Thinking Global & Finally Ready to Act Local?

Since January 1, 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations officially came into force. These are 17 targets which are divided into five major themes: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. The Organisation of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (known by its Dutch acronym VVSG) has launched a pilot project where it seeks to recruit 20 volunteer Cities & Municipalities by 30 March 2017 to jointly examine how sustainability can be integrated coherently into the city and urban policy 2020-2024.

As the successor of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) SDG has a fundamental difference being that they no longer rely on the traditional North-South divide. According to the VVSG* Sustainable Developments are universal and apply to all countries in the world, North and South, East and West. This means that there are many challenges and yet many opportunities to jointly strive towards helping to tell this universal story. Therefore, it is logical that they are targeting mainly local governments as well as companies, universities, scientific institutions and associations. Ordinary citizens the world over are encouraged to play their parts.

For Ostend, and its Department for Social Welfare, also known as the Social House, as the arm of government closest to the people, SDG offers an interesting framework to create a link between the City Council and local practices on the one hand and local and global connection on the other. And Ostend is no starters in this domain. Oostende Mondiaal, the Municipal Council for International Development, for example, has long been active in the City-on-Sea with a strong 11-11-11 Standing Committee as well as the City-Link between Ostend City Council and Banjul City Council in The Gambia. The Gent City Council challenged several central cities and would collaborate with Ostend as SDG Voice within the framework of SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being. The City of Ghent is engaging Ostend for the project “Everybody Cycles” or “Iedereen Fietst”. In concrete both cities want as many people as possible to cultivate the habit of cycling both for its health and economic benefits.

Ostend needs the coaching and guidance provided by the VVSG mainly because in the long-term, it enables it to leverage on the strategic solutions to climate change, to ensure an accessible service for all and to galvanize citizens towards local consumption otherwise referred to as the ‘Short Food Chain’. These are all just examples of how sustainable development can be translated into the Ostend municipal level. There are strong indications that Ostend, being a mid-size metropolis, of huge cultural diversity, with over 130 different cultures, will see this as a unique opportunity “to contribute to the welfare of the citizens and to the sustainable development of the municipal area” as contained in Article 2 of the Municipal Decree.

Your guess is as good as mine as to whether Ostend will be one of 20 participants in the pilot project offered by the VVSG. The ball is now squarely on the court of the supervising Councillor for International Development, Tom Germonpré (sp.a) to deliver this project for Ostend. The deadline for signing up is 30 March 2017. Time is of essence!

The Dutch version first published in www.collinsnweke.be is available here

Collins Nweke | Green Party Councillor Ostend City Council Belgium

21 March 2017

*Based on briefing by VVSG International

Ignore Dabiri-Erewa’s warning against US travel, Minister of foreign affairs tells Nigerians

Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, has asked Nigerians with valid travel documents and plans to visit the United States to ignore the travel warning by Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora.

Dabiri-Erewa, had on Monday advised Nigerians with no urgent reason to visit the US to suspend their travel plans pending when there is clarity on Donald Trump’s immigration policy. She claimed that several Nigerians have been deported and their visas cancelled at various U.S Airports.

However, Onyeama while speaking with journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, urged Nigerians to ignore the travel warning. He said that the US Ambassador to Nigeria and other top officials had denied reports that Nigerians are being targeted for deportation.

 Officials in Washington also denied the allegations by  Dabiri-Erewa, saying that anyone deported probably did not satisfy border patrol agents that their stay will be temporary.
“CBP officers are trained to be skeptical. Security is their first concern, and you may encounter delays or secondary inspection, an official said.
“Make sure nothing that you bring appears to contradict your visa status. If you are coming as a tourist, don’t bring along a book on how to immigrate to the United States or a stack of résumés, she concluded.
Per Second News in a report last year revealed that the U.S government has proposed adding a line to forms filled out by visitors to the United States that would ask them to voluntarily disclose their social media accounts, a step that it said would help in screening for ties to terrorism.The U.S Customs and Border Protection, disclosed in a proposal in the Federal Register, that the social media information would give it extra investigative tools.

“Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity,” the border agency said, referring to the Department of Homeland Security, its parent organisation.

Per Second News gathered that visitors in their hundreds within the last one year have been denied entry due to information suggesting their stay might not be temporary.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, Republican from Florida., who has introduced one of the bills requiring social media information, called the Customs and Border Protection proposal “lame.”

“Voluntary disclosure won’t keep anyone safe,” Buchanan said. “If we want to win on the digital battlefield, mandatory screening is required.”

Buchanan’s bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security to review all public records, including Facebook and other forms of social media, before admitting foreign travelers.

Source: Per Second News Nigeria dd 7 March 2017

Swapping Shoes: sofa talk between a European and an African

People treat you differently if you don’t know the language. Condescendingly, as if you’re a child. An aunt from the Flemish side of the family once even said, “I keep forgetting you have a university degree” – Chika Unigwe

When two professional women settle into the sofa for a chat, it is expected to be deep. So it was between Femke van Zeijl and Chika Unigwe. Femke grew up in a Dutch village, some 40 kilometres away from Turnhout, the Belgian town where Chika migrated to in 1995. On her part, Chika grew up in Enugu, a town in eastern Nigeria. The irony is that in 2012, the migration turn fell on Femke who settled in Lagos. The purpose of the sofa talk between the two divas was to compare notes on their migration experiences. Thereafter here is Femke’s footnote on the conversation “I confess that Lagos’ noise sometimes makes me crave silence. Chika likes the liveliness she is used to from back home. She prefers to write in a crowded café and never goes looking for quietness. For a moment I find myself longing for half an hour of silence in her Turnhout street”

 

Femke van Zeijl: You describe migrating to Belgium as ‘losing your voice in small imperceptible ways’. What do you mean by that?

Chika Unigwe: It seemed I had to learn everything all over again. All etiquette and forms of politeness, as if I was a child again. I certainly made as many mistakes as a child. It started with my first breakfast at my in-law’s house. I was still in bed when I was sent for: everyone was at the table waiting for me. My Flemish family had breakfast together at the dinner table, and I was supposed to be present. Whereas I can’t remember we ever had dinner together at the table back home in Enugu. At our place, you ate when you were hungry. With your plate on your lap, wherever you wished.

Femke van Zeijl: I on the other hand always waited here in Lagos until everyone had food on their plates, as my parents taught me. But that would invariably lead to a Nigerian inquiring whether I did not like the food.

Chika Unigwe: You have the advantage of speaking a language many people in your new country understand. I did not speak Dutch at the time. That first year in Belgium was very hard for me. I do not like to be reminded of that period. People treat you differently if you don’t know the language. Condescendingly, as if you’re a child. An aunt from the Flemish side of the family once even said, “I keep forgetting you have a university degree”.

FZ: I notice that I get away with things because I am a stranger. Nigerians figure I don’t know all the customs and sensitivities, and so they are forgiving when I make a faux pas. Is that your experience as well?

CU: No, in that sense Africa and Europe are extremely different. In Belgium you are expected to integrate, preferably assimilate. To whisk away your own culture as much as possible. You are supposed to eat chips with mayonnaise, like a proper Belgian. People prefer to hear that you like that more than your own food from home. Then you are a successful migrant. When a European comes to Africa though, nobody expects of him that he will integrate or assimilate. On the contrary: the biggest African ghettos are the compounds where white people live. You are an exception, Femke. You want to get to know the people and are living amongst them.

FZ: Sounds like I am having an easier time in Lagos. When I have amala in a local buka, the whole neighbourhood gathers to come see the miracle. And the little advantages I undeservingly get thrown for being white… The other day the personnel of a bank wanted to have me cut a very long Friday afternoon queue to be helped first. I was so embarrassed.

