The role of Diaspora Nigerians in national economic development

In the USA, Nigerians are the most educated ethnic group with the highest percentage of Bachelors’ degree holders
The role of Diaspora Nigerians in national economic development

Emigration or immigration is what happens from time to time. This is when a person decides to leave their country to live permanently in another country for reasons that are not far-fetched. Some could be for economic reasons, wanting a better life or simply running away from conflicts which can be outright war or religious.

It is a fact that millions of Nigerians emigrate to other parts of the world. These migrants and their descendants make up the Nigerian Diaspora. This population range between 5 million and 15 million according to figures from official quarters.

Nigerians can be found in the United Kingdom with Peckham referred to as little Lagos, the USA, Ireland, especially in Dublin, South Africa, India, Malaysia etc. It is even a serious joke that there’s hardly any place on the planet you cannot find a Nigerian and till now I see that as a problem.

These migrants, as observed, are at a high cost to the development of Nigeria, especially when it borders on professionals like doctors, scientists, lecturers which the country is in dire need of. Unfortunately, some of Nigeria’s brightest professionals constitute the class of people leaving the country on a daily basis for other countries that provide better facilities and services for their people.

In the USA, Nigerians are the most educated ethnic group with the highest percentage of Bachelors’ degree holders and have an average honourable income of $94,000 (2010 US census). We cannot also ignore the fact that Nigerians in the Diaspora also contribute largely to the economy with $12bn remitted by them in 2012 (World Bank), which is positive to our economy.

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There is, therefore, a need to put in place structures and policies that will encourage some of those that have emigrated to return and use their acquired expertise to help in the development of the country.

But to have those in the Diaspora come back, especially the professionals, facilities must be provided in our hospitals, universities, government institutions and we must also apply meritocracy in appointments. Aside from that, there should be improvement in the remuneration of specialised functions while we beef up security nationwide.

The Nigerian in Diaspora Organisation is a body recognised by the Federal Government as an umbrella body of Nigerian citizens in the Diaspora with a vision to harness the skills and expertise of Nigerians with the view to providing them for the development of the country.

The Nigerian government has to take advantage of this body in making some appointments in government agencies and institutions. The appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Director of the World Bank, is one that easily comes to mind. Her impact as Minister of Finance and coordinating minister of the economy under the Jonathan administration cannot be underestimated. The structures she put in place to check “ghost” workers as well as the Treasury Single Account have, in no small measure, minimised corruption.

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Also, the impact of Dr. Akin Adesina, a former agricultural economist at the Rockefeller Foundation, who became the Minister of Agriculture, was also positive, as he returned to use his expertise to develop the country.

Another well-known case is the success of Singapore linked to Lee Kuan Yew. Lee studied Law in Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge, UK. In 1950, he was admitted to the English Bar but instead of practising there, he returned to Singapore and became the first Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990. He transformed Singapore from one of the poorest countries in the world in the 60’s to one of the most advanced today. He built a country based on the rule of law with an efficient government structure and continuously fights against corruption and insecurity.

Unfortunately, we cannot say this of Nigeria, reasons being the structures, policies, establishments are not in place to attract and facilitate integration.

We can identify Nigerians and award scholarships to them in specific institutions with the clause of returning home to help in the country development in various fields. However, the government on the other part must ensure adequate facilities are in place for their return.

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The ease of doing business has significantly improved and there is a need to legalise the whistle-blower policy as part of our anti-corruption drive.

Competence and honesty must be introduced in making appointments to critical government positions. All these will ensure we appoint the best Nigerians both home and abroad, leading to good governance and increased investors’ confidence in our economy.

We have no other country but Nigeria; we have the human and abundant natural resources to make the country an economic power. But we must enthrone meritocracy and honesty as our way of life and shun ethnicity and religious animosity. The journey has just begun and we must all join hands in making this country great, again.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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