Nigeria: Treatment of Christians who relocate from northern parts of Nigeria by people in Port Harcourt [Rivers State]; whether they face linguistic, economic and social difficulties (2012-November 2013)
Sources indicate that Port Harcourt is a highly populated city (Professor 26 Nov. 2013; CONIRIV 29 Nov. 2013; Spokesperson 26 Nov. 2013). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the coordinator of Concerned Non-Indigenes in Rivers State (CONIRIV), a non-profit organization that lobbies for the improved treatment of non-indigenes in Rivers State, said that the population is "getting out of hand" (CONIRIV 29 Nov. 2013). He added that the increased population of Port Harcourt can be attributed to people who have been moving there from the North of the country (ibid.). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the official spokesperson of the University of Port Harcourt, who is in charge of the Information, Publications, and Public Relations Unit and is also a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and Mass Communication, indicated that many people have relocated to Port Harcourt to escape violence in the North (Spokesperson 26 Nov. 2013). He added that, as Port Harcourt is the oil capital of Nigeria, the city "attracts people from all over the country" (ibid.).
Sources indicate that northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim, and the South is predominantly Christian (Christianity Today n.d.; The Guardian 29 Dec. 2011), although the Guardian adds that Muslims and Christians "live everywhere across the country..." (ibid.). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a steward of a Methodist church in Port Harcourt indicated that most of the Christians who have relocated from the northern parts of Nigeria to Port Harcourt are people who were originally from the city, but travelled north for work (Steward 28 Nov. 2013). He also said that they have returned because of attacks by Boko Haram [described by the BBC as a "militant Islamist group ... which has carried out a series of deadly attacks across northern Nigeria" (4 June 2013)], and other Islamic groups in the North (ibid.).
2. Cultural and Social Difficulties
In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a senior programme advisor for Africa at the Open Society Foundation (OSF), an organization that aims to strengthen the rule of law, human rights, democratic governments and civil society (n.d.), indicated that the treatment of Christians who relocate from the North to Port Harcourt depends "entirely on the ethnic group of the person concerned. Language and culture would be more important than religion" (OSF 26 Nov. 2013). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Sources indicate that approximately a quarter of the population in Port Harcourt is Igbo, and most of the Christians who relocate from the North to Port Harcourt are Igbo (Professor 26 Nov. 2013; Spokesperson 26 Nov. 2013).
The CONIRIV coordinator indicated that there is a "different lifestyle" in the South compared to the North (29 Nov. 2013). Further information on cultural and social difficulties faced by Christians who relocate from the North to Port Harcourt could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
3. Cost of Living
Sources indicate that the cost of living in Port Harcourt is very high (Professor 26 Nov. 2013; CONIRIV 29 Nov. 2013). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a professor of sociology at the University of Port Harcourt provided information based on his personal observations from living in Port Harcourt and general information about its society (26 Nov. 2013). The Professor said that the cost of living is high because of the presence of international oil workers who receive high wages, which increases the prices in the city (Professor 26 Nov. 2013). He indicated that the cost of living and the large population in Port Harcourt contribute to the challenges faced by people who relocate there (ibid.). The steward indicated that "life is difficult" in Port Harcourt, even for people who are originally from the city (28 Nov. 2013).
The Professor indicated that it is "almost impossible" to obtain employment in Port Harcourt (26 Nov. 2013). The CONIRIV coordinator similarly stated that it is difficult to find work unless one is a skilled worker, such as a mechanic, and even then workers need to be "clever and dynamic"(29 Nov. 2013). The steward said that a person who relocates from the North who has a "special talent" may be able to find work, but otherwise it is difficult to find employment (28 Nov. 2013). According to Fund for Peace, a "non-profit research and educational organization that works to prevent violent conflict and promote sustainable security," "[s]killed workers are reportedly leaving Port Harcourt because of the lack of career opportunities" (2012).
The Professor indicated that the Rivers State government only employs people "from the indigene population of the state" (Professor 26 Nov. 2013). He added that an exception is made when the Rivers State government needs to hire someone with specialized skills, in which case they may hire people from outside of the state (ibid.). According to the steward, Rivers State government jobs are "difficult" for non-indigenes to obtain, as approximately 10 percent of these jobs are given to non-indigenes while the rest are given to indigenes of Rivers State (28 Nov. 2013). On 27 June 2013, The Nation, a national newspaper, reported that 13,000 teachers were hired in Rivers State, of which 90 percent were indigenes of the state and 10 percent were from other states. The Port Harcourt Telegraph, an online magazine, reports that, according to the Press Secretary to the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, in 2012, "lawmakers had taken the step to stop the Ministry of Education from 'giving away jobs meant for Rivers State natives to non-indigenes'" (3 Feb. 2013). The CONIRIV coordinator similarly indicated that "there is disparity in employment in the civil service" (29 Nov. 2013). The Professor indicated that Rivers State jobs include civil service jobs such as teaching in public schools, as well as jobs in companies owned by the state such as in the palm oil industry, some hotels, and other establishments (26 Nov. 2013).