CU: When a white person migrates to Africa, he is going from a position of power, to power. An African coming to Europe lands from power into powerlessness. We Africans cannot do much with our diplomas here. Once I had learned Dutch and went to the job centre, they offered me a position as a cleaning lady. And in the shop it happens regularly that someone follows me around to check that I am not stealing anything. In expensive boutiques I might not even get served. The sales personnel assume I cannot afford to buy anything anyway. Whereas a white person in Nigeria, even if he has no skills whatsoever, always gets opportunities. No Nigerian would dream of offering you a job as a cleaning lady.

FZ: How did you overcome your initial powerlessness?

CU: By learning the language. The more I mastered Dutch, the less lonely I felt. I became more self-assured, which yielded me more respect. Language makes you independent and gives you a voice. And with that voice you can even change people’s views, because a stranger teaches you to look at yourself in a different way. A while ago I was interviewed on Belgian radio about classical music. Back home we never listened to that, and the first remark of the presenter was ‘So you did not have a culture of music at home?’ So I asked her: ‘Do you know highlife music? No? Well, my father always listened to that, and would consider you a barbarian because you have never heard of it.’ She had never thought of it that way. There is no absolute standard for civilisation; it is different for each culture.

FZ: Does your integration into Flemish society resonate in your work?

CU: My first novel was staged in Turnhout, close to my new home. The second was about Nigerian women in Antwerp and in my third book I returned to Nigeria. By that time I had fully regained my voice. My new book that has just been published covers an entirely different matter: a former slave in the eighteenth century.

FZ: Nigeria has taught me to add ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ to my sentences. Forms of politeness are still much more observed here then in The Netherlands. Are there things your new country has taught you?

CU: When my husband’s uncle was on his deathbed, the entire family was called to come and say goodbye. Very beautiful. That would never happen in Nigeria. Even if you are ninety, everyone keeps praying for a miracle. Death is much less of a taboo in Belgium. I find that very pleasant.

FZ: You are one of the few people who didn’t consider me nuts when I decided to move to Nigeria.

CU: Lagos is not an easy place to live in. When you told me you wanted to live there, I thought you were brave. But then again, that is what my sister said of me when I moved to Belgium with my husband nineteen years ago. We both followed our dreams. There are many too afraid to do that. Migrating is an act of courage.

hThe power is cut on my side, and all around my two-bedroom apartment generators start rumbling. I confess to Chika that Lagos’ noise sometimes makes me crave silence. She laughs. Chika likes the liveliness she is used to from back home. She prefers to write in a crowded café and never goes looking for quietness. For a moment I find myself longing for half an hour of silence in her Turnhout street.

**********************************************

Chika Unigwe grew up in Enugu, a town in eastern Nigeria. There she met her Belgian husband, with whom she migrated in 1995. Her fourth novel, The Black Messiah, was recently published in Dutch. For her second book, On Black Sister’s Street, she received The Nigeria Prize for Literature. Chika lived with her husband and four sons in the Flemish town of Turnhout but has recently made another big move as she and her family migrated to the US.

Femke van Zeijl grew up in Berkel-Enschot, a village in the Dutch South about forty kilometres away from Turnhout. For the past eleven years she has traveled sub-Saharan Africa as a freelance journalist. She has written two books based on her reporting. The second, Gin-Tonic & Cholera, is about urban life in Africa. In 2012 she settled as a freelance correspondent for Dutch media in Lagos, a city that is estimated to have more inhabitants than her country of birth.

source: Brittle Paper article “Strangers in Each Other’s Countries: A Discussion with Chika Unigwe” by Femke van Zeijl

New Concentric Foreign Policy of Ghana

President John Dramani Mahama in a State of the Nation address to mark Ghana’s 59th independence anniversary on March 6, 2016 made two important pronouncements with foreign relations implications. The first was his government’s plan to improve the knowledge and usage of French language in Anglophone Ghana, which is surrounded by French speaking nations. The advantages of this strategic initiative if effectively implemented are many.

The second policy statement of international import, but which almost escaped media attention is that, starting next July, citizens of the other 53 Member States of the African Union (AU) can “obtain visas on arrival (in Ghana) with the option of staying for up to 30 days.” President Mahama expects this measure to stimulate air travel, trade, investment and tourism in Ghana which, like many other African countries, is going through a difficult economic patch.

To his credit, under Ghana’s independence, President Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, and until his overthrow in the coup of February 24, 1966, Ghana granted visa exemptions to “persons of African descent” born in the neighbouring West African countries, and members of the Casablanca Group – Guinea, Tunisia, Mali, United Arab Republic, Morocco and Algeria – which along with the Liberia Group, formed the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, with the Pan-Africanist Ghanaian leader playing a leading role. In his 1961 book, I Speak of Freedom, Nkrumah had also expressed the hope that: …the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.”

But so much has happened with the concept of a United States of Africa, which took its origin from the 1924 poem “Hail, United States of Africa” by Marcus Garvey, American civil rights activist and great Pan-Africanist. The late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had romanced with the same idea in his relentless push for the formation of the AU, which succeeded the OAU in 2002, and many still talk with passion about the African Renaissance.

As expected the AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has lauded Ghana’s visa-on-arrival plan, expressing the hope that “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”

Modern Africa owes a debt of eternal gratitude to Pan-Africanists and independent leaders such as Nkrumah, for their sacrificial struggles, so any initiative that seeks to rekindle the dreams of those founding fathers must be welcomed by all true Africans and friends of Africa. But it is a strong indictment on the continent’s post-independent leadership that almost 60 years after many of the countries gained political freedom, Africans are more divided than ever. Africa is not zero-poor, but with the mismanagement of its rich human and natural resources, bad governance, corruption and the vicious circle of social strife, poverty and unemployment, there are today more skilled Africans in Europe, and the Americas than are in their home countries. And almost on a daily basis thousands of disillusioned, hopeless and desperate African youths risk their lives on perilous journeys to Europe.

Africa and Africans are fast losing their unique identity if they have not already done so, with Pan-Africanism now at best a slogan to the inattentive ears of present generation of Africans. Not a few African leaders have proclaimed or still proclaim Africa as the centrepiece of their national foreign policy. But the reality today is that while they continue to pay lip service to African unity, most of these leaders, under the guise of solving domestic problems, many of which are self-inflicted any way, steal their countries dry to build personal castles at home and abroad.

Ghana’s visa-on-arrival plan for AU citizens may also be viewed against the deafening complaints by African citizens about the difficulties and humiliations they suffer to obtain visas for Europe and the U.S. But the truth is that the process for obtaining visas to African countries is no less laborious and frustrating. For many Africans, travelling in the continent whether by road or by air is a nightmarish experience. In some cases air fares cost more than elsewhere while immigration and check points punctuate the transnational roads, some of which are in terrible conditions, with the attendant extortion of travellers by the border security personnel. The travel delays and the lack of deliberate pan-African national policies have ensured that intra-African trade hovers between 10% and 12% compared to 40% in North America and 60% in Western Europe.
The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) founded in 1975 deserves commendation for its 1979 flagship Protocol on Free Movement of persons, goods and services, rights to Establishment and Residence, which guarantees community citizens, a free-visa entry and stay in countries other than their own for 90 days at first instance. In spite of its imperfections, the implementation of this protocol is a major stride towards regional integration and makes ECOWAS the only Regional Economic Community (REC) with a free-visa regime.
Time was when Africans took refuge and were even provided the national passports of their host African countries during the independence struggles. Hundreds even received free education in their host countries during the Anti-Apartheid era. But with globalisation and world economic crisis African migrants who once constituted the bulwark of economic development on the continent, have become targets of violent xenophobic attacks by fellow Africans who accuse them of stealing their jobs.

If Europe is accused of erecting walls/fences to stop immigrants, African countries are no less guilty for the erection of invisible walls against fellow Africans even in their times of need.

With their ill-gotten wealth and multiple foreign visas, many African leaders and members of their families flaunt their ostentatious life styles abroad, while the majority of Africans are stranded and condemned to abject poverty at home. The same leaders bemoan capital flight and brain drain from Africa but do very little or nothing to incentivise or create the enabling environment to retain local capital or manpower. Instead, they encourage the mass exodus of Africa’s best brains; discourage foreign investment and incite social crisis that cause death, destruction and render citizens, refugees in their own countries. With their dual/multiple nationalities, these unpatriotic leaders easily disappear with their families to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth abroad.

