The federal government has appealed to Nigerians in the diaspora to return home and help build the Nigeria of everybody’s dream, assuring them that things are changing in the country.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, made the appeal at a series of Town halls with Nigerians in the U.S., assuring that old ways are now giving way to new ways of doing things.
The minister was in the U.S. to sensitise diaspora Nigerians on the Presidential Executive Order V signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in February, to improve local content in public procurement with science, engineering and technology components.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Order is expected to promote the application of science, technology and innovation towards achieving Nigeria’s development goals across all sectors of her economy.
The president, in line with his constitutional powers, ordered that all “procuring authorities shall give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts, in line with the Public Procurement Act 2007”.
Mr Onu thanked the diasporas for their remittances to Nigeria estimated at $22 billion yearly, saying it is a major contribution for our nation “but we want you to return home”.
The minister said: “Please we want you to return home, it is important. Not everybody will return but some can start coming home, and that’s the essence.
“We are telling you that things are changing in Nigeria, this is the message, that’s why I’m here.
“I heard all the complaints – people will do this and nobody responds and all that and so on; yes, these are things that happened in the past and we can’t correct these things just overnight.
“This is the truth, there is no way you can make these changes and then make the corrections and all that overnight. But the important thing is that there is a change”.
According to him, there are many Bill Gates in Nigeria, adding, we need to give you the opportunities and we are giving these opportunities.
“If there were pioneers that built America, there must be pioneers to build Nigeria. Please I beg you, let us not wait until everything is ready. Somebody has to get it ready.
“If we keep waiting until everything is ready, it may never be. We must decide that we have to look at the future of our children and grand children.
“Let’s not look about ourselves. So we have to think of the future, we have to think of the greatness of our nation.
He said Nigeria had never had it like this before about the level of infrastructure development that was going on in our country, stressing that the country is having changes across board.
“Things are changing in our country, and if all of us can walk together, if we can do that, then we can now build a great nation that all of us would be proud of.
“This is the message and I believe that this is also your intentions that our nation will be a great nation. Please, you should never have any doubt about the future of our country.
“We have some of the most intelligent people in the world. I can tell you this because I know those Nigerians who have done so well in the best universities, in the best research centres in the world.”
According to him, the executive order will make money for Nigeria and Nigerians, create jobs for the citizens, fight poverty and increase the middle class in the nation.
In their responses, the Nigerians in the U.S. assured the federal government of their eagerness to return home and use their expertise to help build a Nigeria of everybody’s dream if there is enabling environment.
They expressed concerns that they had always looked forward to contribute their quota to their homeland but expressed regrets at some of the frustrations they had always encountered.
Many U.S.-based Nigerians drawn from all over the U.S., attended the town halls at Washington DC, New York, Virginia and Miami venues, where presentations were made about the presidential directives.
Emmanuel Anosike, President, American-Nigerian Chamber for International Trade and Commerce, bemoaned what he called the bureaucratic bottlenecks in Nigeria when the diasporas had projects in the country.
Mr Anosike said: “When the Kaduna refinery broke down, I brought the engineers who built the refinery to Nigeria severally to revamp it but we were not able to make any headway.
“I have been to Nigeria 37 times with projects and investors but I have been frustrated all the 37 times. It’s just very sad that you leave here with the best intentions and you’re frustrated”.
Jolly Abu, President, Nigerian United Nations Staff Recreation Club, urged the minister to create a platform for the diasporas who have something to contribute to the country.
“When you leave now, to have access to you will be very difficult. We’ve been in Nigeria several times but to gain access to the minister becomes a problem.
“Several times we spend months and we go back the same. If you can create a platform where the diasporas can access the platform so easily, it would be good.
“This order of the president, I’ve gone through it several times, there should be a provision for people in the diaspora; if you are bringing an expert from the U.S., you must have a company at home.
“The people coming from diaspora, when they want to register a company at home, it becomes a problem. So if you can create a platform where diasporas can easily have access and tracking.”
Temitope Ajayi, the Chairman, Silicon Valley Nigerian Economic Development, called on the Nigerian Government to put measures in place for strong patent law to protect patent owners.
“It’s sad that you could give Nigerian public officials your blueprint and they carbon-copy it and remove your name. The owner is the originality, who knows the clue of how to solve the problem.
“Every proposal is a puzzle, if you look at it from the surface angle, there are some clauses that only the person that has the business proposal that can implement it,” she said.
Ms Ajayi also said for the executive order to succeed, government at all levels must put round pegs in round holes adding, when politicians are appointed, competent people should be given sensitive portfolios.
Kazeem Bello, Board Member of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), advised government to step down the implementation of the order trough the Public-Private-Partnership arrangement due to the perceived bureaucracies of the public sector.
Mr Bello said: “Government should implement the order by setting institutional and enabling environment for the private sector to work under Privately Owned and Operated Project that is completely private sector driven.
“The federal government should also consider including some slots for disapora Nigerians like NIDO members in the Governing Council to allow for an effective representation from the Nigerian professionals in the diaspora”.
Other Nigerians who spoke at the town halls also called on the governments at all levels in Nigeria to operate open governance and tackle the endemic corruption.