By: Abdur-Rahman Balogun
IT was a dream come true when on May 19, 2019, the hitherto office of Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Affairs and the occupier, Abike Dabiri-Erewa transmuted to Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, following the Senate approval and confirmation of Dabiri-Erewa as the Chairman/CEO of the new Commission. It was
indeed a dream nurtured since 2007 when Abike Dabiri became the first chairperson of the newly created Committee on Diaspora Affairs by the then leadership of the House of Representatives. It was meant for members of the opposition without any structure to fall back on, but with her dedication and dynamism, Diaspora committee, which has been replicated in the Senate too, is to be reckoned with.
So, for eight years out of the 12 years she spent in the Parliament, Dabiri-Erewa alongside her colleagues and some stakeholders tried to get the bill on Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission through, but when passed was never assented to until 2017, when President Muhammadu Buhari signed the bill into law, following the eventual passage by the eighth assembly and intense lobbying by Dabiri-Erewa as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Affairs.
But to actualize what was assented to, President Muhammadu Buhari in his wisdom, forwarded the name of the pioneer and visioner of the Act, to the Senate for approval as the Chairman/CEO of the new Commission in 2018, which eventually materialized in May 2019 with the approval of Abike Dabiri-Erewa by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the Chairman/CEO of the newly created Commission.
Permit me to reflect on the need for the establishment of the Commission. Over the past 20 years, with the massive exodus of Nigerian professionals out of Nigeria, labelled the ‘brain drain’, various initiatives were suggested to stem the tide, including persuasion through the media, stringent visa requirements and others. This did not deter nor abate the trend due to the globalised nature of the world and the economic push-pull factors.
It was therefore proposed that initiatives and strategies be put in place for meaningful interaction with the Diaspora to reverse the trend by turning it to brain gain, which can only be achieved through a focal institution that will engage with the Diaspora on a continuous basis.
The call therefore for the setting up of a Diaspora Commission in Nigeria became imperative with the large numbers of professionals emigrating and this led to the processes leading to and the passage of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission bill in 2017.
The Commission, in spite of the challenges of office accommodation, lack of budget and paucity of funds, hit the ground running to meet up with the challenges ahead within the confines of the three-point agenda of the Buhari government in terms of National Security, fighting Corruption and Economic Growth and Diversification.
It must be mentioned here that the Nigerian Diaspora is part and parcel of the population to bring about accelerated economic growth using their resources, intellect and global exposure. They are the real catalyst and asset for economic development of the country.
Since the establishment of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, a lot of activities have been embarked on to fulfill the mandates of the Commission. Within a year, the Commission has lived up to expectations as it has performed as if it was in existence in the last 10 years.
Such activities include advocacy to states to key into the larger Diaspora movement with the inauguration of Diaspora focal point in the Governors offices in all the states of the Federation.
NIDCOM also ensured the consolidation of the declaration of July 25 every year, by the Federal Government of Nigeria as `National Diaspora Day’, a date set aside to recognise and appraise Nigerians in the diaspora on their contributions to national development. This is to ensure networking, dialogue, and the constructive interface between Nigerian professionals and experts in the Diaspora and Nigerians at home on development challenges and opportunities.
The second National Diaspora Day under the Commission with the theme “Leveraging Diaspora Resources for National Development in a Covid-19 Era’’, took place on July 25, 2020. It was unique and extra-ordinary as it took place via a webinar conference with over 3,000 participants across the globe including President Muhammadu Buhari, who declared it open.
On November 5th and 6th, 2019, the Commission organised a successful second Nigeria Diaspora Investment Summit, NDIS, in Abuja with other stakeholders witnessing over 600 people from different parts of the world while the third one is being planned for November through webinar due to Covid-19 pandemic.
As a follow-up to the Summit, on 18th and 19th December 2019, two young Nigerians resident in Saudi Arabia, put together the first Saudi Arabia/Nigeria Investment Forum, an offshoot of the Nigerian Diaspora Investment Summit. It was also a great success.
A major breakthrough for the Commission was the validation of the drafted holistic Diaspora policy in collaboration with other stakeholders which is currently awaiting the approval of Federal Executive Council. This will solve a lot of challenges affecting Diaspora activities in the country.
Of course, with Nigerians in Diaspora contributing so much to the Nigerian economy, estimated at over 25 billion US dollars in 2019, it is widely believe that they deserve to vote. So, the Commission already working with the National Assembly and other stakeholders to hopefully makes this a reality in Nigeria through amendment to the country’s Electoral Act.
Other activities of NIDCOM
The Commission through its Chairman/CEO or her representatives had participated in many activities within and outside the country geared towards advancing the course of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Such activities include the participation of Abike Dabiri-Erewa in the 25th anniversary of Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, ANPA, wherein she was amazed at the quality of Nigerians doctors as the best brains in the Americas.
Visitation to Ghana and South African High Commissions and Togolese Embassy: – In line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire that the welfare and well-being of Nigerians anywhere in the world is top priority, the Commission paid a swift intervention visits to both Ghana and South Africa High Commissions and Togolese Embassy all in Abuja to put a stop to the indiscriminate xenophobic related killings of Nigerians insisting that it is highly reprehensible, condemnable and unacceptable.
