The Nigerian in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) organized the Second Summit of the State Diaspora Focal Point Officers (SDFPOs) and Standing Committee on Diaspora Matters (SCDM) on Thursday, 15th of October, 2020.
The event, held at Lucy Hall, Bon Hotel Elvis, Abuja FCT, featured Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, NiDCOM, Engr. Dr. Sule Yakubu Bassi, Secretary, NiDCOM, Mr. Frantz Celestin, Chief of Mission, International Organisation for Migration(IOM), and Ms. Eleni Zerzelidou, Project Officer Migration and Drugs, European Union.
The biannual summit was birthed at the inaugural State Diaspora Focal Point Officers summit held in February 2020. During the inaugural summit, NiDCOM charged 28 appointed States Diaspora Focal Point Officers (SDFPOs) with the responsibility of harnessing the enormous resources and capabilities of Nigerians in Diaspora for national development.
Chairing the second summit, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa gave a very remarkable opening. She commended the relentless efforts of the NiDCOM secretary and the indefatigable team. The NiDCOM Chairman also appreciated the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) for their support in training the evacuated Nigerian migrant returnees.
Hon. Abike further emphasized that the Diaspora Focal Persons are an integral part of NiDCOM and need to work together to actualize the set mandate. Hon. Abike said:
“The focal persons are NiDCOM Executive Councils with which we make decisions and work together so that the diaspora truly can be integrated for national development. Essentially, when it comes to the diaspora investment, the diaspora does not come to the FCT to invest but rather their various States. So that is while the duty of the State Focal Persons is very critical.”
Hon Abike further appreciated the State’s Focal Persons for excellent work. According to the NiDCOM Chairman;
“We are proud of the State’s Diaspora Persons for their excellent job, this has proven to us that the States selected the very best to represent the diaspora. Remarkably, we are glad that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) finally joined us. The FCT is our chief host and has given us a land they called the Diaspora Medical City. The City will be open to the Diaspora investors, it is a hub Medicare city in Abuja. We extend our gratitude to the minister of the FCT for this laudable initiative.” Said Hon. Abike
The NiDCOM Chairman highlighted the main objectives of the Second SDFPOs and SCDM Summit which were; (1.) To consolidate the last meeting as well as take stock of performance, (2.) To chart a way forward after a collective appraisal and evaluations, (3.) To introduce the National Diaspora Policy which is before the Federal Executive Council.
Reflecting on the essence of the National Diaspora Policy, Hon. Abike pointed out that it will provide a unified framework within which all states can work. She however acknowledged the effort of States already working on their Diaspora Bills to have a law in the parliament to establish the diaspora agency at the State level. She lauded Abia and Kano that has already actualized this feat.
In encouraging further work, Hon. Abike mentioned that NiDCOM will continue to provide the enabling environment for networking, exchange of ideas, and above all provide the policy direction for a successful diaspora engagement for the socio-economic, political, and cultural development of our dear country Nigeria.
According to her:
“Countries of the world have tapped into their diaspora resource for development. There is no excuse for us not to do better in Nigeria, we are saying we are the best in the world and this has not translated to our country’s development. Now that we have NiDCOM and the States Focal Persons, we have no more excuse and we will collectively make it happen. We have the best head in terms of human resources, so let tap into these enormous human resources that we have as Nigerian in the diaspora. For example, recently Prof. Sulaiman was celebrated as one of the 60 most influential Nigeria at 60. This is a massive achievement for the Diaspora.” Said Hon. Abike.
After the chairman’s address, Engr. Dr. Sule Yakubu Bassi, NiDCOM Secretary presented a Summary of the draft National Diaspora Policy to the State Focal Persons and the Standing Committee. Thereafter, Ms. Eleni Zerzeliodus expresses the goodwill messages of the European Union and the organization’s genuine commitment to the Nigeria Diaspora Integration project. She assured the commission of the EU continuing partnership in the execution of its mandates.
After the Goodwill message, thirty State Focal Persons presented the Diaspora activities of their respective state.
Prof. Wale Sulaiman, the Kwara State Diaspora Focal Person, NiDCOM presented a report on the activities of Kwarans in Diaspora (KID).
Prof. Sulaiman commended the dynamic leadership qualities of the NiDCOM Chairman, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. He identified her passion for what she does, her determination to succeed, the ability to build bridges, form partnerships, and stay focus.
