By Dotun Ibiwoye who was in Washington DC
As experts continue to proffer solutions on how to end recession in the country, the diaspora fund, which has a huge impact on the economy, happens to be one of such solutions. Nigeria is the highest receiver of remittances in sub-Saharan Africa, receiving a total of $34.8 billion in 2015. The Chairman, Continental Board of Trustees, Nigerians in Diaspora Organization, Americas (NIDO Americas), Samuel Olugbenga Adewusi, who has been practicing law in the United States for about 21 years, bared his mind on how to facilitate Direct Foreign Investment to Nigeria and help enhance knowledge and technology back to Nigeria. In this interview with Sunday Vanguard in Washington D.C, Adewusi disclosed NIDO’s MOU with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education and the Vocational Empowerment Training Project for about 225 IDPs (internally displaced people).
Nigeria, being the largest receiver of remittances in sub-Saharan Africa, receiving a total of $34.8 billion in 2015, diaspora fund has been keeping her afloat. In what ways has NIDO Americas made its own impact?
The Diaspora in North and South America have been remitting their share of the funds back home. NIDO Americas as an organization is made up of professionals from all walks of life. Prof. Attahiru Jega, a former Chairman of INEC, was one of our members in Canada prior to his relocating to Nigeria. Some of our members served in advisory capacity to the government of Nigeria while some served as delegates in the last National Conference of our members also invited many American businesses and companies to do business in Nigeria.
NIDO Americas has held several business expos designed to introduce Nigeria to American businesses and companies. All our annual Annual General Meetings/Conventions are designed to bring Nigerian and American businesses together, and to introduce Nigerian businesses to international best practices. In fact, most of our chapters in Canada and the United States hold regular business forums without waiting for the annual Conventions to take place.
Furthermore, NIDO Americas has been engaged, since inception, as a conduit of professional advice and expert consultation to the government of Nigeria in all areas. We conducted forums, held lectures and organized seminars on topics ranging from Nigerian education reform to democracy and governance. We also constantly advocate for good governance and rule of law in Nigeria. In addition, individual members of our organization have donated many hours of volunteer services to Nigeria.
NIDO Americas has 17 chapters in the United States, 2 in Canada and 1 chapter in Brazil. Our mission objects are to reverse brain drain to brain gain in Nigeria, foster knowledge and technology in Nigeria, facilitate Direct Foreign Investment in Nigeria and assist the Diaspora community.
The recession in Nigeria has been given as reason for people to migrate to the United States at all costs. What can be done to curb this?
Every country goes through economic recessions and depressions. In its history, the United States has gone through recessions, and one huge depression. Some European countries have also gone through depression and recessions in the modern era. During those times, you don’t see the citizens of those countries shamelessly running to other countries like we Africans do. At least, I can understand some other African countries that lack the natural endowments that Nigeria is blessed with.
Most economists say the time of recession is pregnant with opportunities for smart people. What then are we saying when we all start running elsewhere due to recession? Are we saying that we are not smart enough? Are we saying we as Nigerians are only smart when it comes to 419? Are we saying we cannot return to farming, we cannot start processing food with attractive packaging? Are we saying we cannot recycle our huge waste to wealth? What are we saying by running away? And if the US and European citizens ran away during their former depressions and recessions, and abandoned their countries, where will Nigerians run to today?
Several Nigerians sell their assets and landed properties in order to relocate to the United States. Is it a wise decision?
I advise against Nigerians selling their assets because they want to travel or relocate overseas. Maybe in the past, that practice was okay. However, such practice is counter-productive and foolish in the current situation where many countries are closing their borders against immigration. In the 1980s, when you were lucky to get a visa to travel overseas, you wouldn’t hold send-off parties. You don’t even tell your relatives or casual friends. Why? It was because the US Border Control Agents had wide discretion in determining who entered the US. And that was 30 years before President Trump.
Selling your assets in order to travel is like putting all your eggs in one basket especially now that the US and many European countries are tightening borders and effectively shutting their doors on immigrants.
My suggestion is for Nigerians to look around and re-assess this blessed country of ours. Unless you have traveled out, you will not value the immense gift that God has bestowed upon Nigerians. Compared to other countries, Nigeria is a land full of milk and honey. It does not matter that all of us have been grossly mis-educated to be blind to the huge and wonderful assets that God gave us. As Bob Marley said, “a fool is thirsty in the abundance of water.” We have so much natural resources that if we all roll up our sleeves and decide to tap into it, there will less unemployment in Nigeria.
For example, if you take Iwo Road to Ogbomoso, you will see a huge cashew farm. In February and March, the cashews are ripe and are ready to be harvested. Guess what? The juice from the cashew is wasted because no Nigerian saw the value in bottling cashew juice and making profit out of it. And to make matters worse, most of the dry cashew seeds are dried and sold cheap to India so it can be roasted, packaged and sold to the United States at a huge profit.
