Nige­rian diplo­mats visit In­dian Head

Town coun­cil hosts 19 mem­bers of Kaduna State gov­ern­ment

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CHARLIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­news.com Twitter: @Char­lieIndyNews

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY CHARLIE WRIGHT

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.

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