Intervention with respect to Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Ibrahim’s cases in Saudi Arabia and others: The Commission was at the forefront for the release of Zainab Aliyu on death row by the Saudi Arabian government for alleged drug-related offences as well as Ibrahim Ibrahim. The Commission intervened positively in rescuing other Nigerians in such dilemma in Malaysia, Oman, U.A.E., China, Brazil, Morocco, Singapore, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Qatar and Ethiopia.
Data capturing of Nigerians in Diaspora: One of the objectives of the Commission is to have adequate data of Nigerians living abroad foreffective planning purposes and the flag off was done in partnership with National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, where the enrolment took the Commission to some parts of West Africa, Europe, Asia and Americas.
Nigerians in Prisons: Sadly enough, Nigerians are in various prison cells serving various jail terms. The Commission under Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa does visit some prisons outside the country to inquire about the welfare of the Nigerian inmates and see what could be done to assist them. This again, demonstrates the citizen diplomacy stance of President Muhammadu Buhari.
NIDCOM meeting with stakeholders: Abike Dabiri-Erewa assisted by the Secretary of the Commission, Yakubu Sule Bassi and other top management of the Commission at various times do interact with stakeholders such as International Organization for Migration, IOM, National Youth Service Commission, EFCC, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, ICMPD, International Labour Organization and Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria among several others to see how collaboration with the Commission will enhance better opportunities for the Nigerians abroad.
Inauguration of some NIDO Chapters: The Commission under the
leadership of Abike Dabiri-Erewa also led some Commission staff to
witness the inauguration of the NIDO Sierra Leone Chapter wherein they
were counselled to be good ambassadors of Nigeria.
Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa: Following interventions to
ameliorate series of attacks on black Africans in South Africa including
Nigerians, NIDCOM received the first and second batches of stranded
Nigerians back home in Lagos on Sept. 11, 2019 and Sept. 18, 2019
respectively with a total of 501 Nigeria returnees. They received sim
cards with N40, 000 worth of airtime plus 9GB of data valid for two
months, as well as a soft loan from the Bank of Industry to support
those interested in small trade and businesses. While a programme of
re-integration has been put in place with the support of some NGOs and
their respective states of origin which had been written by NIDCOM after
the returnees had been profiled for necessary assistance.
Visit to Comptroller General of Immigration Service: Inundated with
series of immigration issues from the Nigerians in the Diaspora, the
Chairman/CEO led top officials of the Commission to meet with the
Comptroller General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandede on a fact finding
mission and way out of some of the issues especially on passport
issuance, renewal and the new scheme recently introduced by the Service
to ease passport procurement by Nigerians anywhere in the world. The
meeting was fruitful and mutually rewarding.
Engagement with National Assembly Committees: NIDCOM Management team
from time to time do engage with relevant National Assembly committees
to brief them on the activities of the Commission and solicit for more
support especially in the areas of funding and necessary legislative
interventions to make the take off of the new Commission smooth.
Official visit to Ministry Of Foreign Affairs: As the new baby of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa equally met with
the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and other top
officials of the ministry as matter of courtesy. Top on the agenda were
some of the challenges confronting the new Commission and solicited for
assistance in nurturing the Commission into meeting up with its core
Media Engagements: From time to time as it may be required, NIDCOM
issued various statements and interfaced with the media especially on
issues as it affects the welfare of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Diaspora Town Hall Meetings: NIDCOM boss in entourage of Mr. President
on state visit do organise town hall meetings for Nigerians living
abroad to meet and interact with Mr. President and discuss issues
affecting their welfare while using the opportunity to also brief
Nigerians in Diaspora on efforts being made by the administration to
revamp the economy, tackle insecurity and fight corruption to a
standstill in the country.
Petitions: On daily basis, NIDCOM treats petitions of Nigerians in the
Diaspora received in its known mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org and
email@example.com, as it affects their welfare and get it resolved as
soon as possible.
Enlightenment/Advocacy: NIDCOM Chairman or her representatives devote
time to engage Nigerians both within and outside the country on advocacy
and enlightenment on the mandate of the Commission by delivering
lectures, goodwill messages and talks on various Diaspora related
Diaspora Festival: The Commission in conjunction with some private
sector NGOs held the third in the series of Diaspora Door of Return in
Badagry in Lagos from October 15 to 20, 2019 where the Diasporas made a
pilgrimage to the motherland, reminiscencing of the slaves’ trade of the
18th and 19th centuries.
12th All African Games: NIDCOM was part of the delegation that cheered
Team Nigeria to victory at the 12th All African Games which took place in
Rabat, Morocco from August 14 to 31, 2019, where Nigeria came second in
the overall medal table.
Donation from a Patriotic citizen: A patriotic two-time Nigeria cancer
survivor donated her one month salary (#500,000) to children of the
Nigeria South Africa returnees through NIDCOM.
Intervention: Multi Choice and NDE showered Mrs. Esther Iyoha, a widow,
mother of four (4) and a South Africa returnee with N2.5 million. In the
same vein, NIDCOM also promised to sponsor one of her children’s
NIDCOM Boss Received Nigerian MBE Award Philanthropist: Olasubomi
Iginla-Aina CEO Light Up Foundation, a Nigerian, was honoured with the
insignia of MBE in London to mark the Queen’s Birthday for her
humanitarian effort. In return, NIDCOM boss awarded her as the
Commission’s first Diaspora Ambassador. Many more Nigerians were
recognized for their wonderful contributions to their host country and
Nigeria as a way of encouraging others and for them to do more.
– Sept. 13, 2020 @ 13:25 GMT |