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A Sociological Analysis of Migration: SDGs & IDPs in Nigeria

Migration, undoubtedly, is an interesting social phenomenon for sociologists and social researchers as it entails movement of people over space and time lasting between six months and one year. This movement which is of great interest to sociologists and social researchers may be precipitately caused by economic factors, environmental disasters such as earthquake, desertification, flooding, erosion, etc. However, social factors are not negated in necessitating migration and these social factors could be social conflict, violence, insecurity, wars, etc.

Nevertheless, this movement could be of personal volition which could either occur within a country’s borderlines or across it. And if it’s within the national borderline of a country, it’s referred to as’ internal migration while if it’s across a country’s national borderline, it’s referred to as ‘international migration’.

Why do Nigerians Migrate?

Migration between countries is a pivotal part of population changes. The recent widespread of economic hardship in most developing countries like Nigeria have resulted in an increased rate of migration of Nigerians to other countries for better opportunities or improvement in the standards of living, jobs, healthcare, education, etc. However, indigenes of the host countries tends to see Nigerian migrants as rivals who are taking up job opportunities meant for them.

This perception has resulted in the initiation of more restive policies to deter intending Nigerian migrants. Additionally, racial discrimination and xenophobic attitudes toward foreigners have been reported in South Africa where foreigners, especially Nigerians, were killed and their properties destroyed through xenophobic attacks. A similar incident took place in Ghana where shops belonging to Nigerians were allegedly attacked and looted. Even given these incidences, people still migrate to avoid conflict, persecution, environmental degradation and many more.

Effects of International Migration

First, international migration by Nigerians bring about breakage of the family bond or structure and could also lead to brain drain. Secondly, it can bring about waste of income through abuse and exploitation which can lead to lost of lives in the cost of traveling illegally to another country. This is why the International Organization for Migration reported that “between 2004-20018, the number of international migrants that died or went missing in migration to foreign countries was over 25 thousand which included both men and women.”

Theoretical Analysis on why Nigerians Migrate

There are several theories which seeks to demystify why people migrate and these sociological theories could be used to explain the reason why Nigerians migrate.

Neoclassical Theory

Neoclassical theory of migration considers individual migrants as rational actors who migrate from a society where labour is abundant and wages are low to another society where labor is scarce and wages are higher. Therefore decisions to migrate are individualistic and earning high wages or better living conditions are the motivating factors for migration. This theory explains the effects of labour migration on development and stresses that international migration, especially by Nigerians, occurs because of the imbalance between demand and supply of labor.

New-economic Theory

New-economic theory of migration views migrants’ decisions to migrate as “a result of the society’s influence which indicated that migrants’ decisions are collective, specifically at the family or household level with the aim of increasing the family’s level of income through remittances which the migrants sends back to their country of origin. However, remittance is considered the most important factor that motivates migrants to migration.” This condition is mostly applicable to developing nations like Nigeria and the Yoruba people of the southern Nigeria where a member of the family is encouraged/sponsored to migrate by others to improve the family’s economic status.

Network-system Theory

Network-system theory of migration focuses on the “connection between country of origin and the country of destination. According to this theory, migrants’ movements are often linked with the connection an individual migrant has with members in the receiving country.” In other word, network system theory refers to the set of interpersonal links a migrant has with the relative or fellow countrymen in the country of destination who provide or convey relevant information, remittances, as well as employment opportunities, accommodation and other forms of support. This connection however, provides a platform for social coastal upon which migrants begin their careers.

Migration System Theory

Migration system theory is similar to the network system theory. However, it emphasizes the “geographical proximity that influences migrants to migrate.” However, the concept of migration system theory was used to refer to exchange of goods, services and information and consider migration as a dynamic process where nations are connected to information by various ways of linkage. The decision to migrate is both individualistic and collective. This theory also links migration to development stating that remittance sent home by migrants can improve the socio-economic lives of people in the country of origin, e.g., Nigeria and Chad or Nigeria and Niger.

World System Theory

World system theory of migration is of the view that “migration is a byproduct of capitalism. The contemporary pattern tends to be the inflow of migrants from developing countries to developed nations or societies where the capital and machineries are usually in abundance.” However, the inflow of migrants may increase internal migration which may increase international migration which may cause unemployment particularly among the youths in urban areas. These issues may end up initiating another circle of migration to more developed countries, e.g., Ghana to Nigeria or Niger to Nigeria migration leading to overpopulation in Nigeria.

