The establishment of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission (NDC) and the subsequent appointment of Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa as the pioneer chief executive officer of the commission is a welcome development. I see this event as a significant attempt to tap into the enormous capacity of Nigerians in other countries in the effort toward creating sustainable policies and building our society. In my opinion, this is a form of diaspora resource control with enormous benefits for Nigerians.
Nigeria is widely known as one of the significant oil producing countries in the world. This is because we are exploring and exporting oil in its different components. However, Nigeria is better known as a gas-rich country going by the number of untapped gas resources. Nigeria should by her gas endowment be what Russia is to the European countries in terms of gas supply, revenue generation and influence within the continent.
Let’s review some tidbits on why the creating of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission is a form of external resource control and one of the best policies of the current administration. The number of Nigerians in diaspora according to the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) was about 17million as of 2018. Given this enormous number of skilled and semi-skilled Nigerians in the diaspora, the home remittances from the diaspora group were $25.1billion in 2018 as noted in the World Bank Migration and Remittances Data. The 2018 diaspora inflow of $25.1billion is one of the dominant indicators of the existence of foreign human assets and resources the Nigerian government must focus on except if the figure is in isolation of other economic data.
In the first instance, the diaspora remittance has been growing in the last ten years with a 3.2% compounded annual growth rate. It witnessed the highest growth rate of 14% in 2018 if compared with 2017 when the amount was $22billion.
The second analysis is revealing. The diaspora remittance for 2018 was $6.9billion greater than the gross oil revenue generated by the government in the same year. On the assumption that oil revenue is the highest source of income to fund our national budget, Nigeria is, therefore, the human capital producing country. This is further justified if you know that the 2018 remittance by the diaspora Nigerians was more than the 2018 Capital Importation by $8.3billion, and was 84% of the federal government budget for 2018. In the same year 2018, the diaspora remittance contributed $17.6billion and $7.6billion to the local consumption and investment respectively. The average per capital annum income for the diaspora remittances stood at $1,475 as stated by the Afrinvest Research.
The above expatiation is to erase the doubt in people as to the need for a separate commission to focus on the diaspora Nigerians. If you once breed and own a cow, and you find out your cow is producing milk for another person. Will you lay claim to the cow if there is no encumbrance to ownership?
The Nigerians in the diaspora were once raised in Nigeria or had our blood flowing in their veins. We cannot lay total claims to their development but must have contributed to their sojourn in life. Therefore, there is no harm if we could provide the right platform and enabling environment for Nigerians in any part of the world to contribute their quota to their nation of origin if they are willing.
Without a doubt, we need the skills and expertise of our diaspora human resources especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as in other fields of human endeavour. The work of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission is, therefore, to implement the national policy on diaspora matters by creating the avenues to tap into the wealth and experience of Nigerians wherever they are including those living in Nigeria.
The focus area is broad and extensive. It includes all spheres of life where the input and the knowledge of Nigerians abroad could help in developing our nation. One major area where human diaspora resources are needed is education. The foundation and the work of Lee Kuan Yew in transforming Singapore was the focus on learning. Thirty years after, Singapore was rated first out of seventy countries in the Programme for International Students Assessment for 2016. A focus on education is a focus on development.
Recently, a Nigerian Dr Dayo Olukoshi made a massive impact in the United Kingdom when he transformed a local and average public secondary school into a school that produces students with top-grade results in the university entrance examination. The Brampton Manor Academy in East Ham got forty-one of its students (mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minority groups) on the admission list of Oxford, Cambridge and the other Russel Group universities. Dr Olukoshi is an example of our diaspora resource we cannot overlook if he is interested in contributing to his motherland. There are more of Dayo Olukoshi of Nigerian origin and some of the Historic African Diaspora who are willing and waiting for the opportunity to contribute their skills and resources to the development of Nigeria.
The Nigerian Diaspora Commission has a wide range of financial and non-financial deliverables to ensure the success of its creation. These among others include the creation of a reliable database of Nigerians in other countries with robust information on their capacity and area of specialization. The awareness to erase any negative impression on the country is necessary to create an interest in serving Nigeria for those who had been feed with wrong news. The government needs to improve the safety of Nigerians at home to make a profound statement to Nigerians in the diaspora. There cannot be a willingness to contribute to a society where the security of the potential contributors is not guaranteed.
The $25.1billion diaspora remittance is also an essential key performance measurement for the commission. The amount is not negligible given its comparison to the oil revenue, national budget, and contribution to the total amount of consumption and investment expenditure. While pursuing some soft objectives of fair treatment and perception of Nigerians abroad, ensuring they are willing to invest and develop the country as a group of citizens with the resources is key to sustaining the diaspora inflow.
Conclusively, the creation of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission is creative and expected to yield a high return on investment with future benefits for all Nigerians.
Babs Olugbemi FCCA, the Chief Responsibility Officer at Mentoras Leadership Limited and Founder, the Positive Growth Africa. He can be reached on [email protected] or 08025489396.