Nigerian diplomats visit Indian Head
Town council hosts 19 members of Kaduna State government
The Town of Indian Head welcomed 19 legislators from the Kaduna State House Assembly of Nigeria on Thursday for a tour of the area and an open forum to discuss local government.
The foreign dignitaries gathered in the Village Green Pavilion with Mayor Brandon Paulin, Vice Mayor Ron Sitoula, Charles County Commissioner Debra Davis (D) and town staff with hopes of gaining valuable insight they could apply to their own communities. The event was put together by Sitoula in conjunction with the International Development Institute (IDI), an organization based in Washington, D.C., that specializes in supporting officials from developing countries. Sitoula has a close relationship with the group and felt the Indian Head delegation was perfect for representing the country.
“Between the three of us, we represent the fabric of America,” Sitoula said. “Brandon Paulin is white … councilman [Curtis Smith] is African-American, and I’m brown in-between. The three of us are serving the nation.”
The institute had put the Nigerian representatives through a three-day training session, working with two state legislators and a pair of university professors. The trip concluded with a luncheon at the pavilion and a bus ride to the Indian Head Rail Trail and Slavin’s Dock. Once the legislators return to their home country, IDI plans to send American politicians to them, similar to a foreign-exchange student program.
“We do planning and development with international affairs, we worked with lots of different countries,” said IDI Executive Director Suman Timsina. “That way they get how the U.S. works and pick up some of the best practices to use [back home].”
The primary focus of this particular IDI trip was to discuss budgets and financial literacy. After Town Manager Ryan Hicks delivered a presentation on Indian Head’s budget portfolio, the floor opened for conversation between the Nigerians and the town council. While Indian Head’s population of 400 residents pales in comparison to the communities of Kaduna, some of which have half a million people, both sides felt the principles of the small township would translate to a bigger market.
“It’s a fraction of my constituency,” said Hon. Ahmed Mohammed Musa, who oversees 500,000 citizens. “It’s hard to collect revenue from all of them, but I believe we can learn from you on how to collect this revenue.”
Another point of inquisition was local culture, at which point Davis stepped forward to describe the county.
“It’s very racially diverse,” Davis said. “It’s not very large, near the middle of the other jurisdictions. It also has the third-highest median income in the state.”
“Farming?” inquired a Nigerian representative.
“Lots of farming, relative to other jurisdictions,” Davis replied. “We’re in the process of helping tobacco farmers change to different crops.”
After the revenue, budgets and taxes were thoroughly dissected, the Indian Head staff turned the discussion onto the Nigerian leaders to hear what they had gathered on their journey. Sitoula asked about any lessons learned by the legislators, and found there were many resemblances between the governments.
“The budget is very similar with ours,” said Minority Leader Hon. Kantiok Irmiya Ishaku. “You have a robust system of revenue generation, similar to ours, except ours is on a very large scale. There is a measure of transparency and involvement in the community in all the processes [for both governments].”
The experience seemed to be a positive one for both parties and Thursday’s activities proved to be a fitting way for the Nigerian group to close their stay in America.
“This is the icing on the cake,” Timsina said.
Indian Head town staff and a group of Nigerian leaders meet to discuss government activity and legislation as part of a program through the International Development Institute.