The CONIRIV coordinator stated his opinion that candidates for private sector jobs are assessed based on merit, unless the owner of a company is an indigene of Rivers State and decides to only hire other indigenes to work there (29 Nov. 2013). According to the Professor, most of the jobs in Rivers State are jobs with international oil companies, such as Shell (Professor 26 Nov. 2013). He added that these are private companies and they can employ anyone, however they require highly skilled workers and they recruit people who have the necessary experience (ibid.).
The Professor indicated that, outside of government jobs and jobs in the oil industry, the "only thing left for people from the North" to do in Port Harcourt is work in the informal sector, for example, by trading or driving a taxi (26 Nov. 2013). The spokesperson similarly said that most people who relocate in Port Harcourt from the North work in the informal sector, as it is "very difficult" for them to obtain a job in the formal sector (26 Nov. 2013). The Professor said that entering the informal sector is not easy as "the economy is already saturated" (Professor 26 Nov. 2013).
The Professor indicated that the high population density and the employment situation have led to some "tension" between people in Port Harcourt (ibid.). The spokesperson similarly indicated that because Port Harcourt is highly populated and full of people "who escaped the violence in the North," there is tension and resentment against people who have relocated from the North, although it is not directly "explicit" (26 Nov. 2013). The steward indicated that, in his view, Christians who are originally from Port Harcourt and return to the city after having spent time in the north "are received well" by society (ibid.).
Sources indicate that housing in Port Harcourt is "very expensive" (CONIRIV 29 Nov. 2013; Professor 26 Nov. 2013). The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), a national news agency (ABYZ n.d.), reports on the "astronomical cost of housing" in Rivers State, and adds that, according to residents, "it was becoming increasingly difficult for government employees to live in good houses" (NAN 28 Apr. 2013). According to NAN, a "one-bedroom flat costs N250,000 [C$1683 (XE 6 Dec. 2013a)] to N350,000 [C$2357 (ibid. 6 Dec. 2013b)] per annum, depending on the location" and a two-bedroom apartment costs between N400,000 [C$2690 (ibid. 6 Dec. 2013c)] and N500,000 [C$3363 (ibid. 6 Dec. 2013d)] per annum (ibid.). NAN also reports that "agents and some landlords demand two to three years advance payment for apartments" (ibid.). Information corroborating rental prices and further information about housing could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
The Professor said that renting or owning a home is "very expensive," and a person cannot own a home unless "they are rich" (26 Nov. 2013). Sources report that there is a housing shortage in Port Harcourt (The Tide 9 Jan. 2013; InterNations n.d.b). InterNations, an online network for people who live and work abroad (InterNations n.d.a), explains that "the masses moving to Nigeria's industrial centers from the rural regions have caused a housing shortage and infrastructural issues" (ibid. n.d.b). An article in International Business Papers written by U. Joseph Nnanna reports on "inadequate housing" in Port Harcourt (Nnanna July 2010).
6. Social Services
Sources indicate that citizens must pay for services such as healthcare and education (Steward 28 Nov. 2013; Professor 26 Nov. 2013). The steward stated that accessing such services is "difficult for all" residents of Port Harcourt (28 Nov. 2013). The Professor similarly said that it is "difficult to afford healthcare and education" (26 Nov. 2013).
The steward indicated that indigenes can attend some Rivers State government-run schools for free, however people who are not from Rivers State must pay (28 Nov. 2013). The Professor indicated that indigenes can attend Rivers State government-run schools for "discounted rates," but non-indigenes must pay the full fee (Professor 26 Nov. 2013). He also indicated that indigenes of Rivers State that left the state and then returned are also given a discount (ibid.).
7. Linguistic Difficulties
According to the spokesperson, linguists have identified 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria (Spokesperson 26 Nov. 2013). He said that each one of these ethnic groups has a language, which has different dialects, and these dialects have different idiolects (ibid.). He also said that it is possible that two Igbos that live a few kilometres away from each other could speak different languages and not understand each other (ibid.). According to the CONIRIV coordinator, there are more than 200 languages spoken in Port Harcourt (29 Nov. 2013).
