Nigerians are everywhere. I bet, if you stood in any city or town centre and played a Wizkid song, a Nigerian would appear. From Malaysia to Brazil, Nigerians are present across the globe and ever so much more here in the UK. In 2018, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated 205,000 Nigerian-born people living in the UK. While that may seem small – it doesn’t take into account the other side, UK born Nigerians – which between ourselves, we know doubles, if not triples, the number of Nigerians in the UK.
Yet, even as Nigerians are here, blossoming in their culture and proudly flaunting their heritage – there’s still a connection back ‘home’. Many Nigerians will refer to Nigeria as ‘home’, even if they’ve seen the better part or more of two decades here in the UK. The multigenerational diaspora holds strong ties to the motherland, leading to constant interactions with the country through fashion, music, food and money.
Yes, money. Nigerians are holding base here but sending various portions of their income back home. In 2017, Nigerians in the UK sent a record of £3.27 billion in remittances. Nigeria was the top receiver of cash from the UK and still is. Reports show that remittances to Nigeria accounts for 15.4% of money transfers from the UK. Nigerians in the UK are sending money ‘back home’ – and in large amounts – but why? Here are some of the reasons Nigerians send money back home:
In November 2018, the United Nations’ education agency reported that a large percentage of the money that migrants in the UK sent back home was to aid relatives in poorer countries to stay in school and Nigeria is no exception to this. Nigerians seek out education at all levels, which explains why many Nigerians in the diaspora send money to support family and relatives back home with their education costs. In addition to supporting relatives, it is common practice for first- and second-generation diaspora members to send their children to schools in Nigeria. Children are commonly sent to private schools for their secondary school education. This entails travel costs, school fees, board and more which could cost many thousands of Pounds in Naira.
While many members of the Nigerian diaspora have built their lives and families here in the UK, they still have relatives back home in Nigeria. Be it parents, grandparents, children, spouses or whoever, there are often strong family ties to back home. Nigerians transfer money from the UK as a means of providing financial support to their relatives. The economic climate in Nigeria can prove difficult for some, with family members in Nigeria depending on those settled in the UK to provide financial assistance. Money transferred to Nigeria can even serve as a lifeline for some families. In fact, it’s reported that support from family members has greater impact than charitable or state organised financial aid.
Nigerians love a good party and welcome every opportunity to celebrate the milestones life has to offer. Money is often sent to Nigeria as a way of helping out with special events and celebrations for loved ones back home. These could be milestone birthdays, wedding or even funerals. Few occasions are bigger than a Nigerian wedding. Whether the budget is 3 million or 50 million Naira, a Nigerian wedding is loud and flamboyant. You can go to a wedding in Lagos every day between April and December. Whatever the occasion, money sent from the UK can make a big difference. When it is impractical to hop on an airplane to be part of the festivities sending money back home is a good way for Nigerians to show their support.
When we think shopping, we think high street, grocery stores and online. But what happens when we can’t find certain goods online or if they are being sold at extortionate prices in the UK. Members of the diaspora are aware that certain goods are cheaper back home and are transfer money to buy them in Nigeria. Nigerians also find greater value in craftsmanship such as tailoring – and even buying fabric itself in Nigeria. There are even certain foods which Nigerians prefer to buy from back home as opposed to buying these off the shelf at a local store here in London.
Nigerians are known to be entrepreneurial. Nigerians are quick to start businesses and these businesses need funding. Even individuals with a steady income will sometimes draw for extra. Whilst it’s possible to carry out side hustles and entrepreneurial ventures in London, it’s somewhat easier in Nigeria due to lower barriers to entry across markets. These businesses still require funding and that’s where the diaspora community comes in. Many send money to Nigeria to fund a new business venture (or even revive an old one).
In 2017, the then Acting Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, signed the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Establishment Bill into law. The Bill allowed Nigerians in the diaspora to actively participate in fiscal activity to build the nation’s economy. This meant that Nigerians could actively send funds in a bid to boost Nigeria’s economy. So when Nigeria opened its first diaspora bond it successfully raised $300 million. Some would argue that there’s the notion of patriotism which prompts the diaspora community to engage in such investments while others argue that it is the higher potential returns from making investments in Nigeria compared to the UK. Either way, there’s an attraction to invest and the diaspora community is on board and are sending money to Nigeria to do so.
For some, it’s how those who migrated begin to plan their journey ‘back home’. The end goal is to be back in the buzzing land of Nigeria and to be living out their retirement in comfort – so every penny made here is used to grow there. Be it to build or buy property, buy vehicles or other ways to increase their financial standing in Nigeria for when the move eventually occurs, Nigerians transfer money regularly from the UK to make this eventual move as seamless as possible. Sending money back home in various amounts, so when their self-imposed timer is up, they can settle back home in comfort as opposed to having to start all over again.
Rent, Mortgages and Land Purchase
Housing and land acquisition in Nigeria are highly accessible and affordable for many Nigerian living and working in the UK. It is common for members of the diaspora to convert Pounds to Naira and transfer money to facilitate housing construction, home developments and/or land purchases. Some take out mortgaged in Nigeria in order to purchase property and have to make regular transfers to pay this off. This is not necessarily an indication of plans to return home to Nigeria but can be provision of housing for relatives back home or an investment into a dynamic housing market. A world bank paper reports that approximately 50% of migrants’ residential housing in Nigeria is occupied by their family members. Whether it is for security, legacy, monetary purposes or other, there are various reasons Nigerians in the UK are sending money to Nigeria to build or buy houses. It could even be the fact that houses in Nigeria are bigger than in the UK and buying/building one’s dream home is more achievable back home.
Healthcare support is another reason why Nigerians in the UK send money back home. Many health facilities in Nigeria operate on a payment before service basis and for many Nigerians, medical fees can become a large burden. When high medical bills arise, the diaspora sends money to help loved ones cover these costs. Money sent back is also used to purchase quality medicine and access higher quality medical resources. Though cheaper than flying overseas, it is still expensive to the average Nigerian and this is where those in the UK often help with the medical bills.
There are many reasons why Nigerians send money from the UK to Nigeria. We have discussed just a few of these here. Whether money is sent to support others or to help oneself, money transfers from the UK to Nigeria are part of the daily lives of members of the diaspora and reaffirm our strong connection with Nigeria.