Home / News / Local / Diaspora remittances: CBN should do more – Abike Dabiri-Erewa, CEO Nigerians in Disapora Commission; Warns: If you commit crime abroad you’ll pay for it, but….
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, NiDCOM Boss

Diaspora remittances: CBN should do more – Abike Dabiri-Erewa, CEO Nigerians in Disapora Commission; Warns: If you commit crime abroad you’ll pay for it, but….

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, NIDCOM Boss
Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM)

Chairman/ CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa recently spoke on issues surrounding her national assignment. Here are excerpts from the exciting interview.

QUE : Hon. Chairman Ma, can you tell us a little about yourself?
ANS : I am the Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, formally SSA to the President, formerly in the parliament where I spent 12 years and was the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora and formerly at the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, where I worked for 15 years.
I am a graduate of the University of Ife, where I studied English Language. I did my Masters in University of Lagos, in Mass Communication. I was also at Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government. My Primary school education was at Maryland Government School Ikeja, Lagos while my Secondary School education was at St. Louis College, Ibadan. I am a mother of two children, a grandmother and I have a wonderful husband and great staffs working with me in NiDCOM.

QUE.: What motivates you to keep driving NiDCOM forward despite daunting challenges?
ANS : In NiDCOM, we have a mission and a vision we have to achieve. Despite the challenges, we have to keep working to ensure we succeed but the good thing is that, I’ve got great staff working here at the Commission. So, we don’t look at challenges, we see challenges as opportunities and we continue to work at that.
The key thing is that we deal with human capital development. We are talking of Nigerians succeeding all over the world and our mission is to engage them in the programmes and policies of Government. I’m glad that we have some programmes in place like the Nigerian Diaspora Investment Trust Fund, Nigerian Diaspora Investment Summit and the Diaspora voting bill which has gone through second reading. We have also been able to intervene in cases involving Nigerians in the Diaspora. For good or for bad we are always there for Nigerians in the Diaspora when we can, so hard work keeps me going.

QUE.: How much of diaspora investment has been motivated by your Commission?
ANS: A lot of Diasporans are beginning to invest in Health care, agriculture, education and the food business in the country. We are very impressed with that and a lot more of them are even looking at small businesses that generate employment. Diaspora engagement is growing in Nigeria and we are also glad that CBN has put in place a policy where Diaspora remittances are received in the currencies that they are being remitted in, so the Diasporans are very excited about that.

QUE: Was the Nigerian Diaspora Investment Summit, NDIS, held virtually for the first time in 2020, as successful and effective as the previous ones done physically?
ANS: If I have to admit, it was even more successful because we had more participants and it is going to be the new normal. That’s the positive side of Covid-19 for us in NIDCOM. It is easier now to communicate with Nigerians all over the world. In the past, we had to find a way to get them home, some will need accommodation, you have to look for money for tickets. So now it is going to be cheaper and more effective. For instance, this last one, we had Masayo Ujiri from Canada, we had people from America, Africa, from Australia, China, in fact, everywhere in the world participating. So, subsequently, it is going to be a hybrid. Some of us in the physical location and others virtually. It is going to be the new normal for us. Since then, we have had about five virtual meetings with Nigerians abroad and we want to be having monthly virtual diaspora meetings from now.

QUE : The Door of Return has been an avenue to reconnect hundreds of Nigerians back to their roots, does not holding it this year mean hundreds of these Kings and Queens could not reconnected with their roots?
ANS: They are actually sad about it. I have been getting their messages saying they miss home. These are African Americans, some from the Caribbean, others from Jamaica and all they have been saying is we miss coming home this year.
The reassurance is, God sparing our lives, we will all be together this year. We thought of a virtual thing but it is not going to have the effect of the physical one, so that’s not what we can do virtually. Some have actually been missing home and like I told them this year is going to be better and bigger and we will all be there to welcome them as Kings and Queens once again.

QUE: Looking at the COVID-19 evacuation, which was the first of its kind, what is the major challenge NIDCOM faced during and beyond the evacuation process?
ANS: Sigh! No funding for logistics but we were still at it. We had people we were communicating with. We went digital. We opened a portal, which made it easy to communicate. Like I said, we never look at challenges. We are always there; you find that little things matter. Sometimes it is just a single information missing and we are able to provide it. When they return, they had to ensure they follow NCDC protocols. Ours was just to ensure we sorted out the communication links and we did our own bit. We did the job and we are glad we did it.

QUE: Were there any measures put in place to monitor the evacuees to ensure compliance on their part?
ANS: That will be NCDC and we have the PTF on COVID-19. We did what we had to do and that wasn’t our responsibility but I believe it was effectively handled.

QUE: To what effect has the agreement between NIDCOM and the Lebanon Embassy yielded positive results concerning irregular migration?