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) states that Pidgin English or Nigerian English is "widely spoken within the Niger Delta Regions, predominantly in Warri, Sapele, Port Harcourt, Agenebode, Ewu, and Benin City" (Aug. 2013). Sources indicate that the common language used in Port Harcourt is Pidgin English (Professor 26 Nov. 2013; Steward 28 Nov. 2013; CONIRIV 29 Nov. 2013). The Professor indicated that a person who relocates from the North to Port Harcourt would not face any linguistic difficulties, as Pidgin English is widely used in Nigeria (26 Nov. 2013). However, the CONIRIV coordinator said that it depends on the language spoken by the person, and added that some people from the North may face linguistic difficulties if they do not speak Pidgin English (CONIRIV 29 Nov. 2013). For example, he said that people from the North who speak Hausa would not be able to communicate with people in Port Harcourt unless they also speak Pidgin English (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
ABYZ News Links. N.d. "Nigeria: Newspapers and News Media Guide." <http://www.abyznewslinks.com/nigei.htm> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2013]
BBC. 4 June 2013. "Profile of Nigeria's Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau." <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18020349> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2013]
Christianity Today. N.d. "Nigeria." <http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/topics/n/nigeria/> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2013]
Concerned Non-indigenes in Rivers State (CONIRIV). 29 November 2013. Telephone interview with the Coordinator.
Fund for Peace. 2012. "Human Insecurity in Nigeria: October 2011 - April 2012." <http://www.fundforpeace.org/global/library/cungr1212-unlocknigeria-07c.pdf> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2013]
The Guardian. 29 December 2011. "Church Bombings Are Declaration of War, Say Nigerian Christians." <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/29/church-bombings-nigerian-christians> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2013]
International Organization for Migration (IOM). August 2013. Country Fact Sheet: Nigeria. <http://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/MILo-DB/EN/Rueckkehrfoerderung/Laenderinformationen/Informationsblaetter/cfs_nigeria-dl_en.pdf?__blob=publicationFile> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2013]
InterNations. N.d.a. "About." <http://www.internations.org/about/internations> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2013]
_____. N.d.b. "Moving to Nigeria." <http://www.internations.org/nigeria-expats/guide/moving-to-nigeria-15540> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2013]
The Nation. 27 June 2013. "New Rivers Teachers for Training." <http://thenationonlineng.net/new/new-rivers-teachers-for-training-2/> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2013]
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). 28 April 2013. "Port Harcourt Residents Decry High Rent." <http://www.nanngronline.com/section/general/port-harcourt-residents-decry-high-rent> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2013]
Nnanna, U. Joseph. July 2010. "Housing Crisis: A Theoretical Study of the Home Building Industry in Nigeria." International Business Research. Vol. 3. No. 3. <http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ibr/article/viewFile/5762/5137> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2013]
Open Society Foundation (OSF). 26 November 2013. Correspondence sent from the Senior Programme Advisor, Africa, to the Research Directorate.
_____. N.d. "About Us." <http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/about/mission-values> [Accessed 27 June 2013]
Port Harcourt Telegraph. 3 February 2013. "13,000 Teachers' Jobs: RSG Set to Make History." <http://www.phctelegraph.com/news/6387-13,000-teachers%E2%80%99-job-rsg-set-to-make-history.html> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2013]
Professor of Sociology, University of Port Harcourt. 26 November 2013. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.
Spokesperson, University of Port Harcourt. 26 November 2013. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.
Steward, Methodist Church in Port Harcourt. 28 November 2013. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.
The Tide. 9 January 2013. "Town Planners Get Support on Housing Project." <http://www.thetidenewsonline.com/2013/01/09/town-planners-get-support-on-housing-proposal/> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2013]
XE Currency Converter. 6 December 2013a. "XE Currency Converter." <http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=250000&From=NGN&To=CAD> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2013]
_____. 6 December 2013b. "XE Currency Converter." <http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=350000&From=NGN&To=CAD> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2013]
_____. 6 December 2013c. "XE Currency Converter." <http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=400000&From=NGN&To=CAD> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2013]
_____. 6 December 2013d. "XE Currency Converter." <http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=500000&From=NGN&To=CAD> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2013]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Attempts to contact the following individuals and organizations were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Adjunct Professor, Tulane University; Assistant Professor, Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, University of Alberta; Carpenters Church; Committee for the Defence of Human Rights; Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law; Lecturer, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Federal University, Otuoke; Mater Misericordiae Catholic Church; Nigeria – Federal Ministry of Information, National Human Rights Commission; The Rest Place Church; Rivers State – Ministry of Education, Ministry of Employment and Empowerment; Triumphant Church. A sociologist was unable to provide information for this Response.
Internet sites, including: AllAfrica.com; Amnesty International; ecoi.net; Factiva; Human Rights Watch; The Punch; Rivers State – Ministry of Education; International Monetary Fund; This Day; United Nations – Development Program, Refworld; United States – Department of State; University of Port Harcourt; World Bank.