecurity to poor health sector, poor educational system and poor economy, among others.
However, after a ranking member of the House, Dennis Idahosa, seconded the motion, another ranking member, Sada Soli, raised a constitutional point of order to say that the motion would infringe on the fundamental rights of Nigerians if adopted by the chamber.
Soli said, “Chapter 4 of the Constitution is talking about the fundamental rights; and go to Section 35 talking about the personal liberty of an individual. This motion, as it is, looks nationalistic but it contravenes the provisions of the Constitution.
“It is the liberty of a Nigerian if he is qualified and he is normal, and he has all the granted right of movement (to) anywhere he wants. It is the right of a Nigerian if he has the right qualifications, to go anywhere to source for a living. The Constitution of Nigeria allows even dual citizenship, talk less of moving somewhere to earn a living. If we allow this motion on this floor, it contravenes the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Opposing Soli, another ranking member of the House, Ahmad Jaha, argued that the motion was more about the factors causing mass exodus from Nigeria and not a restriction of exit from the country. He urged the lawmakers to “be mindful of the prayers of the motion before killing it.”
Jaha partly said, “The mover of the motion is not praying that everybody should be stopped from going abroad. We should take this into consideration. But it is advising because we have to tell each other the truth; the factors enumerated, which are the actual factors or reasons behind people leaving this country to seek greener pastures somewhere (else).
“What he is trying to say in a nutshell is that the international community has identified the reasons why Nigerians are compelled to go outside the country. What he is saying now is ‘let there be a national summit so that all these factors will be given priority, so that at the end of the day Nigerians will be discouraged from going abroad. So, as far as I am concerned, this motion is apt and it should be considered.”
The immediate past Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase, said “As good as the motion may be, first the fundamental issue raised in the Constitution; no law, including our motions and bills…if you go to Section 1(3) of the Constitution, it says any law that is inconsistent with the Constitution to the extent of that inconsistency is best null and void. So, as far as I am concerned, we have to rule on the point of order (raised by Soli) before we can proceed, otherwise, we will be contributing to the contravention of our own constitution.”
When the Speaker eventually put adoption of the motion to voice vote, the lawmakers unanimously voted against it.
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