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Many Nigerians ready to checkout now as economy bites harder

Many doubted the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) when it raised the alarm that as of October 2022, there were only 10,000 resident doctors in the country.

That figure is fast increasing as data obtained from the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, as of January this year, disclosed that at least 85percent of Nigerian doctors are planning to leave the country to seek greener pastures abroad, where renumeration is incredibly high, working conditions good and economy is friendly.

Apart from the medical profession, the migration wave is significantly affecting Nigeria’s tech ecosystem with over 474 Nigerian tech talents reported to have left the country between 2014 and 2021 to the UK via the UK government’s Tech Talent Visa, which allows tech talent to work in the country’s digital technology sector.

Yet, more are being wooed by American technology companies.

Of course, more have left since then, while many across other sectors and even those without skills or educational certification are leaving in droves.

While this is a concern as the best of the country and most importantly, the youthful and productive population are leaving, the exodus of citizens abroad for greener pastures was among the issues for the campaign of one of the presidential candidates whose slogan was ‘Let’s fix Nigeria,’ though he lost.

Sadly, the removal of subsidy on May 29, 2023 by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has impacted inflation a great deal with a resultant effect on unemployment rate and a major wave of migration setting in for disgruntled citizens.

According to KPMG Nigeria, fuel subsidy removal will likely push the inflation rate to 30 percent in June 2023, from 22.22 percent in May, while unemployment is expected to rise to 40.6 percent.

With all these negative projections and realities, there is a concern that more Nigerians, especially those who have been skeptical on leaving the country, will now have good reasons to jet out.

According to Jude Adashi, a recruitment agent for some foreign firms, apart from those leaving on their own, majority of those leaving have contacts or job offers abroad.

With the worsening economic hardship, and low purchasing power, Adashi thinks that more people are likely going to leave the country for greener pastures.

“Nigerian professionals are sought-after abroad because they work very hard and are really good on the job despite the poor education standard here, though many of them schooled abroad,” he said as part of the reasons the brain drain will continue.

Again, he noted that the huge renumeration is wooing more to leave now as Naira keeps losing value and will further depreciate with the subsidy removal.

“Many young nurses we approach are willing to leave on hearing that the salary of a nurse in the UK is more than that of a consultant in a government hospital in Nigeria,” he explained.

Medeme Osaghele, a senior technology officer in a leading telecom firm in Lagos, decried that he has lost over 10 skilled colleagues to US technology companies and that they keep asking what he is still doing in Nigeria in the face of the economic and security challenges.

“Of course, they are right and with the recent development, which sees the masses suffering for the inaction of the government in fixing the refineries, many professionals like us are being forced to relocate abroad not necessarily for better life, but to enjoy our sweat in peace,” the technology expert, who has made up his mind to join peers in the US, said.

Osaghele regrets that it is mostly the under 30; the youthful population, that are leaving, but that no one would want to miss golden opportunities abroad, especially when you are being wooed with high salary in hard currency and when hope seems to be lost in fixing Nigeria.

“It is like a circle, Mr. A comes makes promises, eat his national cake with cronies and goes and another comes and does same, while the masses suffer. Instead of subsidy, it should have been fixing the refineries or licensing more private refineries to curb importation cost for the eight years of the last administration and save the poor masses from suffering untold hardship. Just tell me what the poor has benefited from the over 20 years of democracy in Nigeria if not suffering from those that forecefully buy their votes,” he said.

Chijioke Umelahi, an Abuja-based lawyer, noted that the “so called” bigmen are also impacted as their billions in the bank keep depreciating in value every day, leaving them with the option of relocating or maintaining families abroad.

“Nigerian politicians and the elite have since relocated abroad, not for greener pastures, but for safety and enjoying their loots without the preying eyes of the poor masses.

“There is hardly any Nigerian politician, top corporate or business executives that does not have family abroad. “They all maintain families out there and it is now a status thing and more are going to toe same line as the economy bites harder because it is cheaper to live abroad now,” he said.

In support of Umelahi’s observation, Adashi said that truly it is becoming cheaper to live abroad considering that the Naira seems helpless in its free fall.

With insecurity, continued depreciation of Naira, worsened by the recent removal of subsidy, high inflation resulting in low purchasing power, and insincerity of the leaders, Adashi lamented that more Nigerians, especially those who were previously against relocating abroad, will reconsider their stand and move if they can afford it.

“I hope the country will not be empty when the real exodus begins because both the Cedi and Cefa are far higher than Naira now and the strength of these African currencies are now big draws for the average Nigerian who cannot afford the cost of relocating to European and American countries,” Adashi said.

Kayode Oluwadare, an oil and gas expert, is of the view that if not properly handled, the fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria could cause inflation and reduce economic welfare, hurt economic growth and reduce household income.

Citing the inflation report that was recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Oluwadare said core (all items’) inflation is currently at 18.84% because of fuel, gas and lubricant prices across states.

Many experts have warned that the removal of subsidies would be bad if the government doesn’t implement a transparent system for redirecting and monitoring the use of funds from the fuel subsidy programme so that its citizens can review and scrutinise the expenditure.

“If implemented correctly, the subsidy funds could lead to major development gains. Moreover, the removal of the fuel subsidy if successfully implemented creates the space for Nigeria to finally develop refinery capacity and consequently increase its potential revenue from the oil sector and create jobs,” Tope Oseni, public policy analyst, said.

Mike Osatuyi, a petroleum industry expert, said subsidy removal will heighten inflation if the government does not put measures in place on the fiscal and monetary sides of its policy.

According to him, “We must increase our productivity and production capacity and investment drive for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). With deregulation, more investment will also come in.

“Initially, Nigeria can expect a tough transition on deregulated petrol. It will reduce the arbitrage and incentive for smuggling as price parity will be achieved and as such, our demand will drop.”

The success of any government intervention programs rests on having proper oversight and participation of civil society.

So, the current hardship occasioned by the removal of subsidy would only make life more unbearable for Nigerians and increase desperation to seek greener pastures abroad.

“Even before the removal of the subsidy, are Nigerians not leaving the country? The current situation would only leave more people attempting to leave, it is clear. I mean it is apparent inflation would rise, because prices of everything is up”.

“The government should assemble a committee of key civil society organisations to oversee the investment of these funds.

“Unlike the fuel subsidy itself, these programmes should be targeted toward helping the poor including programmes to reduce maternal and infant mortality and improve road quality and access. Most importantly, the programmes must be tied to Nigeria’s overall development goals,” Usen Udofia, an economist, said.

Idowu Omolegan, lawyer and public affairs analyst, said he does not think the government will implement any programme to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians, stressing that experience from the past shows that government does not keep promises.

He further said that desperation to leave the country, especially among the youth is at all time high, adding that the current government policy will further heighten it.

“If you have the chance would you not leave? But, I don’t think the Tinubu administration would do anything to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians. They have promised; let watch and see.

“I mean you would have expected there should be a clear programme or government intervention, aimed at reducing people’s suffering this period. The prices of everything is up.

“It is just the character of our leaders and previous governments and I would not be surprised if this is the same,” he said.

Source: Business Day