ANS: At least we haven’t heard of any more Nigerian going to Lebanon and being stranded and we are hoping it has nothing to do with the travel restrictions. It is important that Lebanon has now stopped work visas. So if you apply now you cannot get the visa anymore. What we need to do in Nigeria, is to focus on how to make this migration legal the way it is done in the Philippines. You want to migrate, you can go freely legally. Although the case of Lebanon is not irregular migration but the `kafala’ system turns you virtually to a slave. You become the slave of your master and that is what we need to change. I hope as we move on these are things we will collaborate on with the Ministry of Labour, Nigerian Immigration Service, the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, Senate Committee on Diaspora and NAPTIP. We all need to work on it.

QUE: Has the new CBN policy on foreign exchange helped to boost Nigerian diaspora remittances?
ANS: Absolutely! Apart from boosting remittances, within four days of the CBN announcement, the naira appreciated. Nigerians in diaspora are excited about it and it’s one of the things we expected CBN to do and what we are also asking them to do is to reduce the cost of remittances charged by the IMTOs. Nigeria has the largest levies that we are taxing the Diaspora. All over the world, it’s six percent but here it is over 9 per cent, so the levies by the IMTOs should actually be reduced. It has been very good news from CBN to the diasporans, so we are hoping for more in that regard.

QUE: Do you think the Diaspora Day celebration is achieving the desired results?
ANS: Not fully. We don’t want it to be just a talk show. Diaspora Day has been on for 15 years or more but we want it to go beyond just talking. We want to achieve results. As at the last Diaspora Day, three Nigerians in the diaspora who participated were invited to join the Economic Planning Development Team and they have been making useful contributions. Beyond that, we have received very cogent recommendations from some of them on the way forward certain areas so later this year we will be telling you this is what we achieved from last year’s Diaspora Day celebration. It is not achieving desired results fully yet but with the involvement of NIDCOM we want more Nigerians to participate so we can achieve more of the desired results from the conference.

QUE: What will you say is the attitude of Nigerians in the diaspora towards the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in terms of finding a lasting solution to the crisis like in the area of production of vaccines?
ANS: 11: A Nigerian was involved in provision of the Pfizer vaccine and we were able to hold a brilliant conversation with him. Everything he said was on point, relevant and educative. We hope to have more of that and we are glad that a Nigerian was involved. We need to work together with the diaspora, we are in charge of them and that’s why we keep celebrating them. Ours is wherever you are, we want to celebrate you, we want to work with you. NIDCOM is here to change the narrative about Nigeria to a positive one. We will keep celebrating ourselves. When you are in the diaspora and you have a problem, we are also there for you. We have been able to intervene in cases of Nigerians who have been in trouble but this is what we keep saying; if you commit a crime you pay for it. You have to pay for it but you shouldn’t be punished for offence you didn’t commit. We have been able to intervene, like in the cases of Zainab Aliyu in Saudi Arabia, Suleimon Olufemi in Saudi Arabia etc. We have had people who returned from places like India, we have been to Brazilian prisons, Republic of Benin and we have intervened in South Africa and other places. As long as you obey the laws of these countries, we are always there for you, be number one ambassadors and do not disobey the laws of other countries.

QUE: Where do you see NIDCOM in the next 10 years?
ANS: NIDCOM should have been able to tap fully into the power of the diaspora. We should have been able to have the diaspora play the role they should have played 10 years ago. Other countries have worked with the diaspora, I mean India, Pakistan, Brazil, quite a number of countries cannot talk about their success without the diaspora, even China. So I want NIDCOM to have successfully been able to engage the diaspora. I want us to really be able to say we have this Nigerian in this country and we need your services. NIDCOM should be digital and get appropriate data of Nigerians abroad. We should be able to have a Diaspora Complex, where we will be able to have an office, a more befitting office for the Commission. To have seen the staff of NIDCOM grow in such a way that any one of them will have been able to run the organization selflessly, efficiently and diligently, with passion to tap into the issues of the diaspora and, who knows, maybe a Diaspora Ministry.

QUE: You still look radiant despite your very busy schedule; do you have any beauty regimen that does the wonders?
ANS. : Who am I not to try to look radiant when I see my young pretty girls looking radiant and happy to be at work. Thank you for the compliment. I think it is just being a woman. One thing I try to do is ensure that I do my spar and relax, especially when I am outside the country. That is when I have more time for myself. I also try not to bother over petty things, I don’t let toxic things bring me down, I don’t even look at toxic things. Instead, I look at the beauty and strength of the character of people around me, people I work with and particularly family. Family is very important. We all give God the glory.

QUE: What message do you have for Nigerians abroad and even for those at home?
ANS: Nigeria is our country and nobody will develop our country but ourselves. So whether you are a Nigerian in the diaspora or a Nigerian at home, let us work together to build this country. There are many challenges we are facing as a nation but we will overcome these challenges through us as a people. Whatever position you are in, do your own bit in your little corner, let me do my own bit in my little corner. You don’t even have to be in government. Ultimately this is our own country. Nigeria will always survive.

Culled from NIDCOM Newsletter

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