KEYNOTE SPEECH DELIVERED BY AMBASSADOR AKINREMI BOLAJI DIRECTOR CONSULAR AND LEGAL DEPARTMENT MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, NIGERIA AT THE 2021 WEST AFRICAN MEDIA AND MIGRATION SUMMIT ORGANIZED BY THE JOURNALISTS INTERNATIONAL FORUM FOR MIGRATION (JIFORM) ON TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2021 AT THE AGORA SENGHOR, LOME, TOGO.

Protocols.

It is my honour and pleasure to address this esteemed gathering of journalists and other media professionals as the keynote speaker at what I deem a great summit, to emphasise the power of information and the importance of the media to human mobility and Diaspora matters.

Nigeria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama
President, Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM), Ajibola Abayomi (left) presenting the African Diplomatic Award to the former Nigerian ambassador to Singapore, Bolaji Alade Akinremi at the West African Media Migration Summit in Lome Togo on June 22, 2021 while Hon Christian Bankole from Benin Republic watches from the right

Life, it must be said, is meaningful only to the extent of the information a man controls or has access to. And his or her economic well-being is better guaranteed with a certain wealth of ideas.

I therefore congratulate the organizers of this summit which seeks to address the issue of the media and the dynamics of migration.  I also commend you for the robust sessions that have been lined up as well as the high-calibre faculty you have put together.  

The summit couldn’t have come at a better time.

As we journey through a new chapter in the history of the West African region, with human mobility now at the core of political and economic planning, your organization is a veritable partner and your ideas are germane to the exertions of our people and governments.

It is important to state that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has over the years monitored the activities of the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) and I am not only proud of the organization, we shall continue to support its activities on migration matters both within and outside Africa.

 The theme of this summit: Reappraising Migration Reportage And Its Impact On The West African is very apt and goes to the core of how the information dissemination professions and professionals help all humans in the choices they make in order to make life meaningful.

The trend of international migration is usually from the less developed nations to more developed ones. This explains why Nigeria, with it’s over 200 million people, has it’s citizens in every nook and corner of the globe. It is also important to understand that there is a connection between globalization and migration. As it brings economies closer in an inter-related manner, it has become easier for people to either move to other branches of the same organization, or sell their abilities to other competitors. So, globalization causes migration and migration contributes to the intensification of socioeconomic and political relations across borders. Globalization has indeed dislocated millions of people and set in motion population movements that are now hard for anyone to control.

Migration has major impact on both the people and the places involved in it. When supported with appropriate policies, however, migration can contribute to inclusive and sustainable development in both origin and destination countries, while also benefitting migrants and their families.

3. The International Migration 2019 report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) stated that the number of international migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million in 2019. This represents an increase of 51 million since 2010. Currently, international migrants comprise 3.5 per cent of the global population, compared to 2.8 per cent in the year 2000. 

In 2019, regionally, Europe hosted the largest number of international migrants (82 million), followed by Northern America (59 million) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (49 million).

Nigeria reportedly accounts for about 51% of the total African migrant population, with an average number of more than 20 million people. Majority of these migrants are irregular, meaning they travelled through unusual routes and are therefore without the necessary documentation to reside freely and legally in those countries.

For this reason, Nigeria has created or strengthened about five (5) government agencies to contribute to the fight against irregular migration. Additionally, Nigeria has put in place some administrative instruments that would ensure enhanced results in the implementation of migration-related programmes and projects. They are the National Migration Policy (2015), Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Enforcement Act (2003), as amended in 2015, Nigeria Immigration Act, amended in 2015, National Drug Law Enforcement Act, amended in 2015, and the Labour Migration Policy (2015).

A main challenge for our Ministry is the number of Nigerian nationals in irregular migration and who are involved in various criminal activities such as drug trafficking, financial crimes, human trafficking, prostitution, armed robbery, and other sundry crimes such as passports and visa racketeering.

In this regard and to ensure humane and dignified treatment of the large number of irregular Nigerian migrants, Nigeria has signed Partnership Agreements with many countries. The Partnerships are project-based with provisions for technical assistance, capacity building of technical experts from various Ministries/Agencies such as Ministries of Justice, Interior, Labour, Trade, Nigeria Immigration Service, NAPTIP, NDLEA and National Commission for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons.  

The Ministry, through Missions, also monitors and protects the welfare of Nigerians through regular assistance when in dispute with host nationals, assistance to the destitute, prison visits, court appearance for those awaiting trial to ensure fair trial and provision of medical assistance to stranded and destitute Nigerians.

As an institution, the media is very crucial to the development of every human society and growth of every human being.

The media, directly or indirectly, is behind the decision on the destination of the over 270 million international migrants as recorded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as at 2020-2021.

As the custodians and disseminators of information, carrying out the duty of informing, entertaining and educating among other things, you are the controllers of hearts and minds. Therefore, your role is very crucial in the reportage of migrant issues and migration governance.

Migration precedes diaspora. People must migrate before they become diasporans. In this regard, I am particularly impressed with the contributions of the JIFORM to the promotion of safe, orderly and regular migration.

The only way migration can be profitable is when it is regulated and regular in accordance with the international laws and best practices. I want to encourage all of us, particularly the media professionals, to do more on regular migration advocacy because many of the Africans who are into irregular migration through the unapproved routes like the desert and the Mediterranean Sea always end up in sorrow and death. These, we must prevent through our work by shining the light on the benefits of regular migration and the perils of the irregular option.

According to a report by The Project based on the IOM data published on April 4, 2020, out of the 5,303 migrants who died on their journeys in 2019, at least 1,885 migrants perished in the Mediterranean Sea. On land, 1,887 migrants died, with 981 of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, 782 in Northern Africa and 124 in the Horn of Africa region.

If the major reason the people take to those dangerous routes is survival, then, we have a duty to work with the governments in our respective countries to improve our economies. But governments cannot do it alone. All of us and especially you, journalists as well as other stakeholders must be involved. Education is key. Information is collective power and individual strength. When we educate our people and keep them well-informed they will chose wisely.

Diaspora values and contributions are very crucial to the sustainability of the West African economy. In 2019 alone, the international remittances that flowed from abroad to Sub-Saharan Africa was rated over $46 billion. No doubt, this region has millions of successful professionals across the globe and it is very important to continue to integrate them into our systems.

Let me conclude here by saying we are not unmindful of the slavery of many African women especially in the Middle East. Nigeria is taking the lead by rescuing her citizens and embracing the decent work strategy aimed at providing better working conditions for the labour migrants. But beyond that, a system is being evolved to reintegrate the returnees into our communities. 

On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria, I thank you for the recognition being accorded our little efforts.

I accept the Distinguished African Legendary Migration Award you are conferring on me today with humility and as a call to further duty.

Thank you all.

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