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‘Nigerians In The Diaspora Want To Help In Nation-Building’

24 October 2015   |   1:05 am
Samuel Olugbenga Adewusi is Chairman, Board of Trustees of Nigerians In Diaspora Organisation Americas (NIDOA) Is Ready To Help Re-build Nigeria. NIDOA was formed in the United States of America about 15 years ago. It has many chapters in the US, Asia, Europe and Africa. Since its inception, it has continued to assist Nigerians abroad…


Samuel Olugbenga Adewusi is Chairman, Board of Trustees of Nigerians In Diaspora Organisation Americas (NIDOA) Is Ready To Help Re-build Nigeria. NIDOA was formed in the United States of America about 15 years ago. It has many chapters in the US, Asia, Europe and Africa. Since its inception, it has continued to assist Nigerians abroad in different areas relating to immigration, job placement, and organising seminars for Nigerians in the diaspora in relevant areas. 
In addition, upon requests, it consults with, and provides information to the Nigerian government. In this interview with FUNSHO AKINWALE, Adewusi, a US-based lawyer, speaks on the aims and objectives of NIDOA and other issues affecting Nigerians abroad and the plans of the organisation for Nigeria.

Can we know more about you as a
 Nigerian who is passionate about Nigerians in the diaspora?

I am Samuel Olugbenga Adewusi. I live in the United States of America. I left Nigeria in 1981 after completing my secondary school education. I obtained all my post-secondary education degrees in the US. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and a Doctor in Jurispudence from David Clarke School of Law. I was admitted to practice law in the Bars of both the State of Maryland and in the District of Columbia. I have been practising law since 1996. I am also a member of the US Supreme Court Bar. I am a father of four children; two boys and two girls.

Tell us about your diaspora organisation as well as its aims and objectives.

The organisation is known as Nigerians In Diaspora Organisation (NIDO). It was formed in 2001 in Washington DC. Fortunately, it has expanded to include NIDO Americas, NIDO Asia, NIDO Africa and NIDO Europe. We have about 37 chapters in the USA alone, with eight districts. We also have budding chapters in the process of formation and re-organisation in various states in the USA. In Canada, we have about three chapters and two of them are very active. In fact, our next Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Convention will be held in Calgary, Canada from September 1 to 4, 2016. 
NIDO was formed with the basic principles of organising itself to protect the interests of Nigerians in the diaspora, comport itself as the umbrella organisation for all the Nigerian community associations within its geographic space.

In the past, NIDO did not do a good job of reaching out to the other Nigerian community associations. With our new Board of Trustees, there is a renewed focus within NIDO Americas to reach out, build bridges and collaborate on nation-building. Going forward, we will be having quarterly meetings with those associations. Consequently, our goal is to engage the Nigerian community associations. NIDO Americas will partner with them to coordinate events that would have serious impacts on average Nigerians. 
Furthermore, NIDO Americas is fully engaged in providing solutions that will assist Nigeria to reverse brain drain. For example, our previous Board compiled a list of professionals in the diaspora and sent it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Based on our interactions with our fellow diasporans, we know that a lot of them are very keen in contributing their quota to nation building. That was why NIDO Americas provided that to our government. Although the list is not exhaustive, with appropriate large and secure database, we can do more in the future. 
In addition, NIDO Worldwide is seeking to actively collaborate with the Nigerian government to enhance and strengthen knowledge transfer from the diaspora. So, it is not only about bringing our people back home, we also want to ensure that we bring back knowledge that have already acquired to Nigeria to help rebuild the country.

When President Muhammadu Buhari came to the US after his inauguration, he met with Nigerians in diaspora. The President said he wanted Nigerians in diaspora to work with the Nigerian government and help rebuild the country. We are ready to do so.

The organisation started about 15 years ago. When NIDO was formed, if you look at its bye-laws, our mission is to network and help each other during difficult times. So, in essence, NIDO was formed to help our people.
 At the moment, NIDO Americas is re-focused and re-dedicated to achieve its mission and objectives. If you come to the US and you don’t have money, we will look at the root cause of that and point you in the right direction and get you necessary results. Do you need an education, we will get you on the right track. Do you need training so that you can work, we can steer you in the right direction.

As we speak, we have chat groups where members can post job vacancies. If you have immigration issues, or you need to regularise yourself, NIDO Americas can also point you in the right direction. 
In the current world economic situation, it is very difficult for people to come to the US and get jobs. 
In addition, visa approvals have declined due to the tightening requirements after the 9/11 terror attacks. However, due to our collective experiences and large knowledge base, NIDO Americas is uniquely placed to assist Nigerians in diaspora during this difficult times.
 There is only one caveat because NIDO Americas is duly registered and constituted under the laws of the United States: we cannot help anybody to disobey or violate the law. We want to help people who really need help.

If we know that there are people who don’t have papers, we can send them to lawyers. We have several lawyers as members. We also have access to pro bono legal assistance. Currently, we are exploring a potential partnership with the Nigerian Association of Lawyers in the US regarding immigration help referrals for Nigerians in the US.
 We have put into practice what we planned. For example, in 2013, we held an immigration seminar in Washington DC. During the seminar, we gave out immigration information and legal referrals to Nigerians and other Africans. 
In addition, shortly before I left US, I had a meeting with fellow African immigrants at the office of US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS). 
At that meeting, we met with the USCIS officials. The purpose of the session was to engage an outreach to African immigrants in the USA. I represented NIDO Americas.

What have been the challenges facing NIDO and how do you finance the organisation?
Basically, when NIDO was formed, there was supposed to be an annual financial support from the Nigerian government. The initial support we got was $100,000, and we were supposed to get that renewed every year. Unfortunately, we only got the money once in the last 15 years. However, fortunately, NIDO managed to survive with financial contributions from members, partnering with other organisations, and the payment of annual dues. That experience did not make us bitter, it made us stronger.

The Nigerian National Assembly comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives usually have committees on the diaspora. What has been your relationship with these committees?
We have a great relationship with the former Chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. I want to seize this opportunity to specifically thank Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa for her hard work and support for NIDO. I will be unfair if I don’t recognise her diligent hard work and unflinching support for the passage of the Diaspora Commission Bill. Kudos to her. 
I also thank the 7th National Assembly for passing the Diaspora Commission Bill. NIDO Worldwide respectfully urges President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the bill into law. 
In a related matter, I want to recognise Professor Attahiru Jega for his support of voting rights for Nigerians in diaspora. I also want to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his promised support for the diaspora voting during his meeting with the Nigerian diaspora in Washington DC. 
We urge the 8th National Assembly to pass a bill that would allow Nigerians in the diaspora to vote as soon as practicable. There is nothing that prevents Nigerians in the diaspora from voting. Other African countries smaller than Nigeria already allow their people in the diaspora to vote. Furthermore, technology can greatly make the diaspora voting easy, and secure. 
We also appreciate our diplomatic staff in foreign missions for their continued support, especially the staff at the missions in Washington DC, Atlanta and New York.

Did you actually come to Nigeria now because of NIDO?
Yes, I am in Nigeria because of NIDO, to mend fences, nurture old relationships and build new ones.

Do you send messages to Nigerians at home on the need to stay in their country rather than travelling abroad?
Definitely, although travelling broadens the mind, it should not lead to shameful death on the high seas. 
There was an analogy that I gave about 10 years ago. If you say that you have a leaky roof in your house, but you foolishly decide not to fix your roof and that instead of repairing your roof, you decide to live with others with roofs that do not leak, in the short or long run, your abandoned leaky roof will inevitably get worse and it will cost you more to fix in the future than if you stayed to fix it right now.