Today, I have vacated the space for staff of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission who has sent in a rejoinder to the last week’s column.
Our attention was drawn to the above article featured at the back page of LEADERSHIP on Thursday October 7, 2021 and authored by Mr Shu’aibu Gimi. Our immediate reaction is that the opinion is at best a mixture of uninformed opinion laced with some uncoordinated facts.
To start with, the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York is an avenue for robust interaction with the President by Nigerians living in the US after the Presidential address to the General Assembly and this town hall meeting has been the responsibility of NIDCOM once the Chairman/CEO is part of the delegation but along the line, the NIDCOM boss was not in UNGA this year, partly due to some administrative bottlenecks and such, gave room for such protests for and against the President. In the past, both groups would have been coordinated to meet with the President at a town hall parley where all issues will be discussed.
So, NIDCOM would have played its role but unfortunately, was not present in New York for one reason or the other, perhaps official miscommunication.
In essence, since NIDCOM was not part of the delegation to New York, it will be practically impossible to intervene and to engage meaningfully during the event.
If you fact checked those foreign trips with Mr President where NIDCOM was there, there was no such lacuna to have caused such protests by Nigerians abroad even though it is within their fundamental rights to stage peaceful protests within the ambit of the law at such high level General Assembly of Head of States.
On the attack on Senator Ike Ekweremadu in Nuremberg Germany in August 2019, NiDCOM actually condemned the attack on the Distinguished Senator on August 17, 2019 through a press statement which was widely published and the organisers of the event eventually tendered an apology to the former Deputy Senate President.
Even though Ekweremadu belonged to another Political party and ethnic group besides that of Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, she was the first to publicly condemn it and reiterated her appeals to Nigerians in the Diaspora to always be good ambassadors of Nigeria by not breaking the laws of other lands.
During the #EndSARS protest in Cairo, Egypt, the intervention of NIDCOM saw six of the seven being deported because they protested illegally and broke laws of that country.
On the protest by Nigerians in UK during President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical leave, the protest actually had both sides , for and against , the Pro-PMB conducted themselves in an orderly manner with resounding messages of hope while the Anti-PMB were a little bit unruly as the protest was hijacked by both sympathisers of secessionists and opposition parties in the country.
So, NIDCOM had always been part of UNGA. It’s an avenue for demonstrations and protests. In 2019, it was even more but Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa and her team were on ground to interact with Nigerians and also create a platform for engagements unlike this year whose absence of NIDCOM was felt.
Were Hon. Abike Dabiri -Erewa to be there in UNGA this year, definitely, she would have engaged, more often than not, behind the scenes , enlightening, educating and informing the aggrieved Nigerians.
Usually President Muhammadu Buhari himself would have rounded up UNGA with a meeting with Nigerians who would have engaged with him one on one.
Above all, though the mandate of NiDCOM is well cut out in its Act that sets it up, the challenges confronting the over two-years’ old Commission is daunting but not insurmountable .
Lack of office accommodation, paucity of funds, it runs on an overhead of N8 million a month, which can’t even cover two trips/ interventions , all these are some of its numerous challenges.
But Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa has been thinking outside the box, using her tremendous goodwill to have recorded those landmark achievements too numerous to mention, within a record time of two years beyond expectations like a 10-year old Commission, a visit to the Commission website :www.nidcom.gov.ng will convince you.
On Diaspora Desk in our Missions and Embassies abroad, it is the responsibility of our parent Ministry of Foreign Affairs to do while we coordinate with them subject to availability of funds at the Commission.
Unlike in India, where there is a full fledged Ministry of Overseas Indians, to take care of its Diasporans, with that replicated in Nigeria, a whole lot would have been achieved to the full satisfaction of over 17 millions Nigerians abroad.
Presently, NIDCOM is an agency under Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had its functions and activities lined up for it and would not go out of its way to dabble into activities beyond its mandates.
As a responsible and people-oriented Commission, we shall continue to play our role as prescribed in the law that sets it up and hoped that some of its teething challenges especially with respect to inadequate funding will be addressed soon by the National Assembly.
– Balogun is the head of Media and Public Relations, NIDCOM