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A male trader in electronics appliances at Alaba International Market, Lagos, Nigeria
A male trader in electronics appliances at Alaba International Market, Lagos, Nigeria

Dynamics of International Migrant Traders in Nigeria

Department of Geography, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

This study sought to understand the dynamics, determinants and consequences of the mobility and international migration of migrant traders from Nigeria.

Overview of migration in Nigeria

As the most populous country of Africa, with an estimated population of over 130 million, Nigeria plays a key role in the evolution of African migrations. While the post-independence (1960) period was dominated by emigration to other West African countries, in particular Ghana, this pattern was reversed after mass expulsions of Nigerians from Ghana in 1969 and the 1973 Oil Crisis when oil-rich Nigeria started to attract labour migrants from all over West and Central Africa.

The post 1981 decrease in oil prices and associated economic downturn alongside with political repression transformed Nigeria from a net immigration to a net emigration country. Despite this growth in emigration, almost 1 million West African migrants and refugees are still believed to live in Nigeria. According to official estimates, at least 800,000 Nigerians are believed to live abroad, but the real figure is likely to be far higher. Yearly remittances are estimated at levels of around US$5 billion.

Nigeria is an important link between coastal West Africa, Central Africa and the beginning of the trans-Saharan routes through Niger to Libya and Morocco. As a result, it has become an important staging post for migrants and refugees moving north, often to join Maghrebis in their attempts to cross to Europe.