Concert for Safe Migration and Social Cohesion in Nigeria Hits the Right Note

Published Date: 
Tue, 02/04/2020 - 22:15
Country: 
Nigeria

Benin City – Nigeria is synonymous with musical virtuosity and innovation. The legacy of the likes of Fela Kuti is still felt today with contemporary acts such as Burna Boy, Davido and Simi achieving wide acclaim all over Africa and beyond.  

Unfortunately, not all talented Nigerians get to reach such great heights. So, on 31 January, the International Organization for Migration in collaboration with the Edo State Task Force Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT) organized the first-ever concert for safe migration and social cohesion in Benin City. More than 1,100 music lovers gathered in King’s Square to watch performances by Fireboy, and others including returning migrants.

Beyond entertainment, the event aimed at targeting youth who are often deceived by false information about irregular migration. This misinformation puts young Nigerians at risk of abuse and exploitation including trafficking in persons along irregular migration routes. Since 2017, IOM has assisted more than 1,810 victims of trafficking in Nigeria.

The information on risks and regular migration opportunities for Nigerians are disseminated in public spaces including markets and developed through a community-based approach whereby returnees and their families, community leaders and potential migrants craft their own messages.

“We believe this concert serves as a fun and interactive way to promote safe and informed migration practices and social cohesion between those returning home to Nigeria and their communities in Benin City,” said Alex Cole, IOM Nigeria Project Officer.

The concert was part of a music-filled weekend starting with a masterclass (30/01) for 25 returnees, students and independent artists. The masterclass was hosted by The Huntertones, a New York-based band whose latest album called Passport is a collection of songs inspired by their touring around the world. The various sessions offered insight into the music industry, the importance of finding and believing in one’s own voice and tips on how to get exposure with limited resources.

“The masterclass was an example of how sometimes music works better than language. It was after we started jamming with the participants that we all became more open and started talking about our insecurities, our self-worth, and other issues that artists deal with,” said Dan White, The Huntertones’ saxophonist and bandleader. “For us, music only works when you listen first, not thinking that you have all the answers,” he added before their performance on Saturday, which drew resounding praise from the crowd as they closed their set with a medley of Nigerian tunes.

Following the masterclass, two Nigerian local artists including Chidi Nnajinwa, a returnee from Edo State, got the chance to perform a song alongside the Huntertones.

“I spent seven years in Libya and now I’m using my experience to teach my brothers and sisters about the dangers of irregular migration,” said Nnajinwa, also known as Chi One. “This show is an opportunity for me to tell the world what I’ve been through, so others can make better choices, and I am looking for support to print more copies of my album so I can bring it to areas where young people are migrating without getting informed,” he added.

The concert featured stand-up comedy and a theatre play written and directed by Lancelot Imasuen titled Dance of the Migrant which was part of an awareness-raising project that brought open-air performances to 8,403 individuals from July to September 2019.

“The Huntertones are here to not only teach music skills, but also to engage young people on a very important topic – human trafficking,” said Aruna Amirthanayagam, Public Affairs Officer, US Embassy at the concert. “But it is also the responsibility of citizens to help stop trafficking. Through local programmes focused on this problem, young people are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of trafficking, learning ways to detect and prevent it, and thereby better protect themselves,” he added.

The Concert for Safe Migration and Social Cohesion is part of IOM’s awareness raising activities in Nigeria and it was produced by the Aware Migrants information campaign, the Migrants as Messengers project, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration and the GIZ-funded project ‘Strengthening Assistance for Returnees and Potential Migrants and Promoting Safe Migration Practices in Communities of Origin’.

For more information, please contact Jorge Galindo, IOM Nigeria, Tel: +234 906 273 9168, Email: jgalindo@iom.int.