Nigerian government praises its citizens living in the diaspora for the money they regularly send home, which in 2018 amounted to US$25 billion. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, however, would like Nigerians abroad to still do more as the Secretary to the Federal Government throws new challenges at them at the National Diaspora Day in Abuja.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, has called for unity among Nigerians in the diaspora, saying the country’s strength lies in its diversity.
“United we stand, divided we fall is a popular adage in Nigeria. Our diaspora population should, therefore, unite and engage with the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission with a view to accelerating the development of Nigeria,” he said.
Mustapha, who made call while speaking at the National Diaspora Day in Abuja on Thursday (25 July), also encouraged diasporans to be patriotic and good ambassadors of Nigeria to the world.
The theme of the 2019 Diaspora Day conference (24-26 July) is “The power of the Nigerian Diaspora for National Development” and it brought together diaspora Nigerians and representatives of both federal and state governments as well as those of the private sector to explore closer partnership towards national development.
The SGF described the diaspora as “a potent force for national development” in view of their economic contributions, especially through the money they regularly send home.
“It is estimated by the World Bank that over US$25 billion was remitted to Nigeria by our diaspora population in the year 2018. This represents over 83% of the Federal Government budget and 6.1% of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP),” he noted.
“These monies are currently utilized as social security funds to families (school fees, feeding allowance, hospital bills and so on). Some of it is invested in housing and estate development, hospital projects, schools and commercial enterprises, but are not properly documented and analysed for impact.”
The SGF, therefore, identified that “there is an urgent need, therefore, to galvanize this [remittances] into an investible fund for development. A forum like this is necessary to articulate a position on this and mobilize for appropriate action.”
Mustapha said that Nigerians in the diaspora, being exposed to the international business community, are the right connectors to propel this initiative.
He, therefore, urged them to key into the government economic recovery programme, while reassuring them that the government would protect every Nigerian anywhere in the world with all it takes as a responsible and caring government.
In her opening speech, the Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari had instructed that Nigerians should be protected anywhere they might be. She said the Commission was working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the office of the SGF to demand that where a Nigerian was unjustly treated the country would demand for justice to be done.
Dabiri-Erewa however warned Nigerians against engaging in criminal activities abroad, stressing that any act of criminality would be met with punishment even in Nigeria.
She noted that the importance of the Diaspora in national development could not be overemphasized. “There is power of the diaspora and under this administration we are going to leverage on the power of the diaspora.”
Dabiri-Erewa pointed out that NIDCOM was working on the Diaspora Professional Initiative in the field of medicine that would revolutionise health care in the country. “We have over 5,000 doctors in the US. We have been talking about brain drain, brain gain and now we are talking about brain circulation for the development of the country,” she said.
“I want to stress the need for unity among Nigerian Diaspora groups; let us march on for the development of Nigeria. Let us work together to build the Nigeria of our dreams,” Dabiri-Erewa concluded.
In his speech, Hon. Kenneth Gbandi, Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) Europe who spoke on behalf of NIDO Worldwide, said the organization had in the past presented projects and solutions to help the Nigerian economy, improve healthcare, and support youth empowerment, among others.
“We will not only consolidate on these programmes but NIDO and other Diaspora professional groups are poised to present practical proposals that key into the federal government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP),” he pledged. He called for unity among the different diaspora groups. “It’s time to rekindle the fast dwindling indomitable Diaspora Spirit, unite around a common agenda, work effectively with the private sector, governments and non-governmental organizations at all levels and bring Diaspora alternative policies to bear in Nigeria,” Gbandi concluded.
The continental chairman of NIDO in Oceania, Linus Gary Unamadu, in an interview on the sidelines of the conference, said Nigerians in the diaspora desired to make the country better. “We have the expertise, we have the talents; all we need is a working policy and being able to implement it. The Nigerian Diaspora will work together to make sure that we’re moving forward,” he said.
Dr Vivian Chioma Timothy, PRO of NIDO Germany, in an interview with the National Television Authority at the conference, said the diaspora was willing to give back to Nigeria and all they asked for, was to be allowed to do so.
A strong delegation of NIDO Germany, comprising Dr RosaLyn Dressman, President; Dr Vivian Chioma Timothy, PRO; Andrea Weber (Member); Mrs Stephania Alofuokhai-Ghogomu (Member) and Hon. Kenneth Gbandi (Member), attended the Nigerian Diaspora Day.
The Federal Government recently declared 25 July of every year as Diaspora Day in recognition of the contributions of Nigerians living outside the country to national development.
This year’s Diaspora Day was organised by NIDCOM in collaboration with the NIDO, the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa and the Nigerians in Diaspora Alumni Network.
Kola Tella and Femi Awoniyi