Chukwuma Soludo on 17m Diaspora Nigerians!

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Feb 4th, 2013

Former Nigeria Central Bank Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, while a reasonably well educated man, is often ambitious in his utterances using numbers.

In a recent write up, he said Nigeria may be losing value of its 17m Diaspora population. While his view on losing connection is right, Mr. Soludo is far off on Nigeria having 17m Nigerians outside of Nigeria. Assuming Mr. Soludo is right, which any seasoned demographer and population expert will challenge him on, it means in the top 10 countries Nigeria like to migrate, there is a reasonable likelihood of 1.7m Nigerians in such country. That is not true and cannot be supported by statistical inference, modeling and or simulation.


Statistically and using inferences from well documented demographers, there is a rule of thumbs on migration and representation of persons from their native land in other countries. That rule of thumb states that 3-5 percent are typically the number of persons that may migrate from their native land. Using this rule of thumb, the most likely maximum number of Nigerians outside Nigeria will fall in the neighborhood of 8m on the high side while 4.8m will represent a reasonable estimate.


Diaspora basically applies to first generation of a nation’s people in another country. The second generation – of same ancestry connection to their parent[s] native often wanes as the years roll by. Most Nigerian born kids in US and UK, and those that came when they were in single digit ages, hardly identifies strongly with the native country of their parent[s]. While they speak to their parent[s] ancestry, they are not culturally engaged or involved emotionally and sentimentally as their parent[s]. It is with those who migrated as adults and still maintain ties that benefits may be gained from – remittances. Second generation are not likely to remit money as first generation did, and their interests are typically reduces to visits and tourism??, out of curiosity without emotional or physical investment.


Outside of UK and US, Nigerians population in most countries are very small. In US, the concentration of Nigerians are in Texas – Houston/Dallas while there are few in Austin/San Antonio/El Paso. In California, LA has good share while Sacramento, San Diego, The Bay area – Oakland and San Francisco have some number. The tri-state area – New York/NJ/Connecticut has good concentration while DC/Baltimore/Virginia has good number. In all, Nigerians in US are less than one million. In the Midwest: Chicago, Minnesota, Missouri, one sees highest numbers in Chicago; old stock and the number trickles down from there. In US, the states with warmer climate appeals to Nigerians than the colder ones.


Nigerians’ migration to US saw its peak in 70-85 time window, given US sympathy extended to majority from the old Eastern Nigeria – mainly Igbos, who sought to get education as reason for going to US, and strong Naira value that made its easy. From mid 80s to date, Nigerians coming to US have dropped significantly even though Nigerian born Americans have increased. Changes in population is affected by births and death, and reverse migration, therefore, the number somehow re-balances itself. Since 1970 on the average, US never in any given year issued 5,000 to Nigerians, and assuming they did – highly improbable, that is 43 years times 5,000 visas: You do the math.


While the first Nigerian was recorded to migrate to US in 1918 – a student from Hope Waddell Institute in Calabar, after 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria, hence 95 years of continued presence, the migration was nipped in the 1940s when US immigration was driven by quota system – meaning certain percentage of persons from their native land were allowed in. Note, anyone that came to US from Nigeria before 1914, was not recorded as a Nigerian because the country’s corporeal name did not exist. The 1940s not a favorable period for Nigerians/Africans coming to US, given that the black population was largely under bondage, colonized Nigerians/Africans were not accorded the benefits of the quota system. Those that came were strictly for education and it was more a trickle than migration. Therefore, Nigerians’ migration witnessed arrested movement. There were sporadic migration mainly those seeking education in the 50s and 60s, using mainly scholarships offered by then regional governments.


That not withstanding, Mr. Soludo’s point are noted but his figures are bogus and very improbable given measures and sampling often used to estimate population movement as it relates to migration. If one out of every 5-6 black persons, is a Nigerian and the world’s black population stands close to one 1.5 billion, it means about 11% are Nigerians.


To take a leap of faith by extrapolation saying 17m Nigerians live outside of Nigeria, is a stretch. Soludo’s number falls outside of the range generally accepted in such demographic study. But he may know what many do not know. But why would anyone believe him given his dismal performance as Economic Adviser and Nigeria Central Bank Governor, where he got all his numbers screwed up.


Served as a member of 2000 US Census Complete Count Committee, for Dallas region, and participated in many after census studies and surveys relating to Nigerians in DFW region.

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