As things stand, Africans must undertake a serious reality check to determine their Africanness and how they have derailed the lofty dreams of African founding fathers, for the purpose of damage control/limitation. Symbolic as Ghana’s visa-on-arrival initiative may seem, it is a reminder to Africans in general about where they are coming from. The AU and various Pan-Africanist groups/institutions and policy think-tanks must wake up from their slumber. It is bad enough that through slavery, colonial and neo-colonial exploitations and plundering, Africa’s sweat, blood and wealth were used to lay the foundations for the industrialisation and transformation of many countries in Europe and the Americas. For Africans themselves to now become champions of Africa’s disunity/disintegration, and the continued siphoning of the continent’s resources, is an unpardonable crime against humanity.

According to Marcus Garvey: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” It is not enough for Africans to know their history and culture; or to continue to blame others for their woes, they must use that knowledge strategically to work for the good of present and future generations.

  • First published in The Nigerian Guardian of 8 April 2016 under the title Ghana’s new visa plan and pan-Africanism by Paul  Ejime, a media/communications consultant

Nigeria: the journey with its Diaspora

Abstract of a Keynote Presentation I made at the NIDO Europe Orientation and Leadership Retreat, Hamburg, Germany. 17 -18 February 2017 entitled THE ROLE OF THE DIASPORA IN NIGERIAN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND NATION BUILDING: A Historical Perspective & Review.*

Recent discourse on the participation of the Nigerian Diaspora in national development has played up two main phenomena: Brain Drain and Brain Gain. While brain drain refers to mass migration of Nigerians of working age out of Nigeria, brain gain touches on the return of these nationals, often with resources, both capital and human, required for national development and nation building.

To exploit the goodies of brain gain, a good understanding of brain drain is omissible. Why and during which period was the brain of Nigerians drained in such significant and noticeable numbers? What factors gave rise to the drain? What exactly has been drained and to what extent has the drain constituted a cog in the wheel of national development? Available literatures examining brain drain puts the number of Nigerians permanently based abroad at between 6 and 9 Million. The vast majority are gainfully employed and contributing meaningfully to the socio-economic development of their host countries. Tens of thousands of the active professional Nigerians based outside Nigeria are world-class inventors, medical professionals, and experts in science, technology, the economy, politics and other fields. These include first generation Nigerian migrants whose initial orientation was Nigeria prior to their sojourns abroad as well as their offspring born abroad and currently hitting up to the third generations.

The presentation on The role of the Diaspora in Nigerian National Development and Nation Building posits that human capital resources of Nigeria have continued to play decisive roles in other economies of the world, while national economy of Nigeria stagnated between 1960 and 1999. This constituted a strangling setback on national development and informed Government’s resolve under President Olusegun Obasanjo, with the return to democracy in 1999, to have its Diaspora organized and reverse the brain drain to brain gain.

The pertinence of an organized Diaspora was reviewed against an unorganized Diaspora and an attempt made at establishing the collateral loss to the nation by the situation. The presentation further examines the role of visionary, proactive governance as opposed to leadership by exigencies in the identification of the potential impact Nigerian Diaspora will have on national rebirth. It is the assertion of the presentation that talks of Brain Gain are no happenstance but by the execution of a set of deliberately planned and strategically deployed actions by both Government and the Diaspora.

Examining existing mobilization methods and engagement tools in facilitating brain gain, it is the contention of the presentation that reversing the incidence of poverty, Nigeria’s greatest nemesis; gaining back the brains of the Nigerian Diaspora is a critical success factor. While copiously acknowledging that the job of gaining back the lost human capital of Nigeria resulted from visionary leadership of Government and is currently work in progress, both sides – Government and Diaspora – have their distinct roles naturally caved out and must take these roles seriously if the brain gain project is to be the success that it ought to be.

Drawing from examples globally where Diaspora mobilization have resulted in socio-economic transformation, the presentation advocates a number of measures, untried in Nigeria as it were, to mine the abundant human capital reservoir of the country towards accelerated national development.

*To request full paper / presentation, send an email to admin@collinsnweke.eu

Internally Generated Revenue: Lagos tops while Nasarrawa worse performing State

The National Bureau of Statistics released today the Internally  Generated Revenue at State level for January to June 2016.

In the report, Lagos State recorded the highest Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) figure of N150.59bn in Half Year (H1) 2016, closely followed by Ogun State with N28.15bn while Nasarrawa State generated the lowest revenue for the period under reference at N1.05bn.

“It is encouraging to note from the figures that Internally Generated Revenues for Delta State increased from N34.75bn in 2011 to N44.89bn in 2016 but yet to rival the 2013 peak of N50.21bn. This trend appears to mirror the situation in an average State (see: NBS States H1 2016 IGR – Internally Generated Revenue – all States) In a low oil yield regime, this along with non-oil export must be stepped up” reacted Collins Nweke, Global Affairs Analysis for Television Continental in an early assessment of the performance

For this period, seven (7) states are yet to report their  H1 2016 Internally Generated Revenue figures. These are Abia, Anambra, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Oyo, Rivers and Sokoto.  A total of N317.79bn was generated by twenty-nine (29) states that have reported their H1 2016 Internally Generated Revenue figure and the revenue was generated across the following types – PAYE, Direct Assessment, Road Taxes, Revenue from Ministries, Departments & Agencies and other taxes.Delta Internally Generated Revenue 2016

Generating and spreading wealth, not poverty

Being the full text of the address of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, immediate past President of Nigeria at the Oxford Union, England on Monday 24 October 2016

Protocols.

1.    It is my pleasure and a great honour to be in the hallowed chambers of the Oxford University, one of the world’s most prestigious universities, not just to speak, but to exchange ideas and answer questions from you, some of the world’s most brilliant youths and future leaders.

2.   It is instructive to note that since 1823, the Oxford Union has consistently presented this platform for scholarly and social congregation of the student population, the interchange of ideas, propagation of views in the enhancement of knowledge, and for the overall good of mankind.

3. This is highly commendable.

4. This discussion is topical for our global search for development and security. The issue of youth entrepreneurship in Africa is very critical, as Africa is the only continent in which we will witness a population boom in our lifetime.

5. Studies reveal the symbiotic relationship between youth unemployment and youth restiveness. Accordingly, most violent crises in Africa have been traced to a lack of education among its teeming youth population.

6. Genuine search for development and sustainable peace must therefore begin with youth empowerment and entrepreneurship.

7. When I was Governor of Bayelsa State and later the President of Nigeria, I asked myself some critical questions;
·   Why are some nations rich and some poor?
· Why do individuals that grow up in similar circumstances end up differently, with some as successes and others as failures?
· Is the wealth of nations a result of geography, weather, culture, destiny, etc.?
·  What could a leader do to effectively lift a people out of the depths of poverty, and enable them to achieve prosperity?

8.  After much soul searching, my conviction in regards to these questions is this : wealth is a creation of the human mind properly prepared by education.

9.  It is my firm belief that any Nation that does not spend its wealth and resources to developing the capacity of its youth  will eventually be forced to devote its resources to fight insecurity amongst those same youths.

10.  As a leader, you can decide through your policies to educate the youths,  or face the consequences of failing to do so. The problem all African leaders have is how to manage the youth bulge. Do we consider this a ticking time bomb or an opportunity?

11.  To me there are two key areas we must invest our resources if we are to convert this perceived time bomb to the opportunity I believe it is. The first is requisite education and capacity building. This should be followed by enabling  youth entrepreneurship. Allow me to share with you a brief account of the implementation of my vision to empower the youth.

12.  Within a year of my stewardship as the Governor of Bayelsa State, I gave Education a top priority.

13.  I provided infrastructure in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and gave undergraduate students financial assistance in the form of Bursary awards.