Dual Labour Market Theory

Dual labour market theory of migration also called segmented theory of migration is of “the view that what induces individuals to migrate comes from the need for labour in developing economies where labours are grouped into primary and secondary. The primary labour group composes of native workers who receive higher wages, good working conditions and job security while the secondary labour category is for migrants and is characterized by low wages, hazardous working condition and lack of job security.” Once again, we see a connection between migration and development from this theoretical perspective.

Social Transformation Theory

Social change or social transformation theory of migration argues that “migration is part of the institutional and global economy which affects the existing social order of the receiving countries of destination significantly.” In other words, migration leads to social change or social transformation globally.

Linkages between Migration and SDGs

Migration is an important factor in the quest to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs) because it facilitates development on one hand but results in problems on the other hand. Potential issues include human trafficking, exploitation, living in unhealthy environment, etc. The principle of SDGs is no one is left behind in the realization of those goals, including migrants.

However, due to the likelihood of migrants finding themselves in a situation of vulnerability and issues as mentioned above, the principle of leaving no one behind espoused by SDGs could be jeopardized if the issues that caused these problems and vulnerabilities are not addressed. Migration does not constitute a concern to development, but rather facilitates it. Therefore, migration-sustainable development goals linkages underpin the importance of initiating migration policies that ensure the achievement of SDGs are not endangered by migration. According to International Organization for Migration in 2006, “countries could record improvement in economic development with good migration policies.”

Trajectory of IDPs and Migration in Nigeria

Forced migration and internal displacement into Nigeria is not a new phenomenon. In the last 50 years of independence, the highest recorded numbers of incidents of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been triggered by violent conflict. The first incidence can be traced back to the civil war also known as BIAFRAN war from 1967-1970. Although, it’s difficult to determine the exact number of people displaced during this period due to conflicting figures and unreliable data.

Several sources have estimated over 20 million people were displaced or in need of humanitarian assistance within and across the borders during the war. The International Committee of the Red Cross in its 1969 international review declared the provision of food and medical support to 850,000 people, many of which were children.

However, from September to the end of October 1970, a mass movement of over one million displaced persons were evacuated from the northern region to the southern region of Nigeria during a period of one month alone. In 1989, following the Liberian Civil war, “thousands of Liberian refugees were found stranded at the shores of Nigerian seaport in Apapa, Lagos state. The then Military government provided immediate protection to the population and relocated them…The federal government went on to enact decree number 52, which brought about the setting up of the National Commission for refugees.”

The majority of the inter-communal and ethnic clashes that have led to the displacements occurred in Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue state between 2000 and 2002 and have centered around issues of land, boundaries and indigene/settlers crisis. Other specific examples include Kaduna in the Northwest in the 1990s which escalated in 2000. By 2002, more than 30,000 people were displaced during the four days of another religious riot in Kaduna. This riot caused large scale population displacement leading to a sharp segregation of communities in some areas.

Further, between 2003 and 2008, the National Commission for Refugees “estimated at least 3.2 million people were displaced due to ethnic and religious conflicts from and within various states in the country.” Thousands are also displaced annually as a result of environmental degradation and national disasters such as erosion in southeast Nigeria, flooding in North central Nigeria and oil spillage and development project in South-South Niger delta.

Final Thoughts on Migration within and away from Nigeria

Migration has various causes and effects on development of nations, including those that see migrants joining their nation, and those who see migrants leaving for better economic opportunities. Sociological theories can help us understand the causes and effects for various circumstances, making them a vital perspective in understanding migration, SDGs, and IDPs.

Migration Research with Social Science Insights

Hassan Idris

Hassan Idris is from Kogi state Nigeria, a writer, poet, essayist, a graduate of Sociology and Anthropology from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-Nigeria. He’s a member of the Creative writer’s Club, A. B. U Zaria, Creative Club Gombe State University, Northern writer’s Summit, Risingyouth, and Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation. His works have appeared on Dailyfocus,Peoples Daily Newspaper, Daily Trust Newspaper, Wadata TV, Nigeria, Teemika Media, Yodelehub, The Abusites, Campus Info, All, Opera news, League Of Writers Magazine, Parrot Africaprimenews, Opinionnigeria, Libretto magazine and Applied Worldwide (USA). He’s a guest writer/Contributor for Applied Worldwide (USA), Chairman, Benue Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation branch and an editor with Wadata TV, Nigeria.