The recurring question I answered during my 9-day trip to the United Arab Emirates was “why am I keen to return to Nigeria”, and the follow-up question in most instances was “you must be making so much money in Nigeria.”
The UAE, in 2022, has a population of 10.08 Million with immigrants constituting around 88.52% of the population (8.92 million immigrants) and the nationals only amount to 11.48% ( 1.16 million Emiratis).
Many Nigerians, young and old, through various social media platforms, have expressed keen interest to ‘japa’, a term that is usually used to mean they want to relocate out of the country. Some of those who want to migrate are either seeking educational or career opportunities. On the other hand, some are just eager to leave the country unsure of what the future holds in the country they’re relocating to.
My interactions with many of the immigrants (mostly Nigerian, Ugandan, Pakistani, and Indians) during my trip indicated that several of them came into the city for greener pasture, but what they met was a contrast to their expectations as the reality was far different than they had imagined, but would rather continue to ‘try their luck’ than return to their country home.
Some left the shores of their countries with no hope of work, arrive in the UAE as tourists, and ‘hustle’ for jobs either through individual search, referrals, or agencies. Some also left their countries because of the perception that ‘it can never be as bad as where I am coming from’.
One of the concerns for migrants in the UAE is the constant need to renew their visas because the application for a residence permit could be tedious.
Some renew their visas on a three-month basis because you’re expected to be a tourist.
A Nigerian who chose to be anonymous shared that “I have been working here for almost two years, and I have to renew my visa every three months. The company I work for would not help me to get a work permit, it is my responsibility to ensure that I have a valid visa, and I do that every three months and this cost me a lot.”
Tonye Idris (pseudonym) seems to appear that luck has shined upon him as he currently holds a three-year resident permit. He remarked that “to get a work permit here, Na God o”.
Idris explained that the cost of living in the UAE is high and anyone without a valid visa would be not be employed and life would be miserable for such a person, “that is the reason people apply for visa extension every three months if they do not have a work permit.”
However, many Nigerians who are currently in the UAE have expressed optimism that the recent visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the new UAE president, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, might build diplomatic ties between both countries and possibly address the current challenges of work permit.
Speaking about the increase in migration over time, Migration Expert, Enitan Ibironke shared that, “migration is your right, however, if you must migrate, do it properly and after weighing all the options.”
I am back in Nigeria, with poor electricity, and some people still think I made the wrong decision to return, I do not blame anyone, but it is not as easy as you think, and as Ibironke mentioned, you can ‘japa’ once you’re sure of your plans and actions.