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DIASPORA NIGERIANS NETWORK INC. USA, CALLS ON NIGERIA’S PRESIDENT JONATHAN TO IMPLEMENT DIASPORA PUBLIC POLICY NOW

Source: DR. ONYEMA NKWOCHA, USA
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The “fierce urgency of now “is the need for Nigeria to implement series of Diaspora Public Policy to engage, reach out to, and accommodate her Diaspora population. Diaspora population Network of any given developing or even advance nations today, is the new frontier, the emergent dimension after computer technology in the development of growing nations. According to estimates and projections from the World Bank, the Nigerian example is that in 2009, official count indicates that approximately Diaspora Nigerians injected approximately $20 billion in the nation's economy. Equally, there is the speculation that when unofficial remittances are accounted for, Diaspora Nigerian population has the capacity to remit to the home economy an upwards of $100 billion annually, more than the Oil budget can account for. Therefore, Diaspora Nigerian population thinks it's time for the Nigerian government and the Administration of President Jonathan to be engaged and stay in the game with other equally developing nations such as China, India, Pakistan and of course Ghana and level with her God given mass of human resources, Nigerians in Diaspora population and officially reach out to them. A segment of the population in Diaspora contributing upwards of $20 billion annually to the national economy, of necessity and importance should be courted and embraced by any means legally necessary by the government and powers that are! It's simple common sense!!

During the recently concluded historic Diaspora Nigerians Town Hall Meeting with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Her Excellency Prof. (Mrs) Viola Onwuliri, hosted by the group, Diaspora Nigerians Network Inc. (DNN), held at the Howard University, Washington DC on Saturday, October 29, 2011, DNN, in its Address read by Prof. Edward Oparaoji, the interim Chair, gave the Minister a message to deliver to President Jonathan. It is hard for anyone reading DNN's welcoming Address to the minister to miss the loud and clear message that Diaspora Nigerians at large sent to President Jonathan through his able Minster of State, Foreign Affairs. Without much ado about nothing, that clear and loud message to President Jonathan is: “Use your Executive Powers to establish Diaspora Public Policy, in Nigeria now.”

In an unprecedented and historic move, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Her Excellency Prof. (Mrs) Viola Onwuliri in her first official visit to the United States, sought to meet with Nigerians in the Diaspora to deliver a message from President Jonathan. From all indication, this was the smartest thing and the first order of business to do if indeed President Jonathan means to inject and incorporate Diaspora Nigerians in his forward match and agenda of transformation. It is this writer's understandings that the first time such a premier move was made was during the time of Joseph Garber, Minister of State, Foreign Affairs. Obviously Joe Garber failed to harness his excellent move and so we caution the current Minister of State not to fall in that same trap or mind set of wetting the appetite of Diaspora Nigerians and then midstream, abandon them by the wayside.

During the Town Hall Meeting, according the Minister, Prof. Onwuliri, President Jonathan's message came across in this way: “We need you [(Diaspora Nigerian population], you have the talent, the skills and wherewithal to help us deliver for you and all Nigerians…..deploying your skills and expertise in key areas of interest such as education, healthcare, information technology, transportation, agriculture, trade and investment, labor and productivity are critical for the success of our transformation agenda,” she said. Furthermore, “She indicated that President Jonathan's Transformation Agenda … was focused on rebuilding the economy, attracting investments and creating jobs. She further stated that “Every new project must establish ability to create jobs to get the presidents endorsement….” Part of her message was expressed when she responded to the Address from DNN delivered by Prof. Oparaoji when as she acknowledged the ills of the country and the measures the President is implementing to address the anomalies. The minister emphasized that “… cleaning up government begins with every one of us cleaning up our acts as well- all hands must be on deck…”

Although Diaspora Nigerian Network, Inc acknowledged the good starting point the President has so far marked by his “administration's transformation agenda priorities which are Rebuilding the economy, attracting investments and creating jobs, (DNN however intimated that its members) remained skeptical due to collective experiences, past history and encounters with non performing regimes,” Particularly outstanding and noteworthy among the messages DNN sent to President Jonathan is the portion of the Address to the Minister where the Interim Chairman of DNN, Prof. Oparaoji stated the following among others, that Nigerians in Diaspora are turned off by and in the affairs of the government of Nigeria, thus: “As a result of these unabated non-performing regimes, we have had to endure disrespect due to Corruption, Disdain and disrespect of citizens by officialdom, Lack of fairness in policy implementation- man-know-man run amok! Inadequate infrastructure to communicate, identify and facilitate enduring partnerships with the Diaspora, Insecurity at home, Brain Drain, Insufficient recognition and celebration of Diaspora accomplishments, Disenfranchisement – no voting rights, Inefficient and almost dysfunctional consular services, hence most Diaspora Nigerians tuned off Nigeria...”

