• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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Nigerian-born UK Mayor rallies diaspora support for Nigeria

Nigerian-born UK Mayor rallies diaspora support for Nigeria

Nigerian-born Michael Situ, Mayor of Southwark in Central London has encouraged his countrymen in the diaspora to support and assist Nigerians back home through conceited teaching and financing to foster collaboration and community.

According to him, “When an opportunity is given to you, there then is a responsibility that you not only make best the opportunity that you have but also extend those opportunities. You also seek to try to bless others.”

Having relocated to the UK from Nigeria in the late 90s to join his parents and siblings, Situ spent his childhood in Peckham during the regeneration of the North Peckham Estate and the changes to the area.

He later left his football ambition to pursue higher degrees in law which eventually led to his political debut, taking after his father who had served as Mayor.

In 2010, he was elected as a Councillor, where he served for 12 years as a Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Deputy Mayor of Southwark, championing improvements to youth facilities, sustainable transportation and introducing a multi-agency-focused approach to addressing domestic abuse.

Speaking to Nigeria media providers this week, Situ reinforced his principle of accountability to heritage.

“I think the responsibility is also on me to ensure that whatever I can do not just in my own environment here but also in the community that has blessed me so much before I came here and I still have so much affinity to.

What I’ve been trying to do over the years is to see how I can support and benefit those who are in Nigeria in a collaborative way,” he said

The Nigerian community in the UK is one of the largest and most diverse immigrant groups in the diaspora. As of 2021, there were over 312,000 Nigerian-born residents in the UK, mainly concentrated in London and Liverpool.

Census data of 2011 also reveals that Southwark had the highest proportion of Nigerian residents among all London boroughs, with 8.7% of its population identifying as Nigerian. This was followed by Greenwich, Barking and Dagenham, and Newham.

The Nigerian population in Southwark increased by 63% between 2001 and 2011, from 21,468 to 34,927, and is constantly rising.

“For those who are here, the diasporans, I always say that the challenge is on us. We’ve got to do more,” said Situ.

“We’ve got to think about how we can utilize our skills our knowledge our resources to benefit those who are less fortunate than us primarily in Nigeria,” he added.

Situ expressed that the responsibility does not end with his home district or his countrymen. He expressed that it requires a collective effort from those in privileged circumstances to look out for others and seek ways to contribute to change within the community where they are or where they come from.

“For those…who are not Nigerians anywhere around the world, where they see injustice, where they see poverty, where they see any kind of room for growth…they should seek and to try to effect change within those communities.”

Diaspora remittances to Nigeria have recorded outstanding numbers in contrast to its sub-Saharan peers. The nation was expected to receive more than $20 billion in official remittances by the end of 2023 making it one of the top recipients of remittances in the world with the UK being one of the main sources of remittances to Nigeria.

Privy to this, Situ advocates for interventions in other areas for the vulnerable populace, encouraging knowledgeable individuals to support educational and communication efforts.

“There are other people who are looking up to you to see what you can, and the little you can do. Whether it’s visiting Nigeria to share your expertise. There are lots of people who can benefit from your expertise whether it’s making small financial contributions.

This money could go a long way in terms of alleviating poverty, addressing real needs or in terms of setting up projects that has mutual benefits to Nigerian organizations in Nigeria.” he said.

Raising awareness and support for his chosen charities including Salem Academy of Music, St Giles Trust, and London Community Kitchen, and hosting various events and engagements with the local community are some of the projects Situ had launched in his regime.

For him, being Mayor opened him up to greater resources and opportunities but he insists significant contributions can be made regardless.

“There are real change you can make and real impact you can have. It’s only if you try,” he said.