This is in reference to the continued ban for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) to Nigeria.
Late in 2006, the Philippine government declared a total ban of workers going to Nigeria on the account of the successive kidnapping incidents in Nigeria’s oil areas which involve OFWs. The action may have been justifiable at that point. The ban affected not only New Hires but vacationing OFWs as well, even those OFWs who are working in Lagos and non-oil areas for a long time already.
Early in 2007, upon the strength of the petition of some expatriate companies in Nigeria, the OFW association in Nigeria and endorsement of the Philippine Embassy, the Total Ban was scaled-down to Partial Ban, allowing only the vacationing OFWs with valid work visa to return to Nigeria.
After the resolution of the kidnapping issue, which involved not only Filipinos but other nationals as well, the Philippine government still maintained the ban on New Hire.
In Oct 2007, returning OFWs to Nigeria found themselves barred by Immigration and POEA officials at the NAIA because they were told a total ban is in effect.
We, the OFWs in Nigeria, believe that the imposition of a ban is not the solution to this issue of kidnapping, which for the record, also involved other nationalities. The continued ban is just hurting every Filipinos’ chances of getting a decent work and a chance to contribute to the Philippine economy.
By declaring a ban on Nigeria on issue of security of the country, the Philippine government is no less insulting the capabilities of the host country to maintain its internal peace and order. The present administration of His Excellency President Yaradua is doing huge effort to secure the oil areas and guaranty the safety of all expatriate workers.
One thing is certain in our minds, the kidnapping incidents in specific areas of Nigeria is not a mirror of the entire country’s state of security.
The OFWs themselves in the oil-areas have sent numerous letters to the Philippine embassy assuring the embassy that they feel safe with the present security efforts implemented in their workplace.
Filipino workers in Nigeria are found in Oil industry, civil and military aviation (pilots and avionics), Construction, Manufacturing, telecoms and service industries. Others are married to Nigerians, and the rest are relatives of Filipinos with residency.
We assure the government and our loved ones that Nigeria is a decent and relatively safe country to work and stay.
Instead of declaring a ban, may we recommend that the government should do what other governments are doing – give out advisory to Filipino workers in Nigeria to take precaution and observe company security policies. Then it should advise the embassy to coordinate communication with oil companies to ensure Filipinos will have direct line to embassy if their safety is threatened.
The present administration could also establish bilateral agreement with Nigeria and take an active role as major partner of Nigeria’s growing economy and its increasing demand for foreign workers. Philippines could lend a hand to Nigeria when it comes to village health care and education.
Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo should consider making a state visit to Lagos/Abuja and go up in history as the only Philippine president to ever visit an African State, and the maybe the second head of state from SoutheastAsia to do so, after China’s Hu Jintao.
Preceding her state visit, a Philippines-Nigeria Business Cooperation summit maybe be organized. This is to paved the way for the establishment an office to handle Philippine investors coming to Nigeria, and as liaison to various Nigerian authorities.
The DFA should open a consular office in Lagos. Considering that Lagos is the arrival and departure point for expatriates, and there are more Filipinos based in Lagos than in Abuja. Even Port Harcourt-based OFWs regulalry come to Lagos for R&R.
Also, deploy a POLO in Abuja embassy and in Lagos Consulate to process and document all Filipino workers in West African countries. Undocumented Filipinos here wanted to be registered with OWWA and POEA and legitimize their existence.
Last April 2008, Energy Sec. Angelo Reyes visited Lagos, Nigeria to attend a world energy summit. He saw for himself the status of Filipinos and the community in Lagos. And he can surely vouch for the stable peace and order of Nigeria.
If the government truly cares, it should put a ban on the hiring of DH to Middle East, Marianas.
There is more to gain for the government in lifting the ban on Nigeria immediately.