Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), stated that despite the coronavirus pandemic in 2021, remittances from Nigerians in the Diaspora now stand at $20 billion.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja to announce the 16th National Diaspora Day Celebration, Dabiri-Erewa argued that the economic contribution of Nigerians living abroad was too great for them to be excluded from important national decision-making processes.
The hybrid event’s topic is “Diaspora involvement in global challenging times for national development,” and it is set to take place on July 25 in Abuja.
Dabiri-Erewa stated that this year’s theme was chosen to make the best use of the challenging times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia War, and national insecurity, among others, to leverage on Nigerians in the Diaspora for national development and growth. She noted that approximately 17 million Nigerians reside abroad.
“After realizing this, the government set aside a special day to honor citizens who live abroad. It is a truth that the Nigerian Diaspora has the connections, enthusiasm, resources, global exposure, competencies, and abilities to serve as a catalyst for national development.
“It is a known fact that Nigerians in the diaspora have consistently been rated as the most intellectual and educated people in the United States alone; in the United Kingdom, the brightest family is Nigerian.
“If you get rid of the Nigerian doctors, the US health system will collapse, once said former US President Mr. Barack Obama. You might find it interesting to know that there are more than 5000 Nigerian doctors working in the US. We must interact with them and recognize them for this reason. They serve as our most effective development partners and front-line ambassadors.
“In 2021, Nigeria led the list of Diaspora Home Remittance Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with $20 billion, despite the devastating COVID-19 Pandemic. As a result, when we think about our economic development, our Diaspora cannot be overlooked.
Even foreigners are now traveling to Nigeria for medical care, she continued, proving that their biggest contribution has been in human capital.
The head of NIDCOM also urged the national assembly to reconsider its position on voting by diaspora citizens.
Dabiri-Erewa says that the topic of voting by Nigerians living abroad is difficult and that their countrymen cannot afford to give up now.
The National Assembly has decisively rejected a bill that would have amended the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution to allow for diaspora voting and other related matters.
The NIDCOM chairman made a plea to the lawmakers, saying, “We need the national assembly to enable them to vote. They cannot be denied the opportunity to vote while we steal billions of dollars from them. Niger already carries out that.
“The argument is that the system needs to be improved locally, but how can we advance if we keep waiting for perfection? INEC is equipped.
“There are answers for all the justifications they provided for rejecting the law. So all we have to do is keep talking to the national parliament.