Mainstreaming Nigerians living and working outside in nation building effort
By most accounts, migration issues have become a critical feature of international politics and power play. This, according to observers, is because integrated markets, emergence of transnational networks and rapid growth of communication technologies have contributed to the increasing movement of high and low-skilled personnel, families, tourists, students, among others.
Since migration is viewed as the right to leave one’s place of birth or abode in search of new opportunities and better life, appropriate authorities have given migrants a priority attention in the scheme of things. This is the background against which the Meeting of Experts on the Definition of the African Diaspora took place in 2005 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was here that the African Union (AU) defined “the African Diaspora”.
According to it, the African Diaspora consists of peoples of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality, and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the AU.
The AU pledged that it would invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora in efforts to develop the continent.
At the national level, there is a growing recognition of the need to involve Nigerians living abroad in national development efforts.
For instance, there is a standing committee of the House of Representatives that is overseeing issues relating to Nigerians resident in overseas countries.
The House of Representatives Committee on the Diaspora is chaired by Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa and it has been calling for the establishment of a commission to look after the interests of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
At the Nigerians in the Diaspora (Europe) Investment Summit held in Osogbo last year, Dabiri-Erewa underscored the need to create the commission that would address all issues relating to Nigerians living abroad.
The lawmaker stressed that many Nigerian experts in various fields of human endeavour were resident in countries across the world, developing the countries’ economies and promoting the wellbeing of their citizenry.
She noted that it was paradoxical to note that Nigeria was still deficient in expertise in various sectors, while its citizens were busy developing the economies of other countries.
“This is why it is time for us as country to consider this commission which will look at the issue of Nigerians in the Diaspora and how their contributions can be harnessed to save the country from its present predicament.
“Many of our people are doing very well; they are respected in their chosen fields such as medicine and engineering, among others; the academia is not left out, Nigerians stand out wherever they are,’’ she said.
In the light of this, the Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS), a department in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, is specifically mandated to mobilise Nigerians in the Diaspora to make contributions to the country’s development. Established in 2002, the department is empowered to implement the government policy on the engagement of Nigerians abroad, while specifying the framework for their effective mobilisation and engagement for national development. To boost the Nigerian initiative, the European Union (EU) is funding “Promoting Better Management of Migration in Nigeria’’ project with about 11 million Euros (about N2.3 billion).
A workshop on the project was recently organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Abuja and its participants commended ongoing activities and support for efforts to engage Nigerians living overseas in national development strategies and efforts.
Mr Charles Kwenin, the IOM Senior Regional Advisor of Sub-Saharan Africa, said that the workshop discussed how to develop a roadmap for effective and sustainable engagement of Nigerians in the Diaspora in national development activities.
He, however, noted that globally, millions of people were constantly on the move, adding that half of the migrants were women, while a significant number of them was made up of children.
“This mass movement is what the IOM Director-General, Amb. William Lacey Swing, refers to as a mega-trend of the 21st Century.
“It is driven, in the first instance, by the information and communication revolutions. In 2000, no fewer than 300 million people were connected to the Internet, today; the number has risen to about two billion.
“So, you have one out of every seven persons on our globe in a migratory status and one out of every three people connected to the Internet.
“The two are linked in the sense that anyone who has Internet access can know at anytime, from anywhere in the world, what is going on anywhere else in the world.
“If it is these revolutions that fuel this particular movement, then, other trends will make sure that it lasts well into our century.
“Migration is humanity’s oldest action against poverty – the powerful manifestation of an individual’s desire for development, dignity and a decent life – even if it means doing the dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs; jobs that the domestic workforce often shun
“One of the main challenges before us now is how to formulate and implement humane and equitable policies that will deploy the development potential of the people in the Diaspora for the benefit of their countries of origin and countries of destination,’’ he said.
To make things easier for Nigerians living abroad, Mrs Omolara Duke, the Assistant Director (Department of Research), Central Bank of Nigeria, said that Nigerians living overseas could now open Nigerian bank accounts anywhere they were.
She said the “Nigeria Diaspora Account’’ would alleviate the burden of Nigerians living in repatriating money home for national development.
All the same, participants at the workshop resolved that the NNVS, in collaboration with the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), should develop a pragmatic roadmap for the engagement of Nigerians living abroad for specific national development plans.
They noted that the collaboration should foster the evolution of trust between Nigerians abroad and the Federal Government.
They also called for increased advocacy for the formal adoption of the Draft National Migration Policy.
The participants asserted that the creation of investment products such as “Diaspora Bonds’’, among other incentives, would stimulate Nigerians living in overseas countries to partake in national development projects.