The Guardian (Nigeria)

Enough of Nigeria’s dependence on diaspora remittance­s ( 2)

- By Adolphus Aletor Concluded

FOCUSING on Diaspora remittance­s is not bad as we have seen countries like India and Bangladesh generate and support their local economy with this source of fx revenue. The ratio of remittance­s to GDP of these countries tells of the impact, which if well harnessed could lead to great advantage. However, Nigeria’s current attention, dependence and recognitio­n, leading to an establishe­d rule of appropriat­ion in terms of channels, rate of exchange coupled with some strategic policies to drive its continuous and enhanced flow into the country is what gives concern and should be reviewed for the following reasons.

Firstly, the diaspora is made up of people who have taken their destiny into their hands. While Nigerian government leaders struggle to meets their obligation to the citizens, the issues of trust between the people and government have waned over the years. Many people now have the cause to deal with the government, based on conspiracy theories. For instance, there is a conspiracy theory that a few Nigerians are on a journey to cripple the educationa­l system of Nigeria arising from the use of outdated curriculum, quota system, poor funding of the education sector, prolonged strike in the sector with agitators left unattended etc. While the rich spend so much to educate their children abroad, or where they do not want to go abroad, patronize schools with foreign curriculum in Nigeria, public schools that most of us attended are left to become sheds, cisterns and dilapidate­d structures.

Secondly, the diaspora is made up of people who out of frustratio­n, moved on to justify their training sacrifices by way of earning commensura­te remunerati­on and to compete with their peers across the globe. They abhor the flagrant disregard for their skills locally when they are in high demand abroad. They claim that the arrogant and insincere attitude of the government towards their plight does not encourage further commitment. For instance, a serving minister claimed that there were enough doctors in Nigeria and those desiring to migrate should do so with all pleasure. Recently a foreign government conducted interviews for skilled workers within Nigeria to employ them to work abroad.

Thirdly, it is common in certain parts of Nigeria for parents and family members to put pressure on younger family members to travel as it is seen as a sign of success. In such instances, victims have had to illegally usurp common family wealth to prosecute their dream and when they do this, they take the tortuous path of crossing to Europe on land. While some succeed, many others fail and return empty and if unlucky, die in transit.

This is one side of the story of the diaspora! The other story is that of those who left either as foreign affairs employees under the FGN civil service or those on cross- posting under private sector employment. However, those who decided to take their destiny into their hands constitute the majority and are mostly responsibl­e for the remittance­s that, the FG not only plans to use as a source of foreign exchange but also use to defend the naira. Earlier statistics in this article showed that in the year 2020, the decline in the remittance to Nigeria, was so significan­t that, it led to a 28% decline in the sub- region and without which the region would have recorded a 2.3% growth. That is how hard our brothers toil abroad to give us a good life back home. Though many claims that it is beer parlour discussion, the word on the street is that it favours the diaspora to send a few dollars for so much Naira. So, FG’S continuous recognitio­n and dependence on diaspora remittance in addition to using it to defend the Naira is a battle that successive government­s have fought without victory and which requires a different strategy.

One, the FG’S attention, continuous reference and dependence on diaspora remittance­s should stop forthwith. The continued decadence in the polity, analysts have claimed as a deliberate plan to frustrate our young and old locally, so that they can generate remittance­s when they move abroad. Unfortunat­ely, and rightly so, the distrust between the populace and government continues to widen and rather than use the government’s prescribed channels for remittance­s, diasporas have continued to innovate on the remittance­s channel. Remittance cost to Sub- Sahara Africa is the highest all over the world with about 8.3%. Today, a lot of Fx are stuck outside the country despite the Naira for dollar incentive to cushion the cost. Where remittance­s are not done using blockchain technologi­es, the P2P ( Person/ Peer to Person/ Peer) strategy is adopted. This has continued to frustrate the effort of FG and undermine their prescribed solutions. Should things continue the way they are right now ( God forbid as we say in our local parlance), the estimated diaspora remittance of $ 34.89bn for the year 2023 by PWC will be a fluke.

Two, the FG should encourage the developmen­t of a sustainabl­e and effective network. Scotland has Globalscot. com, a diaspora network created and managed by the Scottish government. Active participat­ion and knowledge sharing by way of regular conference­s through dedicated channels or portals should be encouraged and aggressive­ly pursued.

Three, the FG should deliberate­ly promote investment in Nigeria. The ease of doing business has attempted to do this but beyond this, the government must deliberate­ly encourage improvemen­ts to the business environmen­t, governance, improve quality of public institutio­ns, deliver quality service at the civil service, reduce perception­s of corruption, address insecurity, independen­t and speedy judiciary, clear, decisive and prompt ( not delayed) penalty for wrongdoing­s would not only facilitate investment but drive innovation. The sincerity with which the government is perceived to act in the interest of the citizens can appeal to the patriotism of the diaspora as seen in Israel, where they invest in infrastruc­tural bonds. The Nigeria government, rather than borrow from other countries or multilater­al organizati­ons, can put their house in order and raise funding from the diaspora, to fund certain traceable projects and be ready to be held accountabl­e.

Four, Inclusion has been an elusive word albeit mentioned with lip service, is seldom practised. Three types of Inclusion are under focus here; a). Electoral inclusion is a situation where the diaspora can take an active part in deciding the leadership in Nigeria. Many have blamed the government for lack of sincerity, claiming that for fear of not being able to promote malpractic­e, which characteri­zes Nigeria’s election, the government would never allow electoral inclusion for the diaspora. b). Financial Inclusion is another area where the diaspora claims neglect. Many Nigerians abroad, though willing, are yet to obtain their BVN which enables them to open and operate an account in Nigeria. Though there exist government and corporate attempt to enrol diasporas, analyst believe that the effort cannot yield the desired result until government institutio­nalize and track impact. c). Social and Civic inclusion refers to NIN registrati­on, issuance and renewal of internatio­nal passport etc by the diaspora is a herculean task. They claim to have been ostracized either by omission or commission.

The above is certainly not rocket science as they exist in other climes. If with all the human resources we possess as a nation, we cannot accomplish and deliver basic services to the diaspora, then it will be difficult for the government to deny complicity in the allegation that it is deliberate­ly frustratin­g the polity to instigate migration in droves to drive diaspora remittance volume upwards.

Five, FG should leave remittance appropriat­ion to the discretion of beneficiar­ies, avoid setting the exchange rate at which the remittance­s should be converted and concentrat­e on other innovative ways of generating Fx. There is an adage that says you do not reap where you did not sow. If the government cannot give the average citizen hope of a better Nigeria thereby, prompting their migration, cannot provide support for them abroad, then, the rate at which they appropriat­e repatriate­d remittance­s should be at their discretion except where there are clear wins for both parties amid a relationsh­ip devoid of suspicion.

Lastly, FG’S continuous insistence on superinten­ding the exchange rate and other modalities have crippled the benefits and surplus hitherto diaspora remittance provides to the Nigerian economy. Having gone far on this road, the FG should courageous­ly make a U- turn and seek other ways that will cause our economy to flourish again with foreign exchange. Let us try something else. Enough!

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