In this series Nigerianreporter.com has touched on the success of Nigerians in America, the plight of Nigerians in Chinese prisons, the mass exodus of Nigerians to India, and Australian life for the average Nigerian in the diaspora. Analysis of Nigerian emigration would not be complete without examining the influx of Nigerians into the land of our previous colonial ruler – England.
There is no doubt many Nigerians are finding their new haven in England.
A country, at this point, blessed with better economic and social conditions, despite news of a possible Brexit, and the 2008 global economic crisis that it is still rebounding from, England just like Germany, Italy and Spain has harbored a countless number of Nigerians and has engaged them in various occupational activities.
Nigerians have formed long-established communities in London, Liverpool and other industrial cities. The earliest known Nigerian presence in London took place over 200 years ago as a direct result of the transatlantic slave trade. Olaudah Equiano, born in what is now Nigeria and a former slave, lived in London and was involved in the debate that occurred in Britain over the abolition of the slave trade.
Prior to Nigeria’s independence from Britain, which it gained in 1960, many Nigerians studied in the UK along with other countries such as France and the United States, with the majority returning to Nigeria upon completion of their studies. In the 1960s, civil and political unrest in Nigeria contributed to many refugees migrating to Britain, along with skilled workers.
Nigerians immigrated in larger numbers in the 1980s, following the collapse of the petroleum boom. This wave of migration has been more permanent than the pre-independence wave of temporary migration. Asylum applications from Nigerians peaked in 1995, when the repression associated with the military dictatorship of Sani Abacha was at its height.
In 2015, Britain’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner expressed concerns about the extent of contemporary slavery involving Nigerians smuggled to the UK. Of more than 2,000 potential victims of human trafficking referred to the National Crime Agency in 2014, 244 were from Nigeria. This represented a 31 percent increase on 2013’s figure. According to the BBC, “Campaigners believe the real figure of potential trafficking victims from Nigeria could be much higher”.
According to statistics obtained from the Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom (CANUK), it is estimated that about two million Nigerians currently live in the UK and a sizable number of them, live in London. Their main abode is Peckham, a lively community in north London.
The UK’s largest concentration of Nigerians is found in the capital city, London. Peckham is now home to the largest overseas Nigerian community in the UK, with 7 percent of the population of Peckham according to a census tracked at the time of the 2001 Census having been born in Nigeria. Many of the local establishments are Yoruba owned. Nigerian churches and mosques can be found in the area.
As immigrants have become assimilated, English has always been the predominant language of the local Nigerian British population as English is the national language in Nigeria. The Yoruba language is declining in use in the Peckham area despite the growing Nigerian population. Outside London and southeast England, the largest Nigerian-born communities are found in the east of England and the northwest.
Despite the alleged deportation of 29,000 from the UK last year for various degrees of offenses, it has not stopped Nigerians from seeking greener pasture in this country.
Besides, Nigeria is the UK’s 32nd largest overseas market and second largest African market for goods. In 2008, £1,279m worth of services were exported to Nigeria (up 46 percent in 2007), according to UK Trade and Investment.
By and large, Nigerians have taken England as their adopted country come rain and sunshine considering the bond that has tied both countries.