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Abuja Youth Concert Raises Awareness of Clandestine Migration

  • Gilbert da Costa

Young people who see migration as the only escape from economic hardship at home

Nigeria's capital Abuja is hosting a big concert this weekend to draw attention to the growing problem of illegal migration, especially by young people who see migration as the only escape from economic hardship at home.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest energy producer and its second biggest economy. But corruption and bad governance have long kept oil revenues from making life better for ordinary Nigerians.

Nine out of ten Nigerians survive on less than $2 a day, their lives blighted by poor infrastructure and a lack of public services resulting from decades of endemic corruption. High unemployment rates and dreams of landing lucrative jobs abroad have prodded young Nigerians to leave in record numbers in search of a better life elsewhere.

One of Nigeria's top musicians, Charles Oputa popularly known as Charly Boy, knows too well about the inherent difficulties illegal migrants face in Europe and elsewhere having met several of them during his numerous tours abroad.

The Charly Boy Show Live this weekend is a key component of the musician's campaign to raise awareness among young people about the dangers of illegal migration. Oputa spoke to VOA in Abuja. "I am not just talking about people who are wanting to go abroad the honorable way, like going to the embassies, getting a visa. I am looking at the people who are trekking through the Sahara desert going to countries like Tunisia to escape in a canoe, half of them drowning in the ocean and getting and being stranded and not knowing what to do with themselves, and they are too ashamed to make a u-turn, come back home. If they are sick they can't go to the hospital because they don't have the right papers," he said.

Several of Nigeria's known artists are billed to perform at the all-night charity concert, which also hopes to raise money to support Nigerians stranded abroad and who wish to return home. Oputa says it is important that returnees are helped to acquire skills that could guarantee them a livelihood.

"It is okay to talk about the problem, but if they come home what are the alternatives? And this is what we are trying to establish in Nigeria, the alternatives to say if you don't have enough money to get a formal education, you can get education in a place of your choice, in the profession of your choice. Not all of us should be in the university, get degrees. Some of us are good painters, some of us are good singers, good footballers. We can all develop our God-given talents," he said.

Social commentators argue that the problem of illegal migration will persist in the midst of stifling conditions and a pervasive sense of deprivation.