This year’s Diaspora day will take place on 24th and 25th August 2015. The usually Diaspora day takes place yearly every 25th of July. The federal government declared the Diaspora Day in 2005, in recognition of the strength, importance and contributions of the Nigerians in Diaspora. Currently over nineteen (19) million Nigerians live in Diaspora. It is estimated that over 3.25 million Nigerians live in America. According to Mayor of Brent, London (Micheal Adeyeye), over 1 million Nigerians live in London alone. Remittances from Nigerians in Diaspora, accounts for the second largest source of foreign exchange. According to news, carried by Premium Times, Nigerians overseas remitted $21 billion dollars in 2013. Figures are projected to increase further in 2015. Millions of Nigerian professionals are living abroad. Many come back to perform one form of charity project or another.
Recognising the Nigerians in Diaspora.
In recognition of the contributions and potentials of Nigerians in Diaspora, Obasanjo started/instituted the Diapora Day in 2005. Nigerians in Diapora Organisation (NIDO) emerged about the same time. In 2009, a House Committee on Diaspora was established at the House of Representatives. The Senate is yet to establish a similar committee. Hoping they will borrow a leaf from the House of Representatives to do same. In 2014, Ex President Goodluck Jonathan invited about 6 Nigerians from different continents to be members of the Confab. Many Nigerians have been invited from abroad to come and serve as Governors, Ministers, and Commissioners etc. The author will like to suggest to Nigerians in Diaspora to demand at least 6 appointment slots under President Buhari.
Nigerians in Diaspora as Extension of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy.
There is no end to the potentials of Nigerians overseas. They can become a valuable component of Nigeria’s foreign policy, similar to what the Jews in America do to influence US policies towards Middle East. Before the last election, many Nigerians in UK, had audience with some MP’s (UK Parliamentary Members), on the need to ensure free and fair elections in Nigeria. On President Buhari’s war against corruption, some Nigerians are contemplating going to meet their individual MP’s, to raise and discuss the matter at the UK House of commons. This is citizen’s led diplomacy. Every Nigerian can turn into an ambassador of this nation. Every year, the Mayor of Leicester City, UK is invited to the new yam festivals organized by the Igbos living in the city. During the last Leicester carnival (1/8/15), Nigerian flag was on display, during the street parade. Yoruba language has been recognized by the London Metropolitan Police.
Imo State Diaspora Village.
This was by far, one of the best ideas, brought up by the Imo State Governor (Rochas Okorocha). The idea was that, the State government, some banks, and private developers would build a Diaspora village, strictly to be sold only to Imo State indigenes overseas. Payments would be through a mortgage system, of ten or more years. This would have served as a gradual means to invest at home. According to Rochas, all the materials, labour etc would be sourced locally. The multiplier effects (massive cash inflows, employment opportunities, etc) of this project to the state’s economy would have been great. Imo indigenes were so enthusiastic and eager to invest. Presentation was made to people in London about this project. Sadly this project didn’t see the light of the day. However, it’s not late to revisit it again or other states, the federal government can adopt it or something similar.
Nigerians In Diaspora Commission.
Many countries of the world have moved further from recognising their citizens overseas, to the creation of ministries or agencies in charge of their affairs. Let’s look at some examples, in 1995, Haiti created Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad. In 2004, India created, the Ministry for Overseas Indian Affairs. India has invited their citizens abroad to return home and help develop it. Somalia has Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Community Affairs. Serbia has a similar ministry, dedicated to stop brain drain etc. Mali created a Ministry of Malians Abroad and African Integration. Benin Republic has Ministry for foreign Affairs, African Integration, the Francophone Community, and Beninese Abroad. In Nigeria as in other countries, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Bill has gone through all the 3 stages at the House of Reps, waiting to be passed by the Senate. This bill seeks to (a) that Nigerian Diaspora Commission to be the sole agency to handle all Diaspora matters, (b) “responsibility for co-ordinating and providing a system of collaborations of Nigerians in Diaspora for their contributions, by identifying, preserving, and mobilising the human, capital, material resources and expertise to the general development of Nigeria”. http://diasporacommittee.com/index.php/about-us
Voting Rights for Nigerians in Diaspora.
Currently, about 96 countries of the world allow their citizens overseas to votes. Some of these countries are, Brazil, Angola, Cote D’ Ivoire, Russia, Algeria, America, etc. In Nigeria, the bill seeking to amend the Electoral Act of 2010, to allow Nigerians living abroad to vote did not make it past the first reading at the House of Representatives. President Jonathan promised in 2011, that Nigerians in Diaspora would vote in 2015 general election, but it wasn’t possible. President Buhari, while addressing Nigerians in Cameroon, promised to look into this. The best would be for the Nigerians abroad to work with the House Committee on Diaspora to re-introduce this bill. Perhaps engage the NASS Members to enable them pass this bill into law. Also the Senate needs to create Senate Committee on Diaspora to complement the House of Reps work and help pass the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Bill.