The concern about declining diaspora remittance
The recent World Bank report on Migration and Development as it concerns the global flow of remittances has raised critical issues of concern to the well functioning of the Nigerian economy. From the report, the decline in the flow of remittances to Nigeria, particularly in 2020 was copiously on display. The decline of remittance flow to Nigeria in 2020 was recorded as a whopping 27.7 per cent, from $23.24 billion the previous year to $16.8 billion.
This was worse than the 1.6 per cent decline recorded for the low and medium income countries as well as the 12.5 per cent decline of the Sub Saharan African (SSA) countries. This implies that aside from the negative COVID-19 pandemic effects on the global flow remittances, Nigeria’s case manifests other causative factors.
The decline in the flow to SSA countries was largely due to the sharp drop in the figure for Nigeria since hitherto, remittance flows to Nigeria constitutes about 40 per cent of the flow to the entire region. That Nigeria’s remittance flow decline is peculiar, corroborated by the fact that over the same period, flows to Zambia increased by 37 per cent, Mozambique by 16 per cent, Kenya by nine per cent and Ghana by five per cent, according to the World Bank report. Could it be that the Nigerian Diaspora, relative to those of other African countries are becoming reluctant to send money home for investments or upkeep of their relations back home? Could it be that the insecurities and uncertainties at home have now become a cog in the flow of remittances of Nigerians abroad who see no serious need to send money home?
It can be recalled that in the not too distant past, there has been a threat of withholding of Diaspora remittances at the time of the drama that took place at the House of Representatives involving the deputy speaker.
This drama at the House where the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Ahmed Wase, who was the presiding officer on the day in question, vehemently refused the presentation of a petition from citizens in the Diaspora comes into focus here.
The member of the House representing the Gwer East/West Federal Constituency of Benue State, Mark Gbillah had addressed the House requesting for permission to present a petition, on behalf of Tiv people living in America on the alleged takeover of their ancestral land by invaders, thus forcing their kith and kin to flee for safety and the request was declined despite his spirited efforts in this regard. It was vehemently turned down by Wase on flimsy reasons one of which was whether the group was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission. This appears laughable particularly when the Federal Government even established a Commission on the Diaspora, to continually engage the Diaspora on various issues relating to national development. It is strange that a deputy speaker of the House could display such insensitivity and gross incompetence on such an important issue that adversely affects the lives of the very people he has sworn on oath to defend and represent.
Good enough, the media reportage on the issue has overwhelmingly brought to the fore the national outrage at the quality of leadership in the country, as displayed by Wase. Public officers, particularly those operating at the national level, need to operate above board and look at issues from a dispassionate and broad perspective in the quest to enhance the level of the human condition, particularly as it pertains to the core issues of peace and security.
It is gladdening that the rejection of the presentation of the petition by Wase did not deter the petitioners from pursuing the matter further, particularly with the flood of public opinion on their side. The threat by the Nigerians in Diaspora, in their petition to the President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmad Lawan, to withhold their yearly remittances to the country, which is valued at about $23 billion might have been instructive in securing a change; as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on return to the House promptly rescinded the decision of the deputy speaker and the petition was admitted for presentation.
The question that arises in all these is whether simple things as the presentation of a petition by a group of Nigerians would become so difficult to be granted, irrespective of where those Nigerians live. The authorities need to come to terms with the fact that the Nigerian Diaspora is a very important partner in the development of the Nigeria state. The quantum of money the community send as remittances is one of the reasons the Nigerian economy has not collapsed till date given the continual volatility of the global oil market for which Nigeria depends on for its sustenance.
It is established that for decades, remittances from Nigerians living abroad have significantly added to domestic income, social welfare and economic development. The remittances remain major sources of stable external financing for Nigeria and developing countries. No option should therefore be closed to ensure that the flow of such funds is unimpeded and that the benefits so accruing from it endures for the good of Nigerians.
Leaders need to start putting the country’s best foot forward in the advancement of the Nigerian society. The government needs to go beyond the little naira incentive being given by the Central Bank of Nigeria for all remittances to domiciliary accounts held with Nigerian banks. Effort should be made to make the Nigerian economy conducive for the attraction of foreign capital, at least for the flow of remittances from Nigerians living abroad.