• ELIZABETH INUFIN | Awareness Raising Project Assistant with IOM Nigeria

Festus has lived in Uromi, a suburb town in Edo State, in Southern Nigeria all his life. A graduate of Health Education his ambition was always to leave his small town and achieve his dream of becoming a professional multimedia artist outside Nigeria.

“I am sure a lot of people like me would agree that the economic situation in Nigeria isn't quite encouraging, but when I look back at it now, I feel these hard lessons are valuable ones that have helped me become independent and strengthen my character", he remembers.

Festus’ dream was to travel to Europe but the journey through the Sahara and Libya would cost him 1 million Naira. Having just declined a training opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a professional videographer & photographer, he wondered whether the amount was worth the risk.

Being from a modest family, taking a loan was not feasible considering the high repayment options and the fact that he didn’t have a job at the time.  

As Festus weighed his options, he met friends whose small businesses were thriving in Uromi. Among them were returning migrants who had endured the traumatic migration journey through Libya and had returned with IOM’s support. With their encouragement, Festus participated in community outreach sessions organized as part of the “Edo Sure 4 You” campaign rolled out to encourage safe migration and youth empowerment. The campaign features screening a documentary video which showed the challenges experienced by irregular migrants, a short film on the need to explore local opportunities present in the state.

For him, the campaign was a moment of revelation.

"I learnt that the challenges in life are learning curves, they are designed to make us grow and derive useful life insights”, he says.

Festus poses with his camera. Photo IOM Nigeria 2024

Following the outreach session, Festus registered for photography and videography training offered free of charge to local youths and bought a small camera with the money he intended to use for his travel.

Across Nigeria, a growing number of youths like Festus are tempted to brave irregular migration routes in search for better economic opportunities. This phenomenon is fueled in part by growing unemployment and the limited opportunities for technical and vocational education and training.

Since 2017, IOM has partnered with Edo State in Southern Nigeria to roll-out a multidimensional programme aiming to raise awareness for safe migration but provide youth with upskilling opportunities to empower them to become self-sufficient. The programme provides technical and financial support to EdoJobs, the State Government’s flagship agency is tasked with tackling unemployment by connecting youths both in rural and urban communities to jobs, skills, and business opportunities.

The partnership has so far helped 1,074 young Nigerians establish successful small ventures across 18 local government areas.

Like Festus, Victory, a 31-year-old graduate of Public Administration, also nursed the idea to travel to Europe via Libya because of failed attempts at securing a job. In 2022 he decided to sell off some valuables and gathered 800,000 Naira, determined to pay a boga to get him to Libya.  But following counselling from friends and peers, he visited the Edo State Skill Development Agency Centre in Uromi where he received counselling and professional guidance to help him grow his skills and earn a living.

Today, he owns a Point of Sale (POS) stand where he provides guidance on small-scale financial transactions to a growing customer base. “I'm happy because I didn't risk my life for an uncertain irregular journey abroad", he says.

“I have embraced them for they are for my growth. Looking inward has made me realize that there are opportunities around me and today I am a professional photographer and as we speak, I have an event to cover"
SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 1 - No Poverty