DAMILOLA AINA examines why some Nigerians disposed of their properties in distress sale to raise money to migrate in search of greener pastures
Mrs Sola Seun, a woman in her early 30s had always planned to migrate abroad with her family but the loss of her job during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated her plans to pursue a post-graduate degree oversee.
She finally got her desire in late 2020 after her application for a student visa was approved; and in no time, she was out of the country for greener pastures.
But as it is with many Nigerians living abroad, loneliness crept in and the thought of relocating her family- husband and two kids- became necessary.
It should not too be difficult, she thought. But to her surprise, the fund required to relocate her family exceeded her budget.
Narrating her experience with our correspondent via WhatsApp, she said the only option was to raise more money by selling her household items and furniture and renting out her three-bedroom apartment in Abuja.
She said, “The planning process to relocate was very smooth and it was through a student visa. I travelled out of the country in late 2020 after the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We spent N4.1 million to process our visa. I was on the verge of losing my job. And for the sake of my kids, I had to look for other options.
“We needed more funds when my husband and two daughters were to join me because we had exhausted our initial savings.”
According to her, the amount raised was meagre but it saved her second daughter from being stranded and left alone in Nigeria.
She said, “After running around, we had to put our property for rent but we sold all the furniture and household items to raise the needed amount of N350,000 that was to cater for the flight ticket for my last daughter.”
Having spent two years in the United Kingdom, she described her relocation abroad as the best decision of her life but would in the future return to the country for vacation.
“That decision was the best I have ever made although I would still want to come back to Nigeria.”
Mrs Olayemi Alademola did not know she may need to sell properties to complete her Japa project until it was time to show proof of funds at the embassy.
Yemi, who was seven months pregnant at the time of travelling, chose to use the academic route to relocate abroad.
The entire process gulped N20m but the family’s entire savings was only N8m when the process started in early 2022.
Speaking with our correspondent, she said the process was smooth and not overwhelming until it was time to show proof of funds.
According to Wikipedia, proof of funds is a document proving that a person or a company has the financial ability to perform a transaction.
Although the plan had been on for two years, it was nerve-wracking to sell household items, furniture and other properties to raise more money, she said.
“The planning process was at first not overwhelming because I was actually considering relocating to another country.
“We had been working on the plan since 2020 but when the slot for the United Kingdom came up, I applied through a student visa in April 2022.
“The total money needed for the project for a family of three was about N20m even though we had planned only N8m.
“It was at the proof of funds that we decided to source for more funds and that coincidentally was when the price for dollars increased heavily.
“Our previous calculations were not working, so we had no choice but to sell some of our properties to achieve the goals.
“We sold our household utensils, furniture, electronics even our car and the amount we sold then was not equivalent to what we were expecting because it was an urgent sale.”
She said she has no regrets about selling her properties to Japa.
“This place is worth more than any regrets. Assuming I knew about this plan earlier, I would have sold a lot of things and probably finished the process earlier in 2020.
“Yes, you have to work but you get your money at the end of the day, unlike Nigeria where salaries are owed.
“However, anyone who wants to go through a student visa should not do so if they don’t have a family. It is very expensive for a single person,” she concluded.
Although migration is a global phenomenon, in Nigeria’s case, the best brains such as doctors/nurses, tech workers and recently teachers have been leaving the country in droves as a way of escape from the challenging economic situation. They are in search of a better life that the country has not been able to offer.
Experts say the gloomy economic situation of the country is the major reason for the upsurge of the Japa syndrome in recent times.
Japa, a Yoruba word meaning “to run or escape,” has become a popular slang among GenZ Nigerians, who are trying to or have travelled abroad in search of better opportunities.
According to the United Nations International Migration report, as of 2020, a total of 1.67million Nigerians were international migrants around the world.
The PUNCH had on November 29, 2022, reported that the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors claimed it had been hit by a mass migration of its members with only about 10,000 resident doctors left in the country. The association said the manpower shortage has caused available resident doctors to be overworked.
There have been several reports on brain drain in recent times, and this cuts across all sectors including health, education, tech, etc.
The United Kingdom also in a circular issued recently announced that from February 2023, Nigerian citizens would be able to get jobs in the UK as a teacher. A move perceived to lure underpaid teachers and lecturers to the country.
Already, over 260 Nigerian teachers have migrated to Canada alone last year, according to the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, Prof Josiah Ajiboye.
Data according to a Cigna survey has also shown that younger individuals are now more eager to start an expert life than older ones. 37 per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 and 34 per cent of those between the ages of 25 and 34 are willing to leave.
Moreover, the Chief of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, recently warned that 2023 will be a difficult year for the global economy as top economies such as the US, Europe, and China will all see declining growth. She emphasised that 2023 will be “tougher than the year we leave behind”.
The projected tough global economic realities in 2023 are likely to make it more difficult for the Nigerian middle class to migrate. This is because relocating abroad is quite expensive, especially for those trying to migrate through the academic route, which many Nigerians use. For those who are bent on migrating, selling their landed properties and houses might just be the option to securing a Japa ticket.
The President and Chairman of the Council of Real Estate Developer Association of Nigeria, Aliyu Wamakko, said it is a matter of personal conviction, adding that it was a good opportunity for interested buyers.
He said, “If it is someone’s personal conviction to relocate, there is nothing wrong with that. You can’t tell the person not to pursue his personal dream of a greener pasture. It won’t affect the real estate market.
“It is a good decision since you can’t take your house to where you are relocating. So, it is a good opportunity as long as you are selling it to Nigerians.”
The CEO, Seven30 Real Estate Limited, Dr Oluwole Fapohunda, argued that taking such a decision is generally a good one, adding a real estate investment is essential to raise urgent resources when needed.
He, however, advised that such a situation should be avoided as there are willing institutions who can lend those funds in exchange for collateral.
He said, “It is a multidimensional situation as it should be addressed in such a way as well. It is an advantage for the person selling the house. For example, let’s assume a house bought for N20 million is sold for N50 million, the property has experienced capital appreciation, secured the funds for its owner and everyone is happy.
“However, there is something called distress sale because they need the money urgently with a deadline to meet. They are under pressure and may not sell that property for the actual value and this makes it an advantage to whoever is buying.
“Generally, for the real estate market, it brings an appreciation of properties and can change environmental neighbourliness. But then I think it is a good decision. The whole essence in the first place is to be able to dispose of it when they need money.
And for someone relocating, they are going into a different socio-economic situation they are not aware of and need every little cash they can get.
“For some people even though they sold their properties when they left, a year down the line, they may be able to buy more properties in Nigeria.”
He advised selling property in distress should be the last resort of those planning to migrate.
Article first published on the Punch Website