14.  I started building two special post primary schools for gifted and talented children.  The relevance of the gifted children school is obvious. For the talented children, the idea is to develop their natural talents in addition to sound education so that at graduation they can make a living from their God given talents if they choose to do so.

15.  While construction work was on-going in the special schools, we initiated a program to encourage the best brains of the State. We selected through competitive entrance examinations the most brilliant pupils in our primary schools and sent them to the best secondary schools in the country.

16.  The idea was for the State Government to take care of the best brains from the post primary through the tertiary level of their educational career and ensure that they attend the best institutions anywhere in the world. It was designed for a minimum of 100 pupils to be selected for this program annually. I left the State after one year and five months to contest election as the Vice President, and therefore could not see the idea through.

17.  Upon assumption of office as President of Nigeria, I launched a similar program called the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development. [PRESSID] This scheme nurtured a select cadre of professionals, to serve as facilitators for accelerated, sustainable, economic and technological advancement.

18. Each year, through competitive examinations, we selected between 100-to-120 first class graduates and sent them to the top universities in the world to study for higher degrees. These students were drawn from various STEM disciplines. Let me mention here that Oxford University was an integral part of this program and indeed, a favourite for most of our applicants.

19.  The essence of the program was to get a crop of youth over a period of time that will advance our course technologically. When I launched the program, I did mention that we were training young people that will take Nigeria to the moon.

20. In addition to this, my administration also gave a series of educational incentives to university students across the country.

21. We established twelve conventional Universities and a specialized Maritime University.  To assist the disadvantaged children in Northern Nigeria, we built 165 special schools known as “Almajiri School” that integrated Islamic culture into Western education.

22. The foundational theme of my Administration was ‘The Transformation Agenda’. It was conceived to engage the latent potential in the entire nation, and to stimulate and enable higher productivity. And this was also the foundation of our youth development drive.

23. The Transformation Agenda sought to address the problems of youth job creation, with emphasis not just in getting our young citizens employed, but in assisting them in acquiring the right skills, and providing the requisite support. This was to enable them set up and run their own businesses; thereby becoming employers of labour themselves.

24. In Nigeria and most African countries, there are well-educated young people. The problem is how to create  opportunities for them. My Administration came up with various programs to encourage young entrepreneurs. The most popular is the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria “YouWIN”.

25. It was a unique intervention launched in 2012, which targeted youth with unique business proposals in startups and expansion of existing enterprises. YouWin is structured as a competitive cyclic initiative which invites and reviews Business Plans submitted by Youth. Young people who wanted to be entrepreneurs were asked to submit their business proposals. The best business plans were chosen based on relevance, profitability, demand and practicability. The winners were trained and given grants.

26.  YouWIN was multi-sector- cutting across light manufacturing, food processing, and the service sector.

27.  The motivation for this program is for young people to go into SMEs, create jobs for other young people with the expectation that some would grow to large scale businesses. In addition to YouWin, under our broad based Agricultural Transformation Agenda, we developed the Youth Employment in Agriculture Program [YEAP] – and like many of our other youth programs, we incorporated the youth themselves in its design.

28.  This took a complete value chain approach from farming to processing and marketing. Just like in the YouWIN initiative, my Administration gave young farmers grants and training. The young people who were involved were called “Nagropreneurs”.

29.  We also launched The Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS). The objective of this program was to provide temporary work experience for fresh graduates, to enhance their capacity to attract permanent jobs.  Eligible graduates are posted to corporations and companies in the private and public sectors. They received practical training and mentorship for a one-year period, within which remuneration is paid by the government.  This enabled the young graduates to acquire relevant experience.

30. We also increased the allowances due to Youth Corp members by more than 100% in 2011. This was in line with our policy of youth empowerment and development.

31. To ensure that the Nigerian youth benefit massively in the ICT revolution, we created a special Ministry of Communication Technology. We wanted the Nigerian Youth to be self-employed and exploit the advantages of ICT.  The Ministry, among other things, improved broadband penetration, set up ICT incubation centres in Lagos and Calabar.

32. The efforts of the Young software engineers at the Lagos Co-Creation Hub (CC Hub) became so successful that it did not only give birth to many thriving start-ups, but their activities also attracted the attention of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg who chose it as his first stop during his first ever visit to Africa.

33. One sector we deliberately encouraged to stimulate job growth for Nigerian Youth was the Nigerian entertainment industry. We identified Nollywood as a sector that can employ many young people. We provided a grant of $200 million and for the first time, Nollywood became a major contributor to our GDP. In 2014, Nollywood contributed 1.4% to our GDP.

34. The sporting industry was also not left out. We encouraged our young people in that sector. I was to launch a Fund to encourage sporting activities in the Country but I had to bow out by 29th of May 2015. Nigeria has a crop of talented youth but the nation has not properly keyed into the global sports industry.  The Fund would have been a catalyst to promoting the Nigerian sports industry by promoting training, welfare of athletes and manufacturing of sporting equipment among other things.

35.  Distinguished audience let me conclude my speech by urging contemporary African leaders to see youth entrepreneurship as a collective project transcending national boundaries.

36.  I believe in the Nigerian youth and indeed African Youths.  My conviction is not only an emotional one, but one grounded in my experience with youths from all over the continent. You will agree that foremost in the minds of many youth, is a desire to develop their dreams and potentials. Placing them closer to the driving wheel, does a lot for their confidence.

37.  Despite incredible challenges, Nigerian youths are achieving great things and placing Nigeria positively in the world map. Nigerian youths are an inspiration to their leaders.

38.  I once said that I was not elected President of Nigeria to spread poverty, I was elected to generate and spread wealth. My belief in this regard is that getting a job or being a worker cannot completely cure the disease of poverty. It is only your own business that can provide such security and give you the financial freedom you need to prosper.

39. That was why my Administration introduced these initiatives and policies, to enable Nigeria’s youths take their own destinies in their hands.

40. You can appreciate that there was a lot of emphasis on education during my time at the helm of both my State and my Nation. This is because the richest people today are those who develop ideas and commercialize them. Viable ideas can only come from educated minds, and money pursues ideas. My three flagship programmes ie the gifted and talented children schools in Bayelsa State, the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development and the ICT Incubation Centers (Co-Creation Hub) were geared towards developing that calibre of youth.

41. We may not have been perfect, but we did our best, and our best yielded an era of unprecedented economic growth for Nigeria.

42. A growth that proved the truism that a Nation’s wealth is not underneath the ground but between the ears of her people.

43. Under my watch, Nigeria was projected by CNN Money to be the third fastest growing economy in the world for the year 2015 and rated as the largest economy in Africa and the 23rd in the world by the World Bank and the IMF, with a GDP above half a Trillion US dollars.

44. These in a nutshell are some of the ways we were able to promote youth enterprise; a topic that I know is of utmost interest to many of you here.

45. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me.

46. I shall now take your questions.president-jonathan-at-oxford-union

Britain and the lonely exit from the EU

The hard reality that Prime Minister Theresa May should be grappling with after attending the G20 Summit in China is that the path out of the European Union for Britain is getting lonelier by the day.  She was left in no doubt by the Japanese government about the potentially disastrous consequences should Britain cease to be a major participant in the EU Single Market. Meanwhile, President Obama left no doubt that negotiating a new, post-Brexit trade deal with the UK would be a distinctly lower priority for Washington than forging closer links with the EU.

May - Obama at G20 2016

When British Government chooses to talk tough on the Brexit issues, it just makes the Brexit Lane not only narrower but also lonelier. Hear the Brexit Minister yesterday on television “If a requirement of membership of the EU Single Market is giving up control of our borders, that makes it very improbable”

John Palmer in a Social Europe commentary toyed with the idea of a second referendum but quickly paused to ask the intelligent question: what about? I liked all that he had to say in attempting to find an answer to that question but also in presenting alternative strategy*

Since the “Brexit” referendum in June, there has been a series of demonstrations demanding a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership. The call for a replay of the vote echoes the widespread shock at the outcome on June 24. The clamour for a second vote in this form has been impressive in scale but, although understandable, it reflects a mistaken strategy.

