ByÂ Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan has assured Nigerians resident in the United States that the Federal Government would soon upgrade the Department of Diaspora in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the status of a Commission.
He said that when established, the planned Diaspora Commission, will harmonise contributions of Nigerians living in the diaspora with a view to ensuring proper documentation of their input in the affairs of the nation.
Acting President Jonathan, who gave the indication while addressing the Nigerian community at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, at the close of his four-day working visit to the US, noted that the establishment of the commission will enable the government have proper records of their contributions.
He said: â€œRemittances from the Nigerian Diaspora contribute significantly to the nationâ€™s economy. The money they send home stabilises foreign exchange demand, provides opportunities for employment and is used for educating relatives.
â€œWe want to upgrade it to the level of a commission to coordinate experts in the Diaspora. We want to raise it beyond a department in foreign affairs. We are looking at establishing the commission before the end of this administration, in the next 12 months.â€
Underscoring the roles and contributions of Nigerians in the Diaspora, Jonathan said they have become some of the best in their chosen professions across the globe, adding that the Federal Government was very grateful for what they stood for across the world.
Jonathan reassured them of the readiness of the government to continue to improve on its image abroad so that Nigerians in the Diaspora can continue to hold their head high wherever they found themselves in the world.
While emphasising that â€œthe 2011 elections will be better than previous ones held in Nigeria since the restoration of democratic rule in 1999,â€ Jonathan said the government was taking very bold steps to ensure that dilapidated infrastructure in the country were rehabilitated and made functional so that investors would be willing to invest in the country.
He added: â€œThe compelling need to introduce a concept to ensure efficiency in the sector informed my decision to personally oversee the Ministry of Power.â€
On the fight against corruption, Jonathan appealed to Nigerians in the Diaspora not only to â€œshun corruption but join in efforts to combat it,â€ adding: â€œYou have roles in this crusade, including acting as whistle blowers and providing relevant information to track and prosecute corrupt Nigerians.â€
Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Ade Adefuye, who also spoke, said the Acting Presidentâ€™s visit to the US had given tremendous boost to Nigeriaâ€™s image abroad, stressing that the development would go a long way in restoring confidence for Nigerians in Diaspora.
Earlier in the day, Jonathan was special guest at a luncheon organized by the Corporate Council on Africa, CCA, where he described the recent signing of the Nigeria-US Bi-National Commission agreement as a historic feat in the in the Nigeria-US relations.
He said: â€œThe Bi-National agreement demonstrates the determination of our two governments to increase and strengthen bilateral cooperation on a vast array of issues of mutual interest. Both the USA and Nigeria have a responsibility to ensure its success.â€
Jonathan meets Black Caucus
During his meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the US Congress, Jonathan appealed to them to prevail on the US government to help stem the tide of proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Africa.
The Acting President who met with the members at Capitol Hill, Washington DC, challenged the caucus to come up with a draft bill for the control of the dumping of small arms and light weapons in Africa.
He noted: â€œAfrica is the dumping ground for small arms and light weapons and it is the major cause of crisis in the continent.
If these arms are not freely dumped it will go a long way in checking the wave of violence in the continent. Nigeria has paid duly. Our worry is the economic devastation it is causing the whole continent.â€
The Acting President who told the caucus that he was in the US on the invitation of President Barack Obama, to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit, said he decided to meet with the group as a mark of respect and appreciation for the good work they were doing in relation to Africa.
Jonathan said: â€œI felt and hold it a duty to spend some time with you my fellow brothers and sisters. We thank you for your concern on Africa and the roles you are playing in protecting the race. We can proudly say that it has paid off.
I am sure that wherever the initiators of this struggle may be, they will be glad to see an Afro-American as US President.â€
Donald Payne, chairman of the Caucus said they were elated to receive the Acting President because of the positive changes he had effected in Nigeria since he took over as Acting President since February 9, 2010. He noted that small arms and light weapons were actually â€œweapon of mass destruction in Africa.â€
At the Atlantic Council
At the Atlantic Council where Jonathan was a guest, he outlined the political and economic progress so far made by the Nigerian government and hinted that the government would strive to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry.
Atlantic Council is a non-partisan organization in the US that promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs.