Migrants Making Marks

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A local pots retailing shop in Sokoto city

By Rakiya A. Muhammad

Renowned aluminium pot producer in Sokoto State, Northwest Nigeria, Alhaji Adamu Ba’are, a Nigerien, looks back on over four decades of his enterprise with great satisfaction and glory.

“I recall when I came to Sokoto , nobody was doing this pot business among the indigenous people of Sokoto,” the 67 year old calls to mind.

“So, we started the production of local pot known as Tukuyan in the Hausa language.”

The migrant is one of Niger Republic nationals, who brought new industrial abilities to Sokoto and enriching the state’s economic base with a deep-rooted involvement in the informal sector.

Over the years, Nigeria has remained a major destination for Nigerien immigrants with many coming to Sokoto State, which borders the Niger Republic to the north.

Locals note their presence in pot making, tea selling, water vending, security guard, leather works, among other notable businesses.

Nigerien migrants introduced trades which have transformed into booming businesses in Sokoto.

67-year-old Nigerien, Alhaji Adamu Baa’re

“We made an inroad into Nigeria’s market,” asserts the pot maker, who explains how they achieved that with tenacity and resourcefulness.

“Back home in the Niger Republic, aluminium pot making had been a well-known business to many, but when we when initiated it in Sokoto, the locals
did not immediately embrace the usage of these local pots,” he recounts

“We had to go into serious enlightenment to let people know its value.” Getting locals to accept the product, he recalls, did not come easy; it took years. But the few the Nigeriens in the industry did not stop their marketing strategies.

“I could recall that I used to hawk a piece of local pot on the street looking for buyers.” With time, he states, people got to know the advantages, and they embraced it.

Ba’are praises God for its present level of acceptability, noting that aluminium pot production has become a swell trade.

Patronisers come from far and near to buy the product for their domestic use. Natives underscore the significant economic contribution of international migrants’ stock whom statistics show have risen within the last three decades.

A worker at local pots’ factory

A United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) data shows that international migrant stock rose from 153million in 1990 to 271.6million in 2019.

74 per cent of international migrants, according to the World Migration Report (WMR) 2020, were of working age (20-64 years), with the number of migrant
workers standing at 164million.

The WMR report notes Intraregional migration as significant in West and Central Africa, with over 21million living in another African country in 2019, up from 2015 estimate of 18.5million Africans.

“Recent estimates indicate that the majority of international migrants in West and Central Africa move within the subregion,” it states.

“Intraregional migration dominates for several reasons including visa-free movement among the Economy Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), the relatively small size of many countries in the sib region and the strong networks among the many ethnic groups scattered across the subregion.”

WMR adds that “intraregional migration within ECOWAS is mostly due to labour mobility, with seasonal, temporary and Permanent workers moving largely frpm countries as Niger and Mali

Ba’are who is acting Chair Association of Nigerien Citizens Worldwide, Sokoto State, has trained over 1,000 Nigeriens and Nigerians.

A worker seeing at the production stage of a local pot

“They are now self-reliant in manufacturing and marketing these local pots. This has expanded the trade in Sokoto State and met the users’ demands,” he points out.

“I did not charge anybody a fee. We are just doing it to grow the market. Sometimes, I even pay some trainees from the sales I made. I am just willing to help the market grow and nothing more.”

It is gratifying for him building the capacity of others, including his biological children.

“These people are doing well in the trade,” he says with a sense of achievement.” The store I am standing now is where we market the local pots. Those I trained are working in another location that Sokoto State Government allocated to us for manufacturing the product.”

An indigene of Sokoto State, Mustapha Labo, who started the trade five years ago, attests to a cordial relationship between the nationals of the two nations.

“Nigeriens trained most of the Nigerians working in the field because they brought the skill into Sokoto State decades back,” he says.

“We enjoy working with them.” Pot buyers come from various places including Jega in Kebbi State, Gumi in Zamfara State, and Sabon Birni in Sokoto State and Southern parts of the country.

The users use them for cooking, food warming, and storage of water. The pots come in sizes 0 to 30; it could last for 20 years if well maintained, the producers claim.

Modeling layers of local pots

Tea brewing is another trade Nigeriens are making marks in Sokoto. Abdurrahman Yunusa has been living in Sokoto State now for eight years. “I came here to undertake a tea selling business, which my father has been doing in Sokoto for many years,” he discloses.

“Often, I send upkeep money for my wife and three children in my country; sometimes I travel home to spend time with my family and relation.”

Yunusa relishes the tea trade and the business environment. “Since I came into Nigeria, I have never engaged in any business except that of selling tea to the locals both morning and night,” he asserts.

“I have no challenges in doing my business because I have the required and valid documents that cover my residency permit.” The tea dealer appreciates his harmonious coexistence with the people in Sokoto.

“I intend to stay in Nigeria as long as possible because they are peace-loving people,” he declares. 35-year-old Abubakar Musa, a native of Sokoto State, has been patronising Malam Yunusa for a while now.

The old-time patroniser says he has been taking tea there since the days of Yunusa’s parent.

“I take my breakfast and sometimes the dinner from his tea service stable. I started with his dad before Yunusa migrated to Sokoto, and took charge of the business,” he adds.

“It is more or less a family business to them because his father is still active in tea selling somewhere within the state capital.”

A Sokoto -based Nigerien Tea Seller, AbdulRahman Yunusa

He notes that the service has been okay with him and his friends who have been consuming their tea.

Ismaila Mutiu, Sales Representative from Southern Nigeria, describes the typical Nigerien as enterprising. From his interactions with Nigeriens, Mutiu observes that they are business- inclined individuals.

“Most of them started trading at a tender age. You will see them on the street hawking any sellable goods.” He surmises that Nigeriens are more at home in Sokoto than Nigerians from the Southern part of the country do.

“The people of Sokoto relate with Nigeriens more than their co-nationals from Nigeria,” he adds. According to him, it may be because of the cultural and religious ties they both shares.

“Traces of foremost Islamic Jihadist and Founder of Sokoto Caliphate, Sheikh Usmanu Bin Danfodiyo has put them on a brotherhood side with the northern region of Nigeria.”

However, both sides attest to the mutual benefits they are tapping from the migration of Nigeriens to Sokoto.

On the one hand, the host gets needed goods and services, on the other, the migrants meet the aspiration for better economic opportunities and improvement in their living conditions.

But the connection transcends economy interest, Ba’are explains. “We’re part of the people here in terms of culture and religion.”

Ba’are, who has 18 children, says they enjoyed free education which the state government provides for students.

Malam Mustapha, a Nigerian local pot retailer

Therefore,as the leaders, the Chair says they always make sure members meet the demands of both federal and state governments on documentation of our residence permit.

A traditional leader in Sokoto, Alhaji Lawan Zayyanu, acknowledges profitable businesses within border districts.

Zayyanu, who is District head of Gwadabawa, links it to marital ties, social, and economic relationships between citizens of the two countries.

But many migrants lament the impact of coronavirus pandemic, exchange rates, and border closure on their businesses in Nigeria.

“We faced a drastic decline in demands for our products, supply constraints and lowered businesses cash flow with the pandemic,” bemoans Moussa Umar, a Nigerien business operative.

Rights Advocate Malama Aisha Abubakar urges concerted efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on promoting a secure working environment for all including migrant workers.

She lauds the recent signing of an agreement between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The partnership hopes to “strengthen international migration governance and boost cooperation, capacity building and joint advocacy to promote
migrants’ rights and decent work opportunities.”

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