Published On: Wed, Nov 6th, 2019

Making the best of Nigeria’s brain drain through organized Diaspora assistance

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By Abimbola Lagunju

That Nigeria hemorrhages its skilled workforce to The West and the Middle East is no news. There are many drivers of this phenomenon at work, but they can be broadly classified into three or four push categories – economic, work environment, family pressure and security. Bottomline is that these Made and Trained in Nigeria men and women feel compelled to look for opportunities elsewhere. We hear and read of some who have brilliantly excelled in their fields, and who otherwise would have been unknown in their motherland for lack of support and hostile working and living environment.
Common to these skilled immigrants is the desire to see a better Nigeria, to hear of a better Nigeria, and to be able to boast of their homeland. This desire remains a dream, and a painful one too, having experienced good governance and political vision in their destination countries and understanding that the making of a normal and functional society is no rocket science.
We read of remittances from the Diaspora and how much it outweighs Official Development Assistance. We know that these remittances go on to save lives of relatives, send siblings to schools, ensure food on the table and leave a little for religious activities. We know that without these remittances, many lives would have been lost, many children out of school and many would have really felt the crunch of our voodoo-nomics. Life would have been difficult for many but for these hard-earned dollars.
But this does not give a license to self-entrench in complaints about Nigeria or to denigrate in social media or to condemn in articles in online newspapers. No one should ever mount a high horse as regards one’s homeland. Once a Nigerian product, directly or indirectly, always a product and tens of additional nationalities cannot undo that. A multitude of accents cannot undo one’s origin either.
Now it is time to call on Diaspora to give back something to their homeland in an organized manner – A kind of Official Diaspora Assistance, another ODA but fully funded by the Diaspora for rural roads and clean energy in rural areas of Nigeria as per the standards of their destination countries. It is a drive to transform brain drain into organized gains for the homeland. It is an opportunity to see the dream of translocation of the destination environment into rural Nigeria.
How will this Official Diaspora Assistance work?
A bit complicated but not impossible.
The idea is that diaspora Nigerians are taxed in their destination countries under a tax system called “Country of Origin Tax” for the development of their homeland of origin. I propose about 2.5% of their annual income. These monies are declared by the destination countries every year and every two years, the destination countries put up a matching contribution which is then committed to rural road networks and clean energy in rural areas. The management of these monies and execution of the projects can be assigned to a UN Committee. I will quickly add that the monies are strictly for operations and should not be committed to travels, meetings and consultancies by the UN body (they are very smart at that)
Thus, we have 3 contributors to these funds:
Nigerian Diaspora – 2-5% of their income taken from source by destination countries
Destination countries – Matching contribution
UN – Their travels, meetings, conferences etc.
What do we give the Diaspora in return?
The right to vote and to be voted for even while in Diaspora
The creation of a Ministry for Diaspora Affairs
Though, I have no doubt that the idea is quite feasible, I accept that it is a very complicated matter and I do not have all the answers. But then, there are many smart people out there who can flesh up this skeleton.
Just imagine what Nigeria would look like in another 30 years if we can get this working.
Let’s together Make Nigeria Great…..I didn’t deliberately put “Again” because I cannot remember when it was ever great. I do not think Mr. Trump also has a reference for his “Again” in his MAGA too…
I hope our very smart and courageous Abike Kafayat Oluwatoyin Dabiri-Erewa reads this and acts on it.
If ever a Bill in this regard is sent to the Nigerian Parliament, I want this Bill to be called Abimbola Lagunju Official Diaspora Assistance Bill. No joke!
CAVEAT
Just two caveats:
If ever any government in power in Nigeria wants to take control of these funds, block it.
If ever any agency of the UN wants to start deducting its travels, meetings and conferences costs from these funds, block the process.

Abimbola Lagunju is a writer and author of several books.

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