The mere attempt to raise the issue has resulted in an orchestrated chorus of “foul play!” from the Leave camp hardliners. If a replay vote were to be held, the million and one arguments for Britain remaining a member of the EU would be drowned out by charges of “democratic sabotage” from populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant Tory and UKIP factions.

There is, however, a more compelling case for a referendum on a quite different issue: the withdrawal terms that the Conservative government will eventually seek and/or secure from its EU partners. These would include not only the precise relationship that the UK would retain with the EU and its Single Market but also the legal basis on which the government would negotiate new, global trade deals.

Both questions obviously raise hugely important issues for the UK and for the different nations which make it up. To take just one example: would there have to be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic or, as some suspect, border controls within the UK between Northern Ireland and the British mainland (as temporarily existed during the Second World War?) The remarkable thing is how little attention this has received in the media.

These issues never formed part of the background to the referendum decision which the British people were asked to make earlier this year. But they cannot be allowed to come to pass without democratic validation either by Parliament or through a referendum.  The impact on the British economy – and society as a whole – could be radically different depending on which one of the very different alternative relationships with the EU eventually emerges. If the government loses a validation vote in the House of Commons or in a new referendum, it would have no real choice but to retract its eventual Article 50 decision – as it would have every legal right to do.

An indication of just what is at stake has already come at the G20 summit in China. The prime minister, Teresa May, was left in no doubt by the Japanese government about the potentially disastrous consequences should Britain cease to be a major participant in the EU Single Market. Meanwhile, President Obama left no doubt that negotiating a new, post-Brexit trade deal with the UK would be a distinctly lower priority for Washington than forging closer links with then EU. Meanwhile, Mrs May risks a frosty reaction from Leave hardliners by declaring that their favoured “Australian” points system for restricting EU migration to Britain simply will not work. Both factions in the government are struggling to articulate a detailed Article 50 negotiating mandate handicapped by the dearth of trade expertise in Whitehall. The UK lost most of its foreign trade competence to the EU 40 years ago, but the Brexiteers had no idea of how acute the shortage of expertise really was until they took office.

Add to this the fact that the Conservative government has a very small majority in the House of Commons (12 MPs), that its EU partners are not going to be a soft touch if it tries to secure a super-privileged deal with the Union and it is not hard to see the political perils facing Mrs May in the months ahead. Even so, she has confidently ruled out both a second referendum and even a mandatory vote of approval in Parliament for the eventual Article 50 outcome.

The only factors that might work in her favour are the internal dissension in the Labour Party following the attempted removal of Jeremy Corbyn from the leadership and the Nigel Farage succession rows in UKIP. But both are likely to be resolved very soon. All the indications point to a triumphant re-election of Corbyn as leader later this month. Leading members of the Labour “Shadow Cabinet” have made it clear that the Labour opposition will fight hard to secure guarantees against any dilution of existing EU social and Labour right and environmental standards. They also insist that a Brexit UK vetoes any “race to the bottom” in such areas by ensuring that UK matches EU standards.

The co-leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, has rightly already demanded a second referendum on the final Article 50 package.

Corbyn and Lucas share very many common political positions and this should logically be another. After all this would not be a re-run of the summer referendum but one concerned with the futureconstitutional, social and economic rights of the British people.

The Tory government may try to block both a second referendum and a mandatory vote of the House of Commons. But between now and the date when the two-year Article 50 process is exhausted, the pressure of domestic and overseas political events as well as a worsening economic situation (and those impressive pro-European demonstrations) may force the government to rethink. One can only hope so.

*Based on an analysis in the 7 September 2016 in Social Europe originally entitled “A Second Referendum – But What About” by John Palmer

 

Nigerian Diaspora Day – Chronicle of a failing national event

A COLLATION OF PERIODIC BRIEFINGS OF THE GLOBAL DIASPORA PLANNING COMMITTEE TO THE STAKEHOLDERS IN THE RUN-UP TO THE 2013 NATIONAL DIASPORA DAY EVENT

0. PREFACE TO THE CHRONICLE

There is a heightened debate about what and how a purposeful Diaspora Day should look like. A cursory look at the content of the debate has revealed that the issues at the core of the debate today, are not very much different from what they were in 2013 and perhaps way back. Indeed a remarkable retrogression could be noted. On the risk of saddling you with issues you are conversant with but in consideration of the numerous inquiries that I have continued to receive from press and public, I felt it was imperative to publish this chronicle of five briefing notes exactly as they were released at the time to the stakeholders. I note the burning desire of many to gyrate towards a new Diaspora Day model. Though some of the ideas espoused in this chronicle may now be irrelevant, a good part of it will certainly be useful contributions in the process of molding or remolding Diaspora Day that is fit for purpose. You may therefore wish to consider this a reminder to all stakeholders of where we are coming from, in the expectation that it will help chart a new course going forward.

Wishing you a good read!

Collins Nweke

Chairman Global Diaspora Planning Committee 2013 / Chairman NIDO Europe 2011 – 2013

DIASPORA DAY BRIEFING NOTE 1 DATED WEDNESDAY 29 MAY 2013

It has become necessary to put out this note following several calls from individual Diaspora and other stakeholders concerned about the state of play with Diaspora Day 2013. Some have drawn attention to a website purportedly carrying information about ‘Diaspora Day’ with a call to individuals to register for the event.

While we do not intend to undermine efforts from any individuals or domestic groups towards holding any variant of Diaspora Day, it is important for you to know that neither the global leadership of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation nor the Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS) under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is officially aware of or has authorized Diaspora Day plans as presented in the published website.

You will recall that in 2012, the Diaspora Day was called off at the last minute by the then Permanent Secretary in charge of the event. This left numerous individuals and families in Diaspora stranded as tickets for this annual event had been purchased and their summer plans made to fit into the Diaspora Day. Though we were not responsible for the chaos at the time, the leadership of NIDO took responsibility for an aggressive impression management to limit the effects of the cancellation to the Diaspora. We also made a commitment then to take the side of caution by not releasing any information to the public on subsequent Diaspora Day until we secure a formal written confirmation from Government that the Diaspora Day 2013 will hold. This is a position that the Permanent Secretary (Political & Economic Affairs) Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation wholeheartedly endorsed, appealing for our continued understanding. Just this morning, assurances from Government that the requested written confirmation will shortly be obtained, was renewed.

Above situation notwithstanding, we have continued to liaise with the Permanent Secretary and the NNVS and so far, all relevant preparations are in place including, tentative booking for venue, programme dummy, public sector resource persons, et cetera. Indeed all major preparatory work is in place following an Implementation Plan that we developed in concert with the NNVS. Following budget approval by the SGF, these deliverables would be deployed and appropriate announcements made by the official bodies.

Finally, it bears emphasizing that the NNVS remains the anchor for Nigerian Diaspora Day in concert with NIDO and other relevant Diaspora and domestic bodies. Privatization of this most important annual event is not in discussion at present. Should that become the case, it goes without saying that you shall be kept posted. Until then please choose the side of caution with us and disregard any call to register for the official Diaspora Day 2013.

Thank you and please look out shortly for more on this!

 

DIASPORA DAY BRIEFING NOTE 2 DATED 23 JUNE 2013

  1. General

In our Stakeholder Communication of 29 May 2013, we intimated you that choosing the side of caution; we have decided not to release any conclusive information to the public on Diaspora Day until we secure a formal written confirmation from Government that the Diaspora Day 2013 will hold.  Though such written confirmation has not been received from Government, we observe that planning is intensifying. We have continued to be reassured that the letter will reach us at any moment. It goes without saying that same will be communicated to you without any delay. In the meantime, we thought it is important to communicate the current state of play to you, hence this Briefing Note. It should also be made clear to you that in as much as we desire otherwise, organisation of Diaspora Day remains under the control of Government. While we intensify our call for a reform of this situation, to engender true partnership, we are cooperating with Government within the boundaries of reason, irrespective of the limitations, to have as successful an event as possible.

