Opening Ceremony Of The 2015 Nigeria Diaspora Day/Conference

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Your Excellencies, all Special Guests, Gentlemen of the Press, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me such great pleasure to be part of the 2015 Nigeria Diaspora Day.

Since its inception in July 2005, the National Diaspora Day/Conference has become the platform for engaging with our citizens in Diaspora.  Permit me today to take this opportunity to interrogate the place and role of Nigerians abroad in the Change Agenda of the Buhari administration.

This is because we have embarked on the building of a bold new Nigeria, and we need all hands to be on deck. The time has come for talents from home and abroad to mix-it up in patriotic zeal to fashion the Nigeria of our dreams.

Firstly, let me quickly lay out our mid-to-long-term vision as a government, namely to build an economy led by a strong and responsible private sector. Government intervention comes in the provision of physical, economic infrastructure and the social policies that provide opportunity and succour for the 110 million extremely poor in our country.

For instance, in the Power sector, we are aiming to consistently generate 5000MW going into the first quarter of next year. This will involve aggressively ensuring that all power related projects are speedily concluded. In the hydrocarbon industry, we are pursuing a long overdue reform. For instance, in the short to medium term, we will re-organise NNPC as we hold its leadership to account for revenue shortfalls in past years. We will also improve local refining capacity. This will reduce the over 30 percent of foreign exchange currently devoted.

In Agriculture, we will pursue self-sustenance in the production of items such as rice, wheat, cotton and therefore considerably reduce foreign exchange requirements for importation of those items. Rice importation alone consumes USD 4 billion. Seven rice producing States are working closely with the Federal Government to map out the pathway to self-sustenance in rice production within the next thirty months.  The agriculture and agro-allied value chain are also important in our job creation plans. In the meantime, we intend to progressively protect and support local agriculture.

Generally, we intend to create a friendly and efficient business environment, insisting on removing needless bureaucracies and red-tape in pre-establishment and approval processes generally. Realizing that investments go where they are offered the best profits and most conducive environments, we intend to review our incentive regime even as we assure greater consistency and certainty in policies.

Equally, addressing the dire employment situation is central in our socio-economic agenda, especially youth employment which is a major priority of the government.  We expect that investment in infrastructure development, technology, agriculture and mining, will in the medium to long term, absorb many of the qualified unemployed. Our one-meal-a-day programme for primary schools will also create several job and business opportunities. We are also committed to a robust policy of funding and capacity for SMEs and startups. Training and engagement of National Volunteers (NVs), post-secondary school students who are given vocational training equipping them with civil works, agriculture, and vocational skills; each State will start with a minimum of 5,000 National Volunteers.

Generally, our monetary policy aims primarily at a stable exchange rate and value for the Naira. Some short term measures were recently taken to stabilize the Naira, these measures are not expected to be permanent. We intend to keep inflation within the single to early double-digit margin, and keep interest rates at current levels.

Social policy is a cornerstone of the Change socio-economic agenda. Working with the World Bank and other partners, we intend to implement the Conditional Cash Transfer programme (CCT). Like the Bosa Familia in Brazil, we believe that giving N5000 (Five Thousand Naira) monthly to the poorest families, on the condition that they enrol their children in school and participate in immunization, is a right step in the right direction. The five thousand Naira given to women is an injection into the local economies. Other social intervention programmes include, The-One-Meal-A-Day programme for primary schools, Social Benefits for the poor, disabled and elderly poor.

Our revenue generation plans are straightforward; in the short term, plugging the numerous loopholes in the collection of public revenue. The Treasury Single Account (TSA) which mandates all government agencies to pay all revenues directly to a single account, aggressive revenue collection especially FIRS, VAT, and Stamp Duties. We believe that a more aggressive collection policy can significantly increase public revenue.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I have gone to this length to underscore the expectation of the important role that Nigerians in Diaspora can play in the new Nigeria, which is now under construction. It is well known, that several nations of the world have tapped into the wealth of knowledge and exposure of their Diaspora, mixed with those at home to build thriving economies. Empirical studies have also shown that countries of origin can certainly benefit from the acquired skills and experiences of their citizens abroad, especially those based in developed economies and advanced democracies.

India for instance, is known to have attained a global economic status today in part because of the contribution of its Diaspora. So entrenched in India’s growth and development is its Diaspora, that there is now a full-fledged Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. The rise of India as an outsourcing hub for western nations, has in fact been attributed to the contributions of its Diaspora. India has the highest rates of financial remittances, gains significantly from reverse flows of expertise and investment, alongside business leads and technology from its Diaspora.

