A high-level federal government team comprising the executive and legislative arms has begun a series of interactive sessions with Nigerians in Europe and the United States of America in response to the long-standing desire of the diaspora community to support economic development in the country.
Heading the sessions organised by the Debt Management Office (DMO), is the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The delegation also comprises key members of relevant committees in the National Assembly, including the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Ehigie Uzamere; Chairman, Senate Rules and Business Committee, Senator Ita Enang; Chairman, House Committee on Aid, Loans and Debt Management, Adeyinka Ajayi, and Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora, Famurewa Ajibola Israel.
Others are Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Abdulrahman Terab and Emmanuel David Ombugadu, House Committee on Appropriation.The sessions are in fulfillment of the yearnings of the Diaspora community, who have been seeking ways and means to contribute more to the country’s development.
In a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, “this interest is backed by substantial capacity: the value of remittances from Nigerians abroad in 2013 was $20.77 billion; for the first half of 2014 it is $10.40 billion. This includes contributions through remittances to their families, friends and communities, medical missions and provision of scholarships.”
The statement noted that the experience of countries such as Israel and India shows that the Diaspora are a force to be reckoned with in the growth and development of any country, through the funding of critical development projects, among other means.
The current effort by the federal government is said to have been directed at providing the Nigerian Diaspora similar opportunities.
According to Nwabuikwu, the meetings which started yesterday in London, were slated for New York, Washington DC and Houston, all in the United States of America between September 2 and 4, 2014.
The London meeting hosted by the Nigerian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, was attended by over 140 invited Nigerian professionals, and reportedly provided an avenue for Okonjo-Iweala and the other members of the team to update the Diaspora community on the developments in the Nigerian economy, the major achievements of the Transformation Agenda under President Goodluck Jonathan and the opportunities available in the country for Diaspora Nigerians.
“Nigerians were also reassured of the developments in Nigeria with respect to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and the Government’s management of the situation. Participants expressed concern about the security situation and urged the government to do more particularly with respect to the return of the Chibok girls. Participants also showed a lot of interest in contributing to development with investments in infrastructure, SMEs and in the housing sector.
“It is expected that through these sessions, Nigerians in Diaspora will be better informed about developments in the country and be encouraged to contribute in various ways to the development of the economy and nation-building in general,” the statement said.