Some notable Nigerians have urged their compatriots in the Diaspora to key into efforts by the Federal Government to harness their resources directly for national development.
They include Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB); Mr Innocent Chukwuma, CEO of Innoson Group, and Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada, Amb. Adeyinka Asekun.
The advice came at the just concluded 20th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, Americas (NIDOA) with the theme, “Harnessing Diaspora Capital for Sustainable Development in Nigeria.
According to them, Nigeria’s emigrant communities are critical national assets mostly needed now to drive their country’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts.
However, they called for a conducive environment and formal structures back home to leverage the capitals, influence and connections of the Nigerian Diaspora.
In a pre-recorded video message, Adesina highlighted the strong financial power of Nigerians abroad as shown in their remittances averaging $22 billion (N8 trillion) annually.
“Think of it. What this means is that Nigeria’s value added Diaspora is a significant net gain rather than a brain drain.
“The Diaspora, however, is more than money of course. The Diaspora represents knowledge, strategic influence and networks.
“In a world of hyper change, Nigeria needs its best and brightest to tackle the most challenging issues of our time, and to ensure its rightful place in the League of Nations.
“Together, let us inspire a greater Nigeria, a developed, prosperous and dynamic country bursting with energy and hope,’’ he said.
The AfDB president lauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s foresight in setting up the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) to properly harness their “brains, innovation and entrepreneurial capacities’’.
He called for the right policy and political engagement to attract Nigerians abroad and properly tap their huge capitals for national development.
In a keynote address, Innoson noted that the huge remittances of the Diaspora to Nigeria is an indication that they are interested in the wellbeing of their fatherland.
“But remittances are not enough. We need them back to the country. We need strength from abroad to power our economy.
“We need the Diaspora human capital to come back and contribute to our GDP. This is the way forward to achieve our greatness.
“If Innoson Vehicles after 10 years is still waxing strong in spite of the challenges, I believe that you too can succeed in Nigeria, because whatever that is wrong in Nigeria can be corrected with what is right in Nigeria,’’ he said.
The automaker also stressed the need for government to create the right environment for Nigerians to return home and contribute their quota.
For his part, the Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada said the quantum of financial flows from the Diaspora was capable of sustaining Nigeria’s development if properly channeled.
Asekun said: “I believe it is commendable and worthwhile to send in money for day-to-day living and for consumption.
“But I also believe that the whole impact of these flows will be felt upon the development process when a structure is brought to bear in the process.
“Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa made very valuable points in terms of all the various initiatives in place such as the opportunities for mortgages,’’ he said.
Turning to Nigerians, home and abroad, he noted that the nation’s development is in their hands, adding that the creation of an enabling environment in Nigeria is also their collective responsibility.
The Chairperson of NiDCOM, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, highlighted some programmes the commission has initiated, including a Diaspora trust fund.
“Recently we put in place the Nigerians in Diaspora Trust Fund Committee to work out modalities so that we can have a proper structure for Nigerians who want to invest at home.
“The committee was inaugurated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs not long ago and will soon report back to us.
“We are also working with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria for what we call Diaspora Mortgage Programme where you can sit in the comfort of your home and be able to get a mortgage and then a home in Nigeria.
“There is no excuse any more. You now have NIDCOM to work with and we are determined that the Diaspora will never be ignored again in the annals of our country,’’ she said.
All the speakers lauded the “tremendous achievements’’ of NIDOA in the last 20 years, especially its influence on government’s policies that led to the establishment of NIDCOM.
Earlier, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of NIDOA, Mr Obed Monago, said the organisation had sustained its mission, including promoting patriotism, networking and cooperation among Nigerians in the Diaspora since its creation in 2000.
Monago said the theme of this year’s AGM was apt coming at a time Nigeria needs all the resources it could muster to recover from COVID-19.
“The impact of COVID-19 has shown that time is now for the Diaspora to think inwards and homewards and act in the most definite ways to help bring about the socio-economic development that is so much needed in our country.
“However, we will passionately ask the federal government to provide that enabling environment for us to build our country.
“This includes corruption eradication, rule of law, transparency, checks and balances, infrastructure, constant power supply, accountability, favourable monetary policies, ease of doing business, among others,’’ he said.