Why govt should support Nigerians to travel abroad –Teriba

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Tunde Ajaja

An economist and Chief Executive Officer, Economic Associates, Dr Ayo Teriba, has called on government at all levels to support Nigerians to travel abroad, whether as migrants or for educational and other related purposes.

He noted that it is archaic to view migration as brain drain, noting that some developed countries sponsor their citizens to other countries to acquire skills and education, and in turn make a lot of money from remittances and knowledge transfer.

Teriba was one of the lead discussants at the 2021 Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies Roundtable, tagged ‘Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability of Nigerian States’, which held virtually a few days ago. The event was chaired by CIAPS Director, Prof Anthony Kila.

There have been concerns over the rate at which Nigerians, including professionals, were relocating abroad, especially Canada and the United States, with many expressing fears that this could have severe negative impact on the country in the coming years.

 But Teriba disagreed, saying migration should now be viewed as brain gain.

He said, “Philippines train housekeepers and help them to migrate and they support them in their destinations. Beyond that, they train nurses and sailors and enable them to travel abroad. That is how your human capital can earn foreign income for you through remittances.

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China is at the backyard of every country, with its China town and Chinese restaurant, and with these they have created an official migration path for their citizens. If you go to those places you meet Chinese there.

“If I want to choose a university to study, I still go to Cambridge or Harvard. I won’t go to any Chinese university. How come those who do not have such academic holy land are now overtaking Europe and the United States in technology, for example 5G technology. That is their gain. They took advantage of the migration path.

“China, South Korea and India sponsor their youths in thousands for PhD abroad. Those who want to come back can do so while those who want to stay can stay. That is how they are catching up and overtaking the western countries in technology.

“So, Nigeria needs to look at its citizens and stop denying the fact that the youths have a natural desire to migrate. Help them to migrate. Support them and if they don’t come back, they would send money home and you would be better off for it. The current way countries view migration is to see it not as brain drain but brain gain.”

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Citing examples of how countries made money from remittances from their nationals abroad, Teriba said in 2019, India got $80bn from remittances while China got $70bn. “So, support your nationals to go abroad and dividends would come to you, in the form of remittances,” he added.

“Nigeria needs the money to move the country forward. We are broke. We have one of the highest populations in the world and you are talking about brain drain? If you give some underprivileged persons some skills that they can go and use abroad, you reduce the number of the poor.”

He lamented that it was said states and the Federal Government have neglected human capital, whether by equipping the people with education or skills.

…seeks more focus on states

Teriba also called for more focus on states, adding that every state is viable if only they recognise their strength. He said they should also focus on generating investments and not just revenue.

He added, “I disagree with the common belief that some states are not viable, I believe every state is viable. You only need to point to where their strength is. States should look at their internal revenue generating capacity, particularly, the revenue intensity of the different sectors. They should then apply more efforts where more revenue would come from.”

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He said states and the Federal Government had paid more attention to revenue than on investment. “States need to link assets to their borrowing, liberalise sectors where they have monopoly, commercialise assets to close value gap and see how they can unlock liquidity from their balance sheets,” he added.

Kila also stressed that it was wrong to focus all attention on the Federal Government alone, adding that the discourse was about how states manage their economy. He added, “Ideally, we should be focusing on the states. I would even argue that we should be focusing on the local governments. Part of what we want to do is to look at the performances of these states and see how to help them improve.”

Other panellists were the Managing Director, The Point Newspapers, Mrs Yemi Kolapo; Mr Rotimi Olarewaju of CIAPS and the Executive Editor, Businessnewscorp, Mr Phillip Isakpa.

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