President Muhammadu Buhari has commended the 17 million Nigerians in the diaspora for being worthy representatives of their home country and for their contributions to its development.
Buhari made the commendation while declaring open the 2022 National Diaspora Day celebrations in Abuja on Monday.
Buhari, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, described the event, organised by the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), as a recognition of the contributions of Nigerians living abroad to national development.
In his words, “Let me reiterate that our government has held and will continue to hold our citizens in the diaspora in the highest esteem and this is evidenced in the following activities.
“The passage of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission Establishment Act in 2017, the establishment and kick-off of the Commission in 2019, the approval and adoption of the National Diaspora Policy 2021.
“The presentation of the compendium of the +600 Diaspora Icons at 60, which remains a historic record of the worth of our compatriot globally.”
According to Buhari, “this year’s theme, Diaspora Engagement in a Globally Challenging Time for National Development is apt, considering our experiences with COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war and the general insecurity, which we are experiencing not only in Nigeria but across the globe.”
The President also commended NiDCOM for organising laudable programmes for Nigerians in diaspora, which he believes “will have considerable impacts on our economy for sustainable development.”
Speaking in the same vein, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, the Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, described the Diaspora Day celebration as a timely event as the world just witnessed the devastating COVID-19 Pandemic.
“I am most impressed that you all took time out to participate in this event in spite of the distances most of you have to cover and the differences in the time zones.
He described their efforts as a testimony of resilence and commitment to national unity and its development.
Earlier in her welcome speech, Dr Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairman/CEO of NiDCOM, described the event as a platform for critical discussions, engagements and solutions.
She reiterated the fact that there is so much good news about Nigeria and Nigerians in the diaspora that needs to be celebrated.
“In spite of the challenging times, the Nigerians in diaspora are participating in various investments that are contributing to development in Nigeria”, she stressed.
“The success stories of our diaspora has led to some African countries visiting Nigeria to learn how to associate and manage their diaspora globally bearing in mind the huge potential of the diaspora and the impact of their remittances on the economy of their countries, the NIDCOM boss added.
In her goodwill message, Hon. Tolulope Akande-Sadipe, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs, commended the Commission for putting up the event in spite of the challenging times and also applauded the administration of President Buhari for supporting the Diaspora cause.
In her words, “Tackling these challenges will require a multi-faceted approach that will involve all well-meaning Nigerians both home and abroad.
“A critical component of this approach is our Diaspora, our people who are known to possess the resources, skills and the funds that will contribute towards reviving our falling economy and restoring security in our land,’’ she said.
In a virtual solidarity message, Mr Mansur Mukhtar, vice president at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, commended the Nigerian government for recognising the diaspora as national assets.
He added that, “I am hopeful that the successful implementation of the policy will mark a new era where our resources can be exploited for developing our country”.
Mansur called on the diaspora to remember that as a group they are bound by a common destiny to demonstrate full solidarity through active engagement in all forms to develop the nation.
In another solidarity message, Dr Amina Muhammad, Deputy Secretary General, United Nations, called on Nigerian youth to be inspired by the successes of the diaspora.
“The diaspora example should instill in the millions of young Nigerians that they have the talent to change, both Nigeria and the world.”
She described the diaspora as worth more than the billions of naira they send home as remittances.
She also commended President Buhari for inaugurating the National Diaspora Policy and approving the Diaspora Investment Trust Fund.
Similarly, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, President, Africa Development Bank, said Nigerians never forget where home is.
“Today, Nigerians in diaspora send home over 20 billion dollars a year.
“That means, remittances is four times the total Foreign Direct Investment to Nigeria.
“And the remittances by Nigerians in diaspora is half of crude oil exports of Nigeria.
“Therefore, better policies should be put in place to support the Diaspora.”
Adesina who said he takes pride in being a Nigerian, added that he believes Nigeria would achieve greatness.
Highlights of the programme include four technical sessions with Nigerians in the diaspora across the continents on the practical ways of aiding national development.
Abdur-Rahman Balogun, Abuja