To Pontificate the evening's Town Hall meeting Address to the Minister, Prof. Eddy Oparaoji, DNN's Interim Chair, made the Minister to understand the vision and mission of Diaspora Nigerian Network Inc., are in agreement with President Jonathan's Transformational Agenda and that DNN is ready to partner with the government of Nigeria if the Administration truly believes in and is willing to go the extra mile to work for the less privileged Nigerians, thus: “DNNs mission and vision are focused on enhancing the quality of life of all Nigerians, particularly the underprivileged. If you truly share these ideals and willing to fight for them, we will be willing partners with your office and the Federal government in finding solutions and building a better Nigeria…”

In order for Jonathan's government and administration to truly partner with Diaspora Nigerians, DNN's Chairman advocated for the IMPLEMENTATION OF DIASPORA PUBLIC POLICY IN NIGERIA, TODAY, AND THROUGHOUT THE STATES! He buttressed this urgent call by citing three exemplar nations of China, India and Ghana who have been wise enough to embrace their respective Diaspora population, held summits to welcome them home, passed laws and public policies, continue to offer them jobs, state and national assignments, state and national security and all necessary protection as a “special class” to help attract them home in order for them to assist in the development of their respective nations. In part, this was how Prof. Oparaoji, on behalf of DNN, laid it out for the Minister to take to President Jonathan, to see the urgency of implementing in Nigeria now, Diaspora Public Policy, thus:

Lessons from other countries that have implemented Diaspora public policy, in addressing economic development and nation building that is worth mentioning here are China, India and nearer home-Ghana. In the case of China, they created institutional apparatus, targeting her Diaspora citizens and created the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO), which demonstrated that overseas Chinese issues were now a national matter. This national recognition encouraged all the provinces and municipalities to set their own OCAO. It further created All China's Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese (ACFROC) with the mission of tapping the financial and human resources of her citizens abroad. The Chinese Peoples' Congress has an Overseas Chinese Commission, whose mission is to conduct research and provide recommendations for guiding policies concerning her Diaspora citizens. To date, with all these institutions, there are more than 11,000 laws and regulations concerning overseas Chinese. (Barabantseva 2005, 11). Chinese constitution recognized Chinese overseas returnees as a special group. In 1990, the Protection Law guaranteed the protection of overseas Chinese' family and economic interests, and encouraged them to come back home through granting them special legal and economic privileges. (Thuno 2001, 917-20). There is no question that China's investment in her Diaspora spanned off an unprecedented economic growth of our time… The Indians first strategy to engage their Diaspora was to introduce legal and tax incentives, to attract NRIs financial resources and to create a PIOs card. The PIO card is a long-term 20-year visa that allowed them to have property or access to education system in India. In addition, the government created a High Level committee on the Indian Diaspora, charged by the Ministry of External Affairs to issue a report on the role NRIs and PIOs can play in India's development... Established in 2004, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs coordinates activities aimed at reaching out to the Diaspora. These include the “Know India Program” for Diaspora youth and annual awards for eminent Diaspora personalities. The government also set up a Global Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, consisting of Diaspora scholars, scientists, politicians, and businessmen, in 2009. With the financial resources of the Diaspora in mind, the government amended investment laws and established the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre in 2007 to make it easier for Indians abroad to invest. In addition, the Reserve Bank of India has procedures in place so that NRIs and PIOs can invest in Indian companies… Coming close to home, there is the case for Ghana. Realizing the economic importance of the Diaspora, the Ghanaian government has sought to keep its citizens abroad engaged. The government organized a Homecoming Summit in 2001, which invited members of the Diaspora to the capital city of Accra, in order to promote their efforts in national development. A Non-Resident Ghanaians Secretariat (NRGS) was instituted in May 2003, to promote further links with Ghanaians abroad and to encourage return.

With these three remarkable successes with Diaspora experiment, Diaspora Nigerian Network, Inc, through its interim chairman, Professor Eddy Oparaoji, issued and sent this message to President Jonathan through his Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, thus:

“Based on the aforementioned experiences, we would propose as a matter of urgency the establishment of a Diaspora Opportunity Development Agency, within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This agency will be charged with the development of and implementation of initiatives to unleash Diaspora potentials. It is the belief of the Diaspora Nigerians Network that Nigeria can do better with a well thought out Diaspora policy…

In conclusion and reiteration, the “fierce urgency of now “is the need for Nigeria to implement series of Diaspora Public Policy to engage, reach out to, and accommodate her Diaspora population. Diaspora population Network of any given developing or even advanced nations today, is the new frontier, the emergent dimension after computer technology in the development of growing nations. The vision and mission of Diaspora Nigerians Network, Inc., are in agreement with President Jonathan's Transformational Agenda. If President Jonathan truly means to welcome any Nigerian whose ideas can lead to desired changes, here's an opportunity and challenge for him to make it happen by extending an olive-branch of friendship and partnership, engage the Nigerian Diaspora population, recognize, treat them as the new national “gem” after oil, curt and protect them and institute Diaspora Public Polices as did China, India, Pakistan, Ghana and other developing nations and reap the wealth of Diaspora in action and in billion dollars! President Jonathan, can the Diaspora Nigerian population community count on you to deliver? The ball is in your court! You decide, Mr. President!!

Dr. Onyema Nkwocha
Member, Diaspora Nigerians Network, (DNN) USA
November 6, 2011

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