Bishop asks Nigerian emigrants to go home


NIGERIANS LIVING in Ireland should consider returning home with newly acquired skills and experience in order to stem the "brain drain" that is stalling the country's development, a Nigerian Catholic bishop has said.

Dr Hyacinth Egbebo, recently ordained bishop of Bomadi in Nigeria's Delta state, said he was saddened by the number of his compatriots who chose to leave their homeland, and called on them to "bring their knowledge back home".

Speaking on a visit to Ireland in advance of Nigerian Independence Day today, he said: "Most of those who leave the shores of Africa, they are the ones who could improve the continent. Now they're leaving and there is a brain drain. If they don't stay at home to improve Africa, then this migration will continue and there will be no end to it."

Bishop Egbebo, who is visiting a number of African groups during a two-week visit at the invitation of the Irish Missionary Union, said the effects of emigration were widely felt in Nigeria.

Political and economic progress was slowed by the exodus of bright, ambitious young people and there was a prevalent feeling that "there is no way forward for now".

"Every gifted Nigerian wants to leave the country. Generally they feel that the government has failed them. They're looking for greener pastures out there, because they know that they have something to contribute to life and they cannot be locked away in a place where nothing really works," he said.

"It's very discouraging. People feel they're better off to relocate and forget about Africa, but that would be a mistake. Africa is a gift to the world, and it is in our hands to make it bloom."

Asked whether he blamed his compatriots for wanting to leave, Bishop Egbebo replied: "Yes and no. We should be courageous enough in spite of bad governance and if we don't stay to tell the government that this is not good enough, who will do it for us?"

He also referred to the recent controversy over the treatment of Fr John Achebe, a Nigerian Catholic priest who was arrested, strip-searched and placed in a prison cell overnight when he arrived in Dublin to visit a relative.

"It was very sad . . . I wouldn't mind if somebody were to be asked to go back home if he didn't have the papers or he did something wrong," Bishop Egbebo said.

"I wouldn't be offended by that, but it is like we count for nothing - that is what struck home to me. But I was so encouraged by the good people who cried out.

"That is the good thing about your people - they wouldn't condone that."