President Muhammadu Buhari has urged Nigerians in the Diaspora to actively participate in the country’s Post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts.
A statement by the President’s spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Saturday said Buhari made the call 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 dollars 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% of our annual GDP and upwards of 80% 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 mobilization 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,” he said.
The Nigerian leader 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.
While reiterating the agenda, the president 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 its development.”
He 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.
He congratulated them on this year’s celebration, saying the Federal Government had 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 and the Diaspora State Focal Point Officers
He said this also included other private and Civil Society Organizations’ participants 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”, the Chairman/CEO of NiDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa said the focus of the 2020 celebration was indicative of the mandate of NiDCOM as well as what the agency had 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 mobilize 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, according to her, 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 mobilize 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, Amb. 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 had donated to the COVID-19 response, especially those that were channelled to the grassroots through the states.