Canada Rush: What desperate Nigerian asylum seekers are telling Canada about Nigeria

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Nigeria

Publishing organisation: Premium Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-01-04

Language: English

Authors: Yusuf Akinpelu
Kabir Yusuf


Yusuf Akinpelu delivers data and digital contents from BBC Africa visual journalism team to six West African languages services (English, French, Pidgin, Hausa, Igbo Yoruba).

Prior, he headed Premium Times data desk, leading a team that made data easily understandable. With dozens of awards under his belt this year he became the first non-South African to win Sanlam Financial Journalist of the Year.

Kabir Yusuf was this year’s runner-up for the Africa Check Award. He coordinates the data journalism team at Premium Times.

He worked at the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism as part of the REMOP internship program.

Project description:

The year-long analysis of court transcripts published by the Federal Court of Canada detailed what Nigerian asylum seekers tell Canadian authorities about their country.

We analysed 300 cases, numbering about 5,000 pages, of the 900 published by the court and extracted details about each of the applicants and their reasons for seeking upward mobility in Canada.

Using pivot table and other excel commands we were able to determine the reasons the immigrants are giving. We categorised them into thirteen.

Majority of the applicants said they were driven because of the persecution related to sexual orientation and religious and political persecution.

Impact reached:

The story tapped government officials on the enormity of the efforts that must be put in place to make Nigeria safer for all class of people as well those in the diaspora.

In its first week of publication, the story reached over 50,000 readers, the most read for the week of publication on Premium Times website.

It triggered reactions among Nigerians, especially on Twitter, with dozens of users sharing it on their accounts with over a million of cumulative followers.

Many of these said they’ve been educated (https://mobile.twitter.com/search?q=Canada%20Rush%20premiumtimesng.com&src=typed_query&f=top) and would make informed decisions when seeking refuge abroad.

Likewise, the story picked the interests of Reaching Out Assisting Refugees (ROAR), a Vancouver Island community group working to resettle LGBTQ refugees.

Likewise, we got reaction from journalists colleagues who said they were impressed by the efforts put into the story, with some saying they were inspired to tell more of such important stories.

The story was awarded best story in the online category of this year’s Migration Reporter Competition organized by the United Nations International Organisation for Migration.

It was also adjudged as Premium Times story of the week and month it was published, and now in running for the newspaper’s story of the year.

Techniques/technologies used:

Adobe Acrobat Pro
Microsoft Excel

We used Adobe Acrobat Pro’s “Combine Files into PDF” function to select multiple the PDFs for one volume, combined them, then saved the file.

For the ones the command didn’t download, we downloaded them manually.

Based on the website’s random selection of cases, we were able to analyse 300 cases, which was about 5,000 pages, of the 900 published by the court.

Reading the cases one after the other, we extracted details about each of the applicants and their reasons for seeking upward mobility in The Great North White.

Having extracted the data, which were entered into an excel sheet, we analysed it using pivot table.

After that we categorised the reasons the immigrants gave into thirteen.

Majority of the applicants said they were driven because of the persecution related to sexual orientation and religious and political persecution.

Our analysis showed that majority of the applicants were dismissed largely because authorities said their stories were not convincing and they had internal flight alternatives where they could relocate to within Nigeria if where they stayed was unsafe.

We used Venngage to visualise our findings as well as the existing data we used in spicing up the story.

Context about the project:

The story was told from start to finish by two journalists with barely one year of data journalism experience. But what we lacked in experience they made up for in determination and willingness to learn.

Despite having limited data analysis training, we self-tutored ourselves using online materials to analyse the large trove of data we collated.

The data on the rate of migrations of Nigerians to Canada was the first ever collated, analysed and published by a Nigerian media. It was also the first primary data on the subject published in the country — the other available one is a survey.

Likewise, the editorial process of this project had diversity in mind. Apart from the two journalists who worked on the story, one of us a conservative and the other a liberal, the two editors who worked on the story mirrored similar ideological leanings.

Likewise, the characters in the story were diverse. They included both men and women with an expert slicing through the character’s statement and making meaning of their applications.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Journalists colleagues can learn the art of data storytelling and how to weave a prose from a bulky data chunk.

Also is teamwork. A team doesn’t have to be a dozen. Two can make all the big difference — as this project has shown. It requires a strategy and willingness to press on even when there are reasons to stop.

This project has also demonstrated that you don’t have to wait for officials or firms to publish data — you can generate yours! If we had written the Canadian court or embassy, we might have had delays or never have gotten anything. But by using available public information, we were able to scale that hurdle.

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