Collins Nweke is a Belgian politician of the Green Party, who hails from Igbuzo in Delta State, Nigeria. Nweke was born on 14 July 1965. He was sworn in for a third term of office on 2 January 2019 as councillor for social affairs in the government of Mayor Bart Tommelein at the Ostend City Council in West Flanders province.
Collins Nweke is of Nigerian origin, and settled in Belgium in 1993. He is the first non-Belgian-born person to be elected to political office in West Flanders. He is particularly active in social welfare and ethnic minority issues. He stood as a candidate for the European Parliament in the 2014 elections.
Nweke has served as chief executive and chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora in Europe (NIDO Europe), and has been active in consultancy and advocacy in the field of socio-economic development for Nigeria and for Africa in general. Collins Nweke was born in Nigeria and migrated to Belgium in 1993 and has dual Nigerian-Belgian citizenship.
Nweke has a good command of English, Dutch and some German. He lives with his wife, Tonia and two sons, Tonna Jessy (Teejay) Nweke (born 11 March 1994) and Chidi Rae Nweke (born 15 October 1996) in Ostend, Belgium. He is a frequent traveller to Nigeria, his country of origin, where virtually all members of the large Nweke family clan reside. His father, Obi (Eze) Adigwe Nweke, is a traditional ruler and member of Ndi Nze Traditional Ruling Council of his Igbuzo hometown. His mother, Loveth Nweke, died on 5 September 2014. In his speech accepting the Leadership Service Award in Hamburg, Germany on 7 September 2014, Nweke dedicated the Award to his mother.
He trained in Mass Communications, International Business Management (BCom) and Management Social Economy (MSE) partly in Nigeria but mainly in Europe. He also holds a Belgian ‘Graduaat’ in Corporate Policy and a Doctor of Governance (Honoris Causa) awarded in 2014.
Before migrating, Nweke taught English Literature at Omu Boys’ Secondary School, Ibusa. He then worked for five years at the United Bank for Africa plc. In Belgium, he worked in a team providing the European Commission Justice & Home Affairs Directorate with comparative research and analyses of ethnic minority participation in European business and politics.
He later led a team of students on internship from the University College of West-Flanders in the development of a resource center with employment services tailored towards the labour market needs of ethnic minority groups in 2004, culminating in a highly successful national conference of private–public partners.
From 2002 to 2004, he was employed by the Ostend civil service department of Social Welfare where he established a digital Legal Research Centre for social and policy matters. Collins also works in the HORECA-sector, which is the mainstay of the Ostend local economy. He was co-founder and first chairman of the Jakoeboe Refugee Welfare Association in Ostend.
Nweke served as chief executive of the board of trustees of Nigerians in Diaspora in Europe (NIDO Europe) from 2004 to 2006 and as general secretary from 2007 to 2009, and was elected chairman in 2011.
Collaborating with Global Diaspora in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Africa, Nweke was responsible for a structure with chapters in 18 European countries representing a Nigerian emigrant community (the “Diaspora”) of around 6 million, its objective to support the national development of Nigeria.
Nweke played a leading role in researching and managing the Nigerian Diaspora input in the 2005 National Political Reforms Conference (NPRC) in Nigeria. He carried out research on the concept of “Out-of-Country Voting” and submitted a briefing to the Nigerian Senate on the subject, culminating in a vote in favor of writing the concept into law. In 2018 he was shortlisted for consideration by President Muhammadu Buhari for the position of director-general of the new Nigerian Diaspora Commission according to African Courier Magazine Germany.
As chairman, Nweke focused on trade and investment and the engendering of sustainable strategic management processes. He led a Trade Mission involving 45 Diaspora and 13 investment projects to the State of Osun, Nigeria in August 2012. However, Nweke’s efforts to reform the Memorandum and Articles of Association of NIDO Europe at a Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, were thwarted. At the conclusion of his two-year term of office in November 2013, he disbanded the seven-man Board of Trustees and declined to remain in office.
Nweke was advisor to the Government of Nigeria on the role of the Diaspora in national development and consults for a number of public and private sector entities. Working with Peter Tichansky of Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) and Nigeria Diplomatic Missions, he assisted in international public relations for Nigeria for the democratic Government of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He participated in the Ostend City Council Election of 2006. He was appointed Green Party Ostend point-man on social policy for the legislative period 2006–2012 and serving as councilor for social affairs, Public Centre for Social Welfare (OCMW) in the last two years of that legislature, becoming the first person born outside Belgium to occupy such political office in the province of West Flanders.
Invited by Wouter De Vriendt, Collins Nweke was not a member of any political party at the time, but he was appointed the party reference person for Social Policy in the legislative period 2006–2012, serving also as councilor for Social Welfare at the council’s Public Center for social welfare. He was elected by direct vote in 2012 into the city council. His portfolio includes the economy, social policy, international development and equality policy.
Following his election as councilor, he had to resign his membership of the Ostend City Municipal Advisory Board for Ethnic Minorities but continued his activism as opposition politician with ethnic minority affairs under his portfolio.
In the Dutch-language book De Keizer van Oostende [de], Nweke was credited with bringing about a spirited opposition and debate in the Council for Social Affairs which did not exist before his time. Due to being a lone opposition voice, the book argued, the issues he raised seemed to be largely ignored.
In the Council Session of 7 December 2011, Collins Nweke initiated a campaign to end the practice of preferential treatment for children of councilors in the allocation of places for student jobs. Nweke continued to mount a strong opposition to the practice, arguing in Council that it was unjustified for his own two teenage sons to be employed by Council simply because their father happened to be a councilor.
On 24 October 2014, Collins was the only councilor out of 41 who joined a consortium of civil society organisations for a trip to Ramsgate and Canterbury (United Kingdom) agitating for the resumption of ferry services between Ostend and England.
In a statement on social media after the trip, he questioned the source of economic optimism of the City of Ramsgate and wondered why the mayor of Ostend was pessimistic about business prospects for the city.
After a successful primary election and selection as candidate, Collins Nweke began his campaign as Green Party candidate for Member European Parliament in February 2014 for the election of 25 May 2014. The focus of his campaign was on Poverty & Social Exclusion, Social Economy, Employment (special employment measures and policies), Internationalization, Energy Poverty, Solidarity Mechanisms, Africa Trade Relations and Effective human capital management.
Nweke was not elected, winning 11,803 votes although his Green Party colleague, the incumbent member, Bart Staes, was re-elected. On 10 November 2014 Collins Nweke convened and inaugurated the Africa Social Policy Reform Summit at the European Parliament, hosted by Bart Staes.
Nweke is a member of the board of directors of Ostend’s SOE, House of the Economy, Member Management Board, Tourism Board Ostend Member Advisory Board WestKans (Province of West Flanders) Bureau Accessibility Policy, of the Governing Board Equal Education Opportunities (GOK) for disadvantaged children, and of the Ostend Commission on Crime & Prevention.