Why Nigerians Are Leaving Their Country

Nigerians are leaving their nation in droves to seek greener pastures abroad. Why does this happen? And how bad is the situation? This guide has all the answers.

Leaving your home country for another is a normal part of life nowadays. But many Nigerians have made headlines trying to do just that.

For instance, a 14-year-old lad from Lagos recently landed in Spain aboard a cargo ship. Also, a group of Nigerian nationals who, having been extradited from Libya, are reportedly planning to make another attempt

They’re leaving not because it’s their wish but due to bad leadership, a lack of opportunities, inflation, and socio-economic issues.

Most of them echo that there’s no hope for the country. Life is tough, and it’s hard to see one’s way out of poverty. And when you factor in social issues like police exploitation and harassment by the EFCC and SARS, almost every youth is desperate to leave.

This monumental departure surge is causing a professional talent “brain drain” situation to continue increasing. The problem is common among numerous African nations, but it seems to be more severe in Nigeria.

How Serious Is the Situation?

We’ve become desensitized to reports about African migrants entering Italy illegally on boats and young ones journeying through the Sahara seeking Europe’s greener pastures. Interestingly, even wealthy Nigerians reportedly buy citizenship in the Caribbean and Malta.

But particularly, young professionals are exiting at an alarmingly high rate.

For instance, there were 72,000 registered doctors in the country in 2018, but less than 50% (35,000) practiced locally. The same trend is evident in IT, academia, financial services, and other professions.

The Canadian government also reported that the number of Nigerians earning permanent residency tripled between 2015 and 2019, with over 12,000 emigrating to the country in the latter year alone. Other popular destinations include the United States, Australia, South Africa, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Beyond brain drain, the mass exodus at all levels significantly scars the Nigerian dream and spirit. Does the populace even have a little bit of nationalism left inside them?

While other countries prioritize economic well-being and overall citizen happiness, the Nigerian dream appears to be anchored in the emigration desire. A recent PEW Research report notes that over 45% of adults plan to leave in the next five years.

Nigerian literary works capturing the experiences of migrants are the most widely read. For instance, Americanah, a novel by Chimamanda Adichie, derived its title from the cognomen Nigerians earn if they stay or have stayed abroad.

The country’s enormous movie industry, Nollywood, makes an immense profit selling such aspirations. Recently, the controversial and famous musician, Naira Marley, released Japa (meaning “abscond” in Yoruba), a song that talks about emigration.

This title has become slang among numerous young Nigerians nursing migratory aspirations. 

There’s even a book with the same title, reportedly guiding those wishing to emigrate within six months. Moreover, another Nigerian hit went viral precisely because Bembe Aladisa, the composer, begs for a foreign visa within the song lyrics.

Being an emigrant in Nigeria means a badge of honor and illustrious social capital reserved for you and your family.

Mosques and churches organize prayer and fasting for those with pending visas. Visa applications have become very lucrative in Lagos, and desperation has caused many to be defrauded.

But why are such things happening in a country enriched with immense natural resources and a skilled population? Read on.

Why Are Nigerians Seeking Greener Pastures Away from Home?

The average Nigerian aspires to leave the country. In fact, most won’t mind trying the illegal, most treacherous ways to pursue the promise of greener pastures away from home. Let’s explore some push-factors motivating Nigerians to leave their country. 


High poverty rates in Nigeria have made life miserable compared to a few years back. There were 89.0 million poor people in the country in 2020. This number is expected to hit 95.1 million by the end of 2022.

The situation has worsened due to the country’s high inflation rate of 15.6%, one of the highest in the world. As the poverty levels in the country increase, so does the desperation among its citizen to leave.  

High Unemployment

Every Nigerian youth has the right to a decent job. Unfortunately, there aren’t sufficient employment opportunities as educated professionals face challenges getting the few available vacancies.

The lack of job opportunities has increased the youth unemployment rate to 42.5 percent. Consequently, there has been a sporadic surge in social vices like banditry, armed robbery, and kidnapping. But most crucially, it has motivated many to find greener pastures in other countries.

Poor Human Capital Development

Nigeria hasn’t invested much in human development over the years. The budgetary allocation to the education sector hasn’t exceeded 7% of the entire budget.

Insufficient investment in education has affected the nation’s human development ranking. The nation’s Human Development Index value of 0.539 falls under the low human development category. It’s at position 161 out of 189 territories and countries, meaning citizens struggle with low employment rates and weak economic growth.

Poor Education

Nigeria’s public education sector experiences numerous challenges, including quality, access, funding, cultism, strike, and academic calendar stability. These have caused a steady increase in students’ outflow in search of post-secondary education.

Nigeria has the highest number of scholars chasing their academic dreams in the United States. 

There are over 12,860 Nigerian students in the United States, an increase of 83% from what was recorded in the 2011/12 academic year.

Foreign learning institutions have become more competitive on a global scale due to the high intellectual capacity of Nigerians.


Peacefulness has deteriorated in Nigeria over the last few years. Most violent attacks are mostly economy-based. The 2021 Global Peace Index ranked Nigeria eighth among the least peaceful nations on the continent.

High unemployment and poverty rates have enabled an increase in criminal activities. In 2021, 10,366 people were killed, an increase of 47 percent from the previous year. Another Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project report notes 1,200 kidnappings in the first half of 2021. In 2010, there were only 45.

Impact of Brain Drain On the Economy and Job Market

While the great West African nation has incredibly motivated, resourceful, and creative youths, the constant emigration of skilled professionals has impeded economic growth. Millions of qualified bankers, engineers, and medical doctors have reportedly moved abroad, leading to a loss of skilled workforce.

But human resource exports have immensely benefitted the country, inadvertently turning into a moneymaker for underdeveloped nations. This is due to the remittances that have always been a necessary financial lifeline to such countries.

Nigeria’s significantly massive diaspora base earns the country the largest remittance inflows in Sub-Saharan Africa.

While Nigeria enjoys some economic benefits from the brain drain, the mass resignation of skilled labor continues to threaten the overall development of society and the country. The nation continues losing necessary skills and talent, which could have a long-term impact on the socio-economic value.

Parting Shot

For many, the Nigerian dream is to leave the country. This situation results from numerous leadership, social, and economic issues that force the active population to seek opportunities elsewhere. But while emigration has reached a crisis level in Nigeria, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed.

The government should begin fixing the systemic issues in the country. With such a brilliant and hardworking citizen base, achieving an economy that can accommodate and sustain robust talent and skills shouldn’t be difficult.