What is true of the Indian Diaspora is true of the Japanese, the Chinese and the Koreans. It can also be true of Nigeria, once we get the right perspectives to review the matter. I propose that the impact that the Diaspora of those nations have managed to bring to bear, would not have been possible if they were not prepared to make sacrifices. If many of them had waited, for the home environment to be completely ideal before they start to actively get involved and engaged with their home countries, they would possibly still be waiting up till now.

In spite of our huge human and natural resources, Nigeria is still confronted today with a number of developmental challenges some of which include: poor and inadequate social amenities, inadequate and erratic power supply, high rate of youth unemployment, high incidence of poverty, endemic corruption and insecurity. The Buhari administration is committed to tackling these challenges head-on so as to lay a solid foundation for the sustainable development of our country.

We are convinced that Nigerians in Diaspora have a critical role to play in the Change agenda of this administration.  This is because amongst you are not only world acclaimed professionals and experts in various fields of human endeavour, but also individuals who have made significant contribution to the socio-economic development of their various countries of residence.

Although there is still no conclusively accurate data on the number of Nigerians abroad, rough official estimates including those drawn from our embassies and leads from the International Organization for Migration, IOM, suggest that there are about 15 million Nigerians abroad, with about 4 million in the US and Canada alone. A London public official not too long ago claimed that there are 1 million Nigerians in London. There are large numbers of Nigerians in African countries including Sudan, which is said to host a large chunk of Nigerians. Besides, the financial remittances from Nigerians abroad has now reached over $21billion, the figure recorded for last year alone.

With the potential of such huge populations abroad, and attendant financial muscle, no responsible government would totally ignore such numbers.

And the place to start is to actually develop reliable data about our citizens abroad. This can be done through our embassies across the world. That this is yet to happen reveals an absence of a definite policy on the question of the Nigerian Diaspora. A Diaspora Commission located under the Foreign Affairs Ministry might be an important element in the kind of policy that needs to be formulated regarding the Nigerian Diaspora. In the interim, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation would be required to generate a credible and reliable database of Nigerians in Diaspora after this event, with a view to utilizing their capacities in our quest for the development of Nigeria.

We are also aware of the importance of the voting rights of Nigerians abroad and we affirm same. Voting is a critical element of citizenship and the desire of Nigerians abroad to be part of the voting process at home is proof-positive of their undying love for fatherland. To achieve this however, the National Assembly would have to legislate the matter, while tremendous logistic issues would also have to be confronted.

Without a doubt, absentee-voting is in Nigeria’s future, but obviously there is still a lot to be done including building confidence in the Nigerian electoral process. The scale and planning required in planning a local election in an atmosphere of considerable suspicion of the bona fides of each other is a major challenge. When you then imagine that the same electoral commission will be required to arrange for Nigerians to vote in almost every country in the world then, we must approach it with great diligence, care and caution. Thankfully, this year’s general election has a lot more confidence in the process, judging from the conduct, participation and outcome of the election.  Our electoral process is evolving, and as greater confidence is built in the institutions and processes associated with it, we may then create voting opportunities for our citizens abroad in the not too distant future.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, this occasion is to also affirm the commitment of my administration to ensuring that the rights of law abiding Nigerians in Diaspora are respected by their various countries of residence. Let me emphasize here though, that Nigerians in Diaspora must reciprocate by respecting the laws of their countries of residence.

Finally, we are resolved to tackle corruption frontally as a critical step towards re-positioning Nigeria for greatness. We will not rest until uprightness and integrity in governance become second nature.

Let me emphasize that the fact that you were born Nigerian is not an accident, there is in my respectful view, a divine plan and purpose that the place of your birth dictates, each and every one of us is called and challenged daily as we see the needs of our fatherland and its people to find our own place in that plan to make a difference.

It is on this note that I declare the 7th Nigeria Diaspora Day/Conference open.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you fruitful deliberations.





"Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I have gone to this length to underscore the expectation of the important role that Nigerians in Diaspora can play in the new Nigeria, which is now under construction. It is well known, that several nations of the world have tapped into the wealth of knowledge and exposure of their Diaspora, mixed with those at home to build thriving economies. Empirical studies have also shown that countries of origin can certainly benefit from the acquired skills and experiences of their citizens abroad, especially those based in developed economies and advanced democracies."