Prof. Sulaiman established that these great qualities of Hon. Abike has been the secret behind NiDCOM’s tremendous achievements under her watch. He also commended the relentless effort of the NiDCOM Secretary, Engr. Sule for being the Engine behind the scene. The Prof. appreciated the support of the European Union and the International Organization for Migration for helping to push the agenda forward.
Prof. Sulaiman went on to highlight the vision, mission, and strategy designed for integrating Kwarans in the Diaspora for Investment and socio-cultural development of Kwara state.
According to Prof. Sulaiman;
“I will like to propose to those of us who are State Focal Persons, that Diaspora Affairs is probably the largest portfolio that you have in any state, you just have to think about it with the right mindset. Because the Nigerian economy is surviving because of the undertone of diaspora inflow into the country and you all seat on top of that opportunity”
The Prof. emphasized that His Excellency, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the Executive Governor of Kwara State is a private sector person, so what needed to be done in Kwara State is to bring in investment and development techniques.
The vision is to transform Kwara State into an investment hub driven by strategic private investment and create jobs for Kwarans. Accordingly, areas, where there are investment opportunities, have been identified.
Talking about Diaspora strategies in Kwara State, Prof. Sulaiman stated that:
“In whatever we do, we are making sure that it serves the pleasure of H.E Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the Governor of Kwara State. “
Going further, Prof. Sulaiman said that:
“First, our overall strategy must be in complete alignment with the Kwara State Government Strategy.
Second, we need to create a platform where we develop our vision, mission, and strategies in coordination and partnership with people that are going to assist and partner with us. I do not believe in centralization, in contrast, I do strongly believe in decentralization of strategy with a sense of ownership, in this way thing tends to work better, if you do it that way there will be sustainability and longevity.” Said, Prof. Sulaiman
Advising the State Focal Persons, the Prof. opined ;
“I don’t want you to focus so much on the philanthropic aspect of diaspora engagements, because there is a business case to be made, and you can create jobs and transform your state using this strategy. Also, because of the business viability, at the end of the day, you will be able to generate Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for your State by bringing the diaspora business into the state and making sure they pay tax, that is another way of moving from the oil-dependent economy.”
Prof. Sulaiman further highlighted the strategies and achievements of Kwarans in Diaspora (KID) under his watch.
According to him:
“Our achievement includes the creation of a social media platform such as
WhatsApp group with almost (200) members consisting of Kwarans from all over the world, a Facebook page, Twitter account, and a Website (www.kwaransindiaspora.org) with updates of what we are doing and investment opportunities in Kwara State; we also created KID-Sub groups which include Agric, ITC, Housing, Health care, Manufacturing, Tourism, and Education, etc. and inaugurated group Champions made up of people that are interested and passionate about driving each sector of the State economy.”
The Kwara State Diaspora Focal Person stated that the Agric sub-division of KID is the most active for now with the prospect of diaspora investment in the Agric sector of the State.
However, talking about the challenges, Prof. Sulaiman noted that the biggest challenge to the whole project is trust, therefore, a sense of ownership is encouraged because the more they (Diasporans) own it, the more they can drive it and know what is going on, the more they want to partner with you. According to Prof. Sulaiman:
“Diaspora investment is considered under individual investment, private partnership, matching fund, or public-private partnership. In whichever model, we assist in looking out for adequate financing of diaspora projects that meet up with our set Business evaluation standards.”
A significant achievement mentioned by Prof. Sulaiman is the opening of the Kwarans in the Diaspora Office in Kwara State and the facilitation of the Diaspora Covid-19 rescue support hand washing machine donated by Kwara State Association of Nigeria North America (KSANG).
Concluding his address, Professor Sulaiman thanked Hon. Abike and Governor AbdulRazak for granting legitimacy to his office as Diaspora Focal Person. In his words:
“One important thing is legitimacy. There is no better legitimacy and support than the Governor of Kwara State and Hon. Abike showing up in the first-ever virtual meeting of Kwarans in Diaspora (KID) addressing Kwarans in Diaspora about what we are trying to do. The leadership and determination by the State government and NiDCOM change everything for good. ” Said, Prof. Sulaiman
S. O. Boladale