  1. Project-Based Diaspora Day 2013.

The position of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation remains that Diaspora Day must move away from converging in Nigeria for the sake of conferencing. A Diaspora Day without content and character is, in our view, a waste of public resources. In our Implementation Plan, submitted to the relevant authorities in April 2013, we have articulated clearly our vision of an achievable project-based Diaspora Day in which Nigeria will be the ultimate beneficiary. We have received documented commendations from all quarters in and out of Government for our vision in this respect. We therefore remain committed to contributing to the Diaspora Day 2013 from a project-based perspective focusing on three core thematic areas: Technology, Health & Education with job creation as the melting pot. We will encourage you to continue thinking along these lines in a quest to adding value to this important national event. We thank those of you who have availed us projects for presentation and do request those whose projects are yet to be submitted, to expedite action.

  1. Registration of Delegates

In an earlier communication, we had drawn your attention to an unauthorized website calling you to register for the Diaspora Day. That position is yet to change because the traditional anchors of the Diaspora Day, which is the NNVS, has not advised us otherwise. Until that happens, you may wish to register for the Diaspora Day 2013 from the brand new NIDO worldwide website (www.nidoworldwide.org) as from Wednesday 26 June 2013.

  1. Resource persons

We wish to draw attention of persons interested in presenting projects to the following excerpt from the Diaspora Day Implementation Plan:

“The Diaspora Day 2013 will therefore de-emphasize academic presentations. It will be project-based and will target only implementable projects ready for Nigeria as a lucrative investment destination. The following thematic areas will be the core focus of the Diaspora Day 2013:

  • Technology.
  • Education.
  • Health.
  • ….”

Along above line, we therefore call on you to submit your project(s) if you are yet to do so. Furthermore the voluntary services of Rapporteurs and others who possess expertise in any of the thematic areas identified above and are willing to chair relevant breakout sessions, are required. Kindly indicate your interest by sending an email to chair@nidoeurope.org or to your continental representative on the Global Planning Committee.

  1. Accommodation

As of today, we do not have any conclusive information from the NNVS on arrangements for accommodating Diaspora Delegates. In our discussions with the NNVS, we have represented the view that like in previous years, the Diaspora expects to be accommodated for the entire duration of the Diaspora Day. From the information available to us and corroborated by our Implementation Plan, the Diaspora Day is to run from 23 – 26 July 2013. It has been rumored in some quarters that the NNVS is planning to have the Diaspora pay part of their accommodation costs for the period of the Diaspora Day 2013. We are unaware of any such plans by the NNVS. Till date, the NNVS has not confirmed any such intentions to us. If anything, we believe that it is fair to say that the NNVS is doing all that they possibly could, to arrange for the Diaspora to be accommodated. Unfortunately we cannot firmly confirm this to you because we do not have any such confirmation in writing.

  1. Date for Diaspora Day 2013

You may have read from certain sources, or be informed by some unauthorized entities that the Diaspora Day 2013 is a weeklong event. That information is contrary to the information available to us from authorized sources and indeed the position we expressed in our Implementation Plan. The Diaspora Day 2013 is planned for 24 – 26 July 2013. Arrival may be tolerated for 23 July, while departure can extend to 27 July under strictly pre-agreed conditions. These are part of the issues on which we are seeking official, written confirmation from Government. It is our firm position that an event of this magnitude should not be allowed to be run on the basis of hearsay. We hope that you can begin to appreciate why we stand on the side of caution and professionalism by seeking formal confirmation from relevant official bodies to enable us inform you correctly.

  1. Closing

Finally, it bears re-emphasizing that as NIDO, we may not be fully in synch with the way and manner the planning process of the Diaspora Day 2013 is proceeding but we have made the conscious decision to remain part of it for the common good. While in it, we will continue to speak out on your behalf in favour of a more professional organizational approach. Nobody is served well with a fire-brigade approach in an event as important as the Diaspora Day.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. Be rest assured that as more information become available to us, same will be made available to you.

 

DIASPORA DAY BRIEFING NOTE 3 DATED 29 JUNE 2013

  1. General

Last week we brought you update on the planning for Diaspora Day 2013. One point in that update bears underlining, which is that despite the odds, shortcomings and challenges, our resolve to work with Government, represented by the Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS) in ensuring a successful Diaspora Day 2013, remains unshaken. Perfectly conscious of the fact that the NNVS remains the organizers of Diaspora Day, we invite you to join us in that resolve to make the event the success that it ought to be. Ours as NIDO is that of a supporting and advisory role and we shall continue to take these roles seriously. We must also be conscious of the limitations of our role: we can only advise but what Government does with our advice is entirely up to them. That is the situation as of today. Going forward the leadership of NIDO believes firmly that a reform is urgently needed, such that accountability, partnership and stakeholdership are placed at the centre of this whole business.

  1. Project-Based Diaspora Day 2013.

Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation remains an unrepentant proponent of project-based Diaspora Day because that is the imperative of our time as an emerging economy. A project-based Diaspora Day ensures better value for our time away from work and family. Above all, we represent the view that previous six years of Diaspora Day have been experiments in academic and intellectual exposé. Such experiments may have been right at the time but time changes and we must change with time. We will continue to persuade Government along this line and are hopeful for success. In the meantime, we have noted the expanded thematic areas which the NNVS supports as opposed to the three focused thematic areas of technology, education and health, with job creation as the melting point, which NIDO believes is the way to go. Both points having been made and in consideration of the fact that we do not wish to unduly disadvantage our members, we are advising that members who may wish to present papers, decide for themselves in which areas they want to present on. One thing is for sure, the dialogue must continue beyond Diaspora Day 2013 as to which model best serves Nigeria.

  1. NIDO Unified Website and Registration of Delegates

In line with a unified Nigerian Diaspora as the true global network we are, we have developed a common logo a couple of months ago, which is now being systematically deployed. Along that strategic line, we have launched a common website www.nidoworldwide.org From this website you can also register for the Diaspora Day 2013. The website has experienced huge traffic since its launch as our webmasters continue to update and upload contents. Please bear with us if you experience any problem attempting to register. Do try again after a little while.

  1. Accommodation

We have been informed of Government’s arrangements in respect of accommodation as follows: “The Venue has been shifted to NICON Luxury due to the limited budget for this year’s DDAY. 100 Rooms in total are to be provided out of which rooms will be carved out for Special Guests, Speakers, and some members of the Rapporteur and Secretariat. The rest of the rooms are to be split with the main Diaspora Groups proportionately with a few reserved for lesser known but important groups. NNVS is negotiating with NICON Luxury so that discounts will be offered to those coming who will have to pay for themselves. We may also be able to get N11,000 a room at Top Ranks Hotel”

We can attest to the efforts of staff of the NNVS to maximize the comfort of all Diaspora delegates. As much as we want to, we unfortunately cannot give any guaranty of accommodation for any delegates. However we shall follow up closely with the NNVS to ensure equitable allocation of accommodation.

  1. Date for Diaspora Day 2013

We have been informed that Diaspora Day 2013 is planned for 24 – 26 July 2013. Arrival date is 23 July, while departure is 27 July.

  1. Closing

Finally, we should place on records that till today, we are yet to receive any official letter from Government on the Diaspora Day as requested and agreed. It must also be mentioned that we have been told that the official letter is ready and may reach us any moment.

We commit to updating you as often as possible on developments as they relate to the Diaspora Day 2013 and allied matters. We also thank you for your patience with us and your kind understanding.

DIASPORA DAY BRIEFING NOTE 4 DATED 3 JULY 2013

  1. The Presidency Formally Confirms Diaspora Day 2013

We would like to report that on Monday 1 July 2013 a formal letter was sent to the leadership of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), officially intimating us of the ‘National Diaspora Day Celebration’ and extending to us ‘Invitation to Participate as Stakeholders’. While we welcome the invitation and have since been actively participating in the planning process, unsolicited as it were, the leadership of NIDO wants to do more than simply ‘participate’ in an event over which we should have some measure of ownership. It is the expectation of the Diaspora that a partnership exists between Government and the Diaspora in planning and executing the Nigeria Diaspora Day. That said, it must be on record that we appreciate the work being done by the Planning Team under very difficult circumstances. Despite the limitations, the Directors of the Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS), under the OSGF have continued to do their best to be the best anchor of the Diaspora Day as they possibly could.

