Nigeria has begun the process of joining the league of countries with National Diaspora Policies following the setting up of a technical team saddled with the task of coming up with final draft of the Policy in January 2017.
This was the resolution of stakeholders after a seven –hour validation seminar in Abuja on the 68-page draft policy jointly organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Office of the Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora.
Declaring the seminar open, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said there was the need to promote the capacity of Nigerians abroad so as to benefit from the “immense potential of the diaspora”
Onyeama, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Amb. Sola Enikanolaiye said the Federal Government would support all efforts to ensure the inclusion of Nigerians abroad in future elections.
He added that enhanced inclusion of Nigerians abroad in the voting process would support their contributions to national development; hence such policy that would see to their empowerment should be hastened up.
“Many of them (Diaspora) are deeply concerned about the situation in the country and have critical skills and potential that could be harnessed to solving Nigeria’s sociology-economic challenges.
“The ministry, therefore, is sharpening its in-house resources to effectively harness the potential of Nigerians wherever they are based,” Onyeama said.
In his key note speech, Prof George Obiozor, former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America and Director- General, Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA) said the time for a national policy on Diaspora has come.
“National Policy on Diaspora matters would expedite the integration and coordination of the skills and resources of Nigerians living abroad for the general development of the country,” he said.
Obiozor said the policy has worked successfully for other developing nations, urging the Federal government to expedite action on it as it would assist in harnessing enormous national resources of her Diasporas.
Both Chairpersons Senate Committees on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Monsurat Sunmonu and Rose Oko respectively pledged legislative support, such as passage of the Diaspora Commission Bill and amendment of relevant laws to support diaspora voting.
Earlier, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa also emphasised the need to have a national diaspora policy, saying a number of African countries already ahead of Nigeria in that regard.
“We cannot ignore our diaspora; when Ireland went into recession they reached out to their diaspora community and one thousand of them saved the country from recession. Now that Nigeria is going through challenges, we cannot have this enormous human resource and not engage with them’’, she said.
She urged all Nigerians home and abroad to contribute to the final draft of the policy as a technical committee would be set up to work on the recommendations agreed on and come up with an action plan for implementation.
Goodwill messages were received from the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and High Commissioner of Cameroon, Amb. Salaheddine Ibrahima, Amb. Joe Keshi, former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Senayon Olaoluwa from University of Ibadan, Prof Bolaji Aluko, Dr Rotimi Jayesinmi, Mr Hubert Sheyen and Mr Ibrahim Dauda of Nigeria in the Diaspora Organizations (NIDO).
Stakeholders at the event include representatives of various diaspora groups, Ministry Departments and Agencies such as EFCC, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Customs Service amongst others.
The principal objective of the Policy is to effectively leverage on the resources and technical knowledge of Nigerians in the Diaspora to contribute effectively to national development.