What is the way out?
Why can’t a single Nigerian with all the money we spend on importing expensive jeeps use a fraction of it to import or locally manufacture a quality roasting machine to process and package the cashew seeds in Nigeria?
Similarly, our mangoes and pineapples are sweeter than the ones you have in the US. Yet, go to Akoko on the road to Abuja, you will see the mangoes rotting away during harvest time. Are we so daft that we will rather waste money on importing artificially-flavoured, sweetened mango juice when we can easily produce a more natural and non-artificially flavoured mango juice?
This is what I talked about when I said that all of us have been grossly mis-educated. Another example is that we have towns and cities surrounded by rocks. Yet, you never see such cities and towns building with abundant rocks that they are blessed with. And rocks have been shown to last longer and stronger when used as a building material. The reason we all want to travel abroad is that we do not see, and can no longer value what God has so generously gave us. What is more, while in Nigeria, we do not want to work hard for money; nor do we have the patience it takes to build any business. We, as Nigerians want everything now.
The irony of all these bad attitudes we have to hardwork and patience is that when we finally get overseas, we start working hard for the money. The same Nigerians who are habitual late comers to government jobs, while at home, now get to casual menial labour jobs at 4:00 am. Of course, while doing the menial jobs, same Nigerians get low pay, with no dignity. The same Nigerians are fully exploited, but cannot complain because their papers are expired and they are afraid of being deported. And to make matters worse, same Nigerians cannot save enough money to return home because all those bills they have to pay in foreign land, plus the huge taxes, do not leave enough room for savings to do anything else; but to survive. Under those circumstances, some Nigerians overseas cannot even maintain themselves. And don’t get me started on Nigerians who turn to the life of crime to survive overseas. And that life of crime for any Nigerian overseas is brutal, mean and short especially if the crime is committed in Asian countries like Malaysia, Philippines or Singapore,
You must have noted lots the high rate of unemployment and wastages in Nigeria when you came around. From your experience when you travelled in the south – western part of the country, where cashew fruits were falling off the trees and rotting on the ground, what can be done to harness these great potentials in Nigeria?
When I read that Nigerians were importing jollof rice from India, I knew that we have sunken so low as a country.
Massive re-education in all tiers of our educational system is urgently needed to re-focus food production as our main priority. Would you believe that I paid about #1,000 to take a whatsapp class in dry food packaging in January 2017. And I took the class real time in Washington, DC, while my teacher was in Lagos. Why did I take the class? I took the class because I want to practice what I preach. Even, if I cannot sell dry packaged goods, I can at least feed my family. Like I said above, Nigeria is abundantly blessed. Only a fool should be thirsty in the abundance of water.
We do not have to wait for government to do everything for us. In most advanced countries, government only provides an enabling environment, the citizens do the rest. Let us all start by farming on a small scale to produce what we need. Then move on to packaging and processing what we do not need. Let us appreciate and add value to what we are blessed with, and see the amazing result. We should juice our cashews instead of letting them rot away, we should start juicing our mango and pineapple locally. We should start packaging our jollof rice instead of importing it from India.
The Trump administration has stressed its zero tolerance for illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. What impact will this have on Nigerians?
The impact on Nigerians is immense. Nigerians travel a lot, either for business, education or pleasure. Some of us even travel to seek better life elsewhere. Currently, we have reports that Nigerians with valid visas are being turned back at the US borders. Currently, we have news that most Nigerians who commit minor crimes cannot have their days in court anymore, but will be fast-tracked to deportation if they are out status, or if their papers have expired. This is a sad situation for our people.
Nigeria is the sixth largest receiver of remittances in the world, according to the Migration of Remittance Factbook 2016. What is the drive that made this possible?
What made this drive possible is the fact that Nigerians in Diaspora are hardworking and generous and want life to be better for the family and relatives they left behind.
In July 2016, NIDO Americas decided that the organization must get involved in knowledge transfer, so we brought back Information Technology experts to conduct a free 3-day IT Seminar at the Abuja International Conference Center. After the seminar, one of our NIDO Americas IT volunteers donated 200 IT e-books to participants. The e-books are over 8-gigabytes of materials in all aspects of ICT.
In 2017, we expanded our Nigerian projects. The IT seminar will again take in Abuja on July 24 to July 29, 2017; and instead of the 3-day in 2016, we decided to do it for 5 days. What is exciting about this year is that we will live stream the seminar to all interested young graduates in other parts of Nigeria.
NIDO Americas will also embark upon a vocational empowerment training project for about 225 IDPs (internally displaced people). We have signed an MOU to collaborate with the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs already approved the MOU. The purpose of the project is to empower the IDPs to build their communities and be able to start small businesses upon returning home. We hope to partner with relevant stakeholders to make this project a huge success in 2017.
So, as you can see our plate is full in 2017 regarding projects to help build a better Nigeria.