Being invitees and not partners in the planning of the Diaspora Day means that we can only offer non-committal advice. What Government does with the advice proffered is entirely up to them. We do not think that the Diaspora, particularly Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, recognized by Government as the official representatives of the Diaspora deserves to be treated in such shabby manner. We have made our views known to Government while continuing at the same time to work with the organizers towards a successful event. A reform is urgently needed. The leadership of NIDO will continue to persuade and lobby Government in that direction as we allow them the space to do their job.

According to the formal letter from Government, the Diaspora Day 2013 runs from “Wednesday 24th – Friday 26th July with the Official Opening slated for “Thursday July 25”

  1. Deadline for Registration and Submission of Abstracts Extended.

In consideration of the uncertainties that have beclouded the Diaspora Day 2013 and the late notification and confirmation from Government, many Diaspora have either put off plans to attend or have delayed decisions to participate in the event. Less than 48 hours after registration for participation opened on our website www.nidoworldwide.org many of you registered en mass and are still registering. We thank you for remaining loyal and understanding even as your patience was tested. We are happy to announce that as a result of our intervention with the organizers, the deadline for registration has now been extended to Friday 5 July 2013. Similarly, those who wish to present projects or papers now have until Friday 5 July to submit their abstract for consideration. Kindly send your abstract to chair@nidoeurope.org or to your continental representative in the Global Diaspora Planning Team. Details are available on www.nidoworldwide.org

  1. Diaspora Award

We have reasons to believe that some clarifications are needed about whether or not there will be a Diaspora Award in the Diaspora Day 2013. Please be informed that there will not be a Diaspora Award in the Diaspora Day 2013. Indeed in the initial concept for the Diaspora Day 2013, Diaspora Award was proposed. The position of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation was and remains that a Diaspora Award is a good idea but not one that can credibly and transparently be organized in 2013 due to limited time. NIDO cannot afford to join the growing list of Awards organisations with neither content nor character. The Diaspora Award that we envisage must be open, participative, transparent, free and fair. In the last couple of weeks, talks have intensified that the Diaspora Award will be taking place despite the objection to this by NIDO. We therefore had to seek and indeed obtained confirmation from the Planning Team that no Diaspora Awards will take place at the Diaspora Day 2013

  1. Accommodation

In our last Update, we reported as follows:

We have been informed of Government’s arrangements in respect of accommodation as follows: “The Venue has been shifted to NICON Luxury due to the limited budget for this year’s DDAY. 100 Rooms in total are to be provided out of which rooms will be carved out for Special Guests, Speakers, and some members of the Rapporteur and Secretariat. The rest of the rooms are to be split with the main Diaspora Groups proportionately with a few reserved for lesser known but important groups. NNVS is negotiating with NICON Luxury so that discounts will be offered to those coming who will have to pay for themselves. We may also be able to get N11,000 a room at Top Ranks Hotel”

Based on the sort of enquiries coming from members, we are conscious of the fact that some of you are anxious to know exactly what the situation is with accommodation for Diaspora Day 2013. We are unaware of any new development regarding accommodation but will continue to follow up with the organizers on behalf of members.

  1. Closing

We commit to updating you as often as possible on developments as they relate to the Diaspora Day 2013 and allied matters. We also thank you for your patience with us and your kind understanding.

DIASPORA DAY BRIEFING NOTE 5 DATED 19 JULY 2013

  1. The D-Day is Upon Us

We are stepping out of the last preparation week of the Diaspora Day 2013 and into the week when the event holds. What began with a whole lot of uncertainty, numerous questions with few answers is now becoming the reality that it ought to be. We thank you for your characteristic resilience as Nigerians and your faith in us to uphold and defend your interest. You have been patient with us as your mandated representatives as we battle on your behalf under difficult circumstances to bring you information and serve you with excellence.

The transformational agenda of the current government in Nigeria is not a one-way traffic.  It is like the root system of a tree, with each root, as tiny as it is, supplying from its vintage point, minerals, to nourish the stem. For this home-grown ideology to blossom and impact substantially on the citizens, Nigerians in Diaspora in general and NIDO in particular, should add verve to the Nigerian project. Diaspora Day 2013 should go down in the annals of history as the commencement of a renewed stride to position NIDO as a critical root of the Nigerian tree. NIDO aspires to take its place as an important wire supplying lifeline to the whole country. It is from this perspective that we believe the Diaspora Day must be a tool for us in facilitating the local developmental agenda from the Diaspora vantage point by supplying the ingredients required to grow the agenda. By a set of deliberately chosen actions, we are embarking on this project hence our favour for a project-based Diaspora Day as evidenced by the choice of projects that we have encouraged our members and sympathizers to present this year.

  1. Accommodation

To our relief the organizers have informed us that accommodation will be provided to all duly registered Diaspora delegates. We are therefore most delighted that we will not have to deal with the clumsy exercise of room allocation whereby some delegates would have to be left disappointed. We are aware that some Diaspora have given up their plans of attending the Diaspora Day 2013 in view of some of the uncertainties involved in the planning. However we dire to encourage you to firm up your travel plans and converge with us in Abuja as it promises to be worth the trouble for you.

  1. Confirmation of Resource Persons

Majority of the resource persons (presenters, discussants, rapporteurs) from our membership or facilitated by us have been formally notified of their status. We are hoping that the organizers will heed our recommendation and also formally notify persons whose projects or papers have not made the list on this occasion. If you applied to present a paper and have not yet been formally notified of your status, do contact Ms Badewa Williams by email badewawilliams@yahoo.com and Mrs Ayangade foye_d@yahoo.com

  1. Delegate Confirmation Letters / Airport Shuttle

Some of you have so far received Letters of Confirmation as delegates while others are yet to receive theirs. Please be reassured that as long as you are duly registered as a Diaspora delegate, you will be received and taken care of. Shortly, you shall be receiving your confirmation letter either from the NNVS or from NIDO. We shall be mounting a Welcome Desk to ensure that our members are professionally received on arrival at the Hotel.  Unfortunately we are unable to give you conclusive information on Airport – Hotel Shuttle arrangements for delegates. As soon as any such information becomes available from the organizers, we shall update you. Meanwhile it might be advisable to start making your shuttle arrangement to the NICON Luxury Hotel, where as mentioned earlier, NIDO dedicated hosts and hostesses will be on hand to warmly welcome you.

  1. List of Projects & Papers

We are compiling a list of papers and projects to be presented at the Diaspora Day 2013 for enhanced visibility using multiple media. If your project or paper has been approved for presentation and you wish the project to be listed by us, kindly forward project details to us via email to chair@nidoeurope.org  Endeavour to include project title, one-sentence description, your name and country of residence.

  1. NIDO Contact Numbers in Abuja

Should you have any questions regarding your participation in the Diaspora Day 2013, please feel free to contact the following Diaspora leaders for a helping hand:

Mr Ganiyu A Dada

Chairman NIDO Americas | Member Diaspora Global Planning Committee

Tel. 0803 578 45 94
Mr Ben Osawe

General Secretary NIDO Europe | Member Diaspora Global Planning Committee

Tel. 0813 534 5011
  1. Formal Launch of New Corporate NIDO Logo by Mr President

The new corporate logo of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation is billed to be launched by Mr President during the opening session of the Diaspora Day 2013 on Thursday 25 July. You are welcome to witness this history-making event.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you as your Global Diaspora Representatives in planning the Diaspora Day 2013!

