By Musa Ilallah
Undoubtedly, this year’s 16th Edition of the Nigerian National Diaspora Day celebration and the fourth to be hosted by the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM with the theme: “Diaspora Engagement in Global Challenging Times for National Development” has come and gone but that the memories of what Nigerians in the diaspora have done to our economy will continue to excite Nigerians, Africans and the global community.
In the words of President Muhammadu Buhari, the contributions of 17 million Nigerians in the Diaspora to national development has been instrumental to the growing importance of Nigeria all over the world. PMB further acknowledged the contributions of the Diaspora, including direct remittances worth $20billion in 2021 to the country’s economic development.
The President who spoke at this year’s event through his Chief of staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, reiterated that his administration has held and will continue to hold Nigerian citizens in the Diaspora in the highest esteem.
Since the establishment and take off of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, in 2017 and 2019 respectively and approval/
adoption of the National Diaspora Policy in 2021, Nigerians in diaspora have made giant contributions to the growth and development of the country’s economy and people.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration launched this event in 2006 in recognition of the diaspora’s contribution to national development.
Data from the World Bank revealed that the Nigerian Diaspora population remitted $65.34bn in three years with $24.31bn in 2018, $23.81bn in 2019 and $17.21bn in 2020 to boost economic activities in the country.
During the COVID-19 in 2020, Nigerians in diaspora remittances inflow was 4% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product for that fiscal year.
President Buhari himself had noted that the presentation of the compendium of the ‘plus 600 Diaspora icons at 60’ has remained a historic record of the work of our compatriots globally.
It is not in doubt that the willingness of the PMB administration to support NiDCOM in fulfilling its mandate holistically through consideration of the establishment of the Nigerian Diaspora Investment Trust Fund and an intervention fund to support the activities of NiDCOM engagement with Nigerians in the Diaspora, has gone a long way in boosting the morale of Diasporans to contribute their ‘widow’s mite’ to support the country’s economy, uplifting the image of Nigeria as well as continuing to develop Nigeria, through their resources, talents, skills and global exposure.
Presently, our Diaspora home remittances through official channels stand at $20billion, which is about four times over and above the value of our foreign direct investment. In addition many of our Diaspora compatriots are actively investing in our healthcare, agriculture, education, information, communication technology ICT, housing and real estate, transportation, oil and gas and other services among others.
Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, UN, Amina Mohammed had argued that the Nigerian diaspora has a critical role to play towards the attainment of peace and development in their homeland as their experience, networks and resources can help debunk anti-Nigerian sentiments and they are well placed to project positive narratives of Africa as well as sensitise and mobilise for investments into Nigeria.
Amina while hailing the move by the Federal Government to establish the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM, illustrated that diasporic remittances had been pivotal in reducing poverty and fulfilling the socio-economic needs of Nigerian households.
In the light of the ongoing security challenges in Nigeria, ranging from Boko Haram terrorism to the Niger-Delta crisis, the farmer-herder conflicts and kidnappings by “bandits”, Chairperson of NiDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa noted the inextricable link between peace and development, calling on the Nigerian National Assembly to promulgate the much anticipated law that would grant voting rights to Nigerians in the diaspora.
Indeed Nigerians in the diaspora deserve commendations for their contributions to national development, particularly through their remittances which have been critical in sustaining the country’s economy and in the socio-economic upliftment of households in terms of food, housing, education and small and medium-scale enterprises.
I am of the strong opinion that Nigerians in diaspora should do more towards the socio-economic development of their homeland and take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA to attract investments into the country.