By Victoria Ojeme & Omeiza Ajayi
The Federal Government has disputed the $25 billion figure said to be the annual remittances of Nigerians in diaspora, saying the figure is actually higher.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Enyeama disclosed this Tuesday in Abuja at the opening of a two-day Technical Workshop on Diaspora Remittances and Sustainable Development under the chairmanship of the Kingdom of Belgium and the French Republic.
Enyeama who said the figure often bandied about is actually not a true reflection of diaspora remittances to Nigeria, however, said the challenge with most countries is how to channel such remittances to development.
“As you know, in the past few years, it is said that Nigerians in diaspora remittances is $25 billion. The figure being bandied about is $25billion per year in remittances.
“Well, I read not too long ago that this figure is inaccurate. It is very far from being accurate because when you logically think about it, it is huge and as they say, it even dwarfs the budget. It is hard to fathom. So, I think there is some debate as to how accurate that really is. But of course, we will love it to be that. There are huge resources coming into the country from Nigerians in diaspora and the challenge, as with most countries, is how to channel those resources to development”, he said.
The minister, who stressed the importance of diaspora remittances to sustainable national development, especially if properly harnessed urged stakeholders to, however, consider the cost of remitting the funds home, saying there was the need to make it easier for those in the diaspora to remit funds.
“In the past few years, the Nigerian diaspora has remitted billions of dollars to their kith and kin back home at a very high premium. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2018, diaspora remittances to Nigeria was about U525 billion. This represents 6.1 per cent of our GDP and 83 per cent of our national budget. It is also 11 times the foreign direct investment flows into the country within the same period.
“This should show us the importance and the value that could derive from these remittances if properly harnessed. On the flip side, we should also consider the cost of remitting these funds back home. We therefore need to make it easier for those in the diaspora to remit funds back home and find ways of harnessing these funds for national development,” he urged.
He added that a well-managed migration would offer opportunities for individuals and States of all the concerned countries, adding that “the Rabat Process aims to foster solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility in the management of migration issues.
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By sharing experiences and challenges, other countries learn best practices that would also enhance their development and address the root causes of migration.
“Let me also inform that Nigeria has participated in the Valletta Summit on Migration in 2015 in which an Action Plan was developed and built around five priority domains.
“It was also agreed that actions will be implemented in full coherence with countries’ sovereignty, national legislations and taking into account national specificities. It was further agreed that the existing mechanisms of the Rabat Process, the Khartoum Process and of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy will be used to monitor implementation.
“However, I must confess that much effort is; dedicated to domain 5, Return, Readmission and Reintegration while other domains that may actually address the issue of irregular migration are not receiving the desired attention, especially domain 2 (Legal Migration and Mobility). I must state that if we address regular migration, irregular migration would be history.
“I must also use this opportunity to thank all the MDAs that have contributed to the campaign against irregular migration. Nigeria and many other countries have lost many of their citizens in the desert and the Mediterranean Sea wishing to cross to Europe for greener pastures.
“While the menace is not completely addressed, it is heart-warming that it has reduced. The frequent capsizing of ships is not common anymore. This is a result of the combined efforts of the governments of concerned countries and other international partners,” he disclosed.
The technical workshop on diaspora remittances and sustainable development was organised by the Euro-African Dialogue on Migration and Development, also known as the Rabat Process.
The workshop which was chaired by the Kingdom of Belgium and the French Republic seeks to explore the issue of the productivity of diaspora remittances and instruments and initiatives which enable remittances to better contribute to sustainable development.
Although about 75 per cent of remittances are still used for important household consumption like payment for housing, school and medicals, the workshop noted that redirecting remittances into formal production (small-medium enterprises, start-ups
and job creation) is more likely to have long-lasting results on sustainable development.
“Many tools and strategies designed to optimise the contribution of remittances to economic, social and cultural development exist in the Rabat Process region, but there is a need to communicate more on these, and to share them more widely”, the main aim which the technical workshop seeks to achieve.