 (signed)                                                                                                           

Hon. Collins Nweke | NIDO Europe | Tel. +32 498 345 889 | chair@nidoeurope.org

Chairman Diaspora Day 2013 Global Planning Committee

 

Mr Ganiyu Dada | NIDO Americas

Dr Babatunde B Lee | NIDO Africa

Dr Mohammed Aliyu-Paiko | NIDO Asia-Pacific

 

EPILOGUE

Permanent Secretary (Political & Economic Affairs)

Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation

The Presidency

Abuja FCT – Nigeria

07 July 2013

Dear Sir,

We must say that both Mrs Ayangade and Ms Williams have so far been responsive in their handling of the planning of Diaspora Day 2013. Worthy of special mention is the speed at which inquiries are responded to and the availability to offer explanations for grey areas. As registration and submission of papers close, and as you retire to deliberate on accepted papers for presentation, we deem it pertinent to leave you with the six-point thoughts below:

  1. While NIDO Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe have all received formal invitation to attend the Diaspora Day as stakeholders, our colleagues in NIDO Africa are yet to receive formal invitation. Kindly consider sending an invitation to Dr Lee B Babatunde, email: leebabatunde@yahoo.co.uk
  2. It has come to our attention that as a result of recent efforts at streamlining the operations of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) for more efficiency and effectiveness, particularly in relation with the development of a common logo, website, et cetera, certain persons, for whatever reasons, now tend to equate us as a single entity, with other Diaspora groups, e.g. ANNID and CANUK, thereby undermining our global spread and deeper penetration in the Diaspora landscape. It will be an aberration to use such unacceptable basis in determining proportionality in matters requiring allocation. By way of illustration: CANUK has a presence only in the UK where NIDO Europe has two out of its 19 Chapters. Similarly ANNID as a small club of friends in some two Cities of the United States is nothing near in size and penetration to one out of the 18 full-fledged Chapters of NIDO Americas. It has become necessary to highlight this issue in view of the disaffection it is already raising with NIDO members. We have reassured members that we believe in your ability to be fair in matters of this nature nevertheless, we thought it is crucial to flag it off with you for proper note and attention.
  3. We are fully conscious of the fact that not all requests for presentation of projects / papers will be accommodated within the limited space. Considering that we do not as of today have any idea of any objective criteria being employed in your determination of eligibility or otherwise, we can only hope on your sense of fairness and equitable judgment. We must also put on record that as a body, we have taken the decision to avoid role duplication, an idea that Ms Williams has seconded in one of her recent emails. We encourage you to kindly uphold this principle in your deliberations and determination of roles.
  4. May we suggest that a generic letter be developed which can be sent to those whose papers or projects have not been retained. Except we are mistaken, it is the intention of the planning team to inform only those whose papers / projects have been retained. Similarly, we have taken note of your desire to provide more conclusive information about accommodation by mid-week (10 July 2013). We commend this and encourage you to strive hard to achieve this important goal.
  5. We may have mentioned this in the past but we would like to reiterate that any and all Diaspora to be allocated rooms MUST identify themselves with stamped passport and flight tickets proving entry into Nigeria not exceeding one month. This in our view is the only way to prevent abuse of the past years where domestic delegates pretend to be based abroad or Diaspora who have been in the country long before the Diaspora Day on other private businesses. These categories of delegates secure rooms irregularly to the detriment of the actual Diaspora delegates.
  6. We also feel obliged to draw attention to the need for Diaspora Day to be as less political as possible because our members have had reasons to be concerned about this important event being more and more politicized. Over-exposure of the Diaspora Day to politics can be avoided for example through achieving a good balance in the speakers’ slots for political figures, the public sector, corporate Nigeria and the Diaspora.

From what we have seen so far, we are confident that you are equal to the task of sailing this planning process to a safe destination.

NIDO Non-Oil Ad

Downsizing Nigerian Diplomacy

“The downsizing of Nigerian Missions is an inevitable pill that needs to be swallowed under the current economic realities of the country and the dire need to eliminate wastefulness and financial leakages. Along with the downsizing comes the need for retraining and skills upgrade of key Foreign Service staff in service delivery and modern leadership. The concern is whether these operations could be undertaken in such efficient manner that an already ailing system is not compromised to a point of total collapse. The current Onyeama Reform seem humane when balanced against the potential redundancy that would have ensued. The redeployment arrangements makes sense”

Collins NWEKE, Global Affairs Analyst & Former Board Chairman Nigerians in European Diaspora commenting on the planned closure of 10 Nigeria Foreign Missions and staff rationalization

There are strong indications that Federal Government has approved the closure of nine foreign missions and their conversion to non-residency representation or concurrent accreditation. The closure is part of measures to reduce the cost of running Nigeria’s foreign representations in line with the present economic reality.

The affected missions are those whose absence portends no serious bilateral or diplomatic effect.  They include the Permanent Mission to the D-8 in Istanbul, Turkey; the Africa-South America Cooperation Forum (ASACOF) in Caracas, Venezuela; embassies in Belgrade, Serbia; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Kiev, Ukraine; Prague, Czech Republic; the High Commission in Singapore as well as Consulates in Buea, Cameroon and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Also approved for rationalization is the number of officers at foreign missions, estacode for local travels and award of honorary consuls. The government also ordered that posting staff of home ministries to foreign missions should be discontinued, while Foreign Service officers should be trained to carry out multiple tasks including administration, immigration, trade, culture and education related functions.

The rationalization exercise will affect all 119 Nigeria’s foreign missions. Apart from 35 missions, the government directed that all other missions should be run by an ambassador and not more than three home-based staff.  The level of local staffing, it said, must be controlled.

A letter from the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama dated June 8, 2016, said the practice of violating staffing ceilings for each mission must be stopped and corrective measures be put in place. Consequently, it said, there should be a review of the staff strength necessary for each mission.

“Rules and regulations as well as entitlements (estacode) for local travels at post should be reviewed downwards and strict compliance enforced. Similarly, cost and usage of communication and utility services should be reviewed and drastically reduced, and the current entitlement of house maids for senior officers other than the heads of mission and deputy chiefs of mission, where applicable should be discontinued,” it added.

The federal government also discovered that the award of honorary consuls was open to abuse by unscrupulous businessmen. The practice, it said, should be reviewed in accordance with international best practices.  “Some of these measures may have the effect of bloating the number of Foreign Service Officers at headquarters. To address this consequence, officers may be deployed to other ministries, departments and agencies to help coordinate their interface with diplomatic missions/international organizations.

“State governments should also be encouraged to receive at least two Foreign Service officers on secondment to assist in providing guidance to their increasing interface with diplomatic missions/international organizations,” the government said.  It said the arrangement would engender greater coordination and coherence within the official positions diplomats receive when they visit ministers or governors who often make statements with foreign policy implications without appropriate briefs from the Foreign Affairs ministry.

“Through these Foreign Service liaison officers, not only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but our diplomatic missions abroad, will also be sufficiently briefed on the activities and conversations of diplomats from their host countries serving in Nigeria. “While this is only one solution, the MFA should also carefully examined the consequences of overstaffing at headquarters as a result of the planned rationalization and make other recommendations to address the problem. This may include offering redundant officers redeployment to home ministries or early retirement from service without loss of benefit,” the government said.
 
An official at the Nigerian Consulate Office in Georgia, Atlanta, USA, according to Daily Trust said some key staff in the various missions had been directed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to either do a needs assessment or return home and evaluate various staff strength in the missions ahead of the shake-up. The official said the need for some staff at post was questionable, adding that there are administrative officers that have been on posting even when some of their services are not needed there.

He said some missions are not needed because there is hardly any serious bilateral trade or diplomatic impact of some of those countries, some in Africa and others in Asia, which the official noted may not have been reciprocating Nigeria’s diplomatic gestures.
 
Meanwhile, a number of former diplomats frowned on the federal government decision, saying shutting of some missions sends a signal to the world that the Nigerian economy is in really bad shape. And that it will harm country’s standing in the international community more than the little money that would be saved from such decision.

Curled from African Ripples under the title Nigeria Closes 10 Missions, Rationalizes Staff by Akin Akingbala