Femi Awoniyi continues his report on the annual general meeting of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe, which held in Vienna, Austria, on 8-10 November, bringing together Nigerians from across Europe and Nigeria to discuss topical issues affecting their home country.
The second of the 3-day annual general meeting of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE), with the theme “Harnessing the Diaspora Potential for the Economic Development of Nigeria”, featured discussions on the organisation and its activities.
Special guests at the deliberations include Alhaji Abdul-Bin Rimdap, former ambassador to Austria and Germany, and his wife, Hajiya Halima Rimdap; Minister Okolo Maduka, who represented Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Britain, Justice George Oguntade (rtd.); Minister Norman Sixth Wokoma, who stood in for Prof. Steve Davies Ugbah, ambassador to the Russian Federation with concurrent accreditation to Belarus; and Barrister Vivian Iroh Uchime, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Abia State on the Diaspora, who represented her principal, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu.
A participant set the ball rolling when he complained about the scanty number of attendees at NIDOE meetings in many country chapters.
Ambassador Rimdap intervened in the debate, sharing his experience of the lukewarm attitude of Nigerians to the attendance of official events. He however said that the situation had improved, revealing how he tackled the problem during his tenure as envoy in Austria and Germany. The seasoned diplomat directly reached out to community leaders and impressed it on them why it was important to attend events.
Alhaji Rimdap has retired from the Nigerian Foreign Service but his enthusiasm for NIDOE has not in any way waned. He and his wife, Hajiya Halima Rimdap, are constant faces at NIDOE events in Europe, showing their great support for the organisation.
Members deliberated on ways to increase the enthusiasm of Nigerians in Europe for NIDOE and its activities such as actively engaging with the leadership of the various socio-cultural, religious, student and other groups. Members should also reach out to people in their circles of friends and acquaintances to join the organisation.
Minister Norman Wokoma, who represented the ambassador to Russia, called for more unity among Nigerians in the Diaspora. While he had nothing against ethnic-based groups, Nigerians should be more active in NIDOE as it’s their official representative and interface with the government, he posited.
Hon. Kenneth Gbandi, the chairman of NIDOE, presented the report of the Nigerian Diaspora Global Development Conference, the first of its kind, which took place from 26-28 July in the British capital, bringing together eminent Nigerians from home and abroad to fashion a framework for the long-term Diaspora engagement in national development.
The achievements of the confab, tagged London 2018, include:
- The launch of the €200 million, NIDO-led Diaspora Housing Investment Fund. Nigerians abroad can invest in the Fund for the purpose of growing their personal wealth or towards home ownership or both.
- The flag-off of the Diaspora Enrolment in the Nigerian National Identity Management System through a partnership with Biosec, specialists in information management services, and the National Identity Management Commission. The exercise will enable the registration of all Nigerians outside the shores of the country in the National Identity Database. And every registered person will be issued with the unique National Identity Number (NIN), which will soon be a condition for the procurement of a Nigerian passport
- Launch of a partnership with Varden Farms & Resort, an agricultural cooperative located near Epe, Lagos State, for diaspora investment in agriculture in Nigeria
“The time of jamboree is over,” Gbandi said to loud ovation. “NIDOE is now active on projects that help members and contribute to the development of Nigeria.”
After a short presentation by Ecobank, one of the sponsors of Vienna 2018, including an address delivered live from Lagos by Skype to the gathering by a senior manager of the bank, several members of NIDOE presented their business ventures or non-profit projects with a focus on Nigeria.
Among the presentations were those by:
- Syntec Group, a renewable company that converts waste into biogas and electricity. Dr. Toki Laotan-Brown and her brother Anthony Laotan showed how the work of their company could help convert a major problem of urban Nigeria, waste management, into a source of energy, enriching the economy
- Nikentola Energy Ltd., a power company about to commence the construction of a 6 Megawatt-capacity electricity plant in Abeokuta, Ogun State, employing the cutting-edge hybrid generation technology. Engr. Abiodun Ogunshakin, former NIDOE scribe and the owner of the company, vividly showed how a diaspora Nigerian is contributing to to solving the knotty power problem in Nigeria
- Esther Owuta-Pepple Onolememen, Founder/CEO of Sickle Cell Society Ireland, proposed a centre of excellence for the treatment of sickle cell sufferers in Nigeria. She told the audience that 40 million people were suffering from the condition in Nigeria, challenging NIDOE to work with interested institutions locally and globally to set up a centre where sickle cell patients can receive specialised treatment.
Dr Rosalyn Dressman, founder/director of AfricanTide Union and chairman of NIDO Germany, and Ms Stephania Alofuokhai-Ghogomu also presented their projects. Their presentations will be the subjects of separate articles to be published next week.
After a day filled with serious deliberations, Ambassador Vivian Okeke, Nigeria’s envoy to Austria with concurrent accreditation to Slovakia and the UN Offices in Vienna, graciously invited us to a reception at her official residence to unwind.
Located in a highbrow neighbourhood of Vienna, literally up on the hill, the beautiful house, built by Nigeria we were told, was festively decorated for us.
Ambassador Okeke again appealed to Nigerians abroad to unite and pool their efforts and resources to support their homeland which is counting on them.
She gratefully acknowledged the importance of the diaspora to the country, how their support was the mainstay of millions of their compatriots at home.
It was again a beautiful evening of good food, drinks and merriment. We chatted and danced well into the night.
TO BE CONTINUED..
** Editor’s Note: Look forward to the Part 3 of my diary of the 2018 annual general meeting of NIDOE