President Muhammadu Buhari has urged Nigerians in the Diaspora to actively participate in the country’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts.
In a video message to commemorate this year’s Diaspora Day, observed on July 25 of every year, the President appealed to his compatriots, whose home remittances exceeded $25 billion annually in three years, not to abandon their fatherland in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the past three years, Nigerians in the diaspora have brought in over $25 billion annually as home remittances to the Nigerian economy through official and non-formal channels.
“This is about 6.0 per cent of our annual GDP and upwards of 80 per cent of our annual budget. This has impacted on livelihoods of Nigerians in terms of education, health, housing and estate development, industry, trade and investments, agriculture and technology/skills transfer.
“In terms of diaspora home remittances, Nigeria is rated as number one in sub-Saharan Africa and this is still growing especially with the advocacy and mobilisation programmes of the newly established Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM).
“Nigerians in Diaspora are also known to be engaged in skill transfer in ICT and industry. They are also active in our universities as lecturers, and in carrying out medical missions.
“It is, therefore, my sincere hope that even with the depressed economy under stress in the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerians in the Diaspora will rise up to the occasion of not abandoning their country of origin, but be active in our post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts,” Buhari said.
The President told participants from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania at the webinar event that his three-point agenda for the Nigerians in Diaspora remains the same and particularly relevant on the auspicious occasion.
Reiterating the agenda, the Nigerian leader said: “You are our Ambassadors-at-large by your behaviour and character in your host countries.
“Whatever legitimate endeavour you choose, you must excel and be the best.
“Do not forget home, Nigeria, by giving back and engaging in her development.”
The President, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, also used the occasion to commend the support and contributions of Nigerians in the Diaspora to the socio-economic development of Nigeria, recounting fond memories of his several interactions with them at town hall meetings.
While congratulating them on this year’s celebration, Buhari said the Federal Government set aside July 25 of every year to celebrate Nigerians in Diaspora estimated to be over 17 million.
According to him, “The day is also to facilitate networking among the Diaspora with the ministries, departments and agencies, the government, the Diaspora State Focal Point Officers and other private and civil society organisations in the implementation of a practical framework for the effective engagement of the Diaspora for national development.”
Speaking on the theme of this year’s celebration, “Leveraging Diaspora Resources for National Development in a COVID-19 Era,” NiDCOM Chairman/CEO, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the focus of the 2020 celebration is indicative of the mandate of NiDCOM as well as what the agency has accomplished since its creation.
“Since its establishment a year ago, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission has a lot to celebrate. This is because the passion and consistency that saw to the establishment of the commission have been maintained and sustained.
“The activities we have executed, those ongoing, and the ones that are yet to take off are all definitive, of the theme. Our interaction today is expected to mobilise you to key into some of the programmes and chart improved or better ways on how to achieve them,” she said.
On Diaspora voting, Dabiri-Erewa announced that the commission was working with the National Assembly to make it a reality.
Among other initiatives, she said NiDCOM is partnering with the OPS WASH – the umbrella body for private engagement to support the declaration to end open defecation in Nigeria by 2024.
“We plan to mobilise millions of Nigerians in the Diaspora to fund a toilet per household. A global project will soon be launched and we look forward to all Nigerians in the Diaspora to participate in this most needed project,” she said.
In his remarks, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, said the ministry would continue to stress the importance of engaging with Nigerians in the Diaspora at the state, national and international levels in advocating the Diaspora potentials in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts.
The minister thanked members of the Diaspora who have donated to the COVID-19 response, especially those that were channelled to the grassroots through the states.
By Idowu Sowunmi