The Consul General (CG) of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, has called on stakeholders to leverage the economic power of the Diaspora in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Okoyen made the call at a one-day conference organised by the African Trade Centre, with the theme, “Diaspora Engagement in Sustainable Development in Nigeria’’ in New York on Monday
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event, hosted by the Nigerian House, came on the sidelines of the UN High Level Political Forum on the SDGs.
The CG said existing huge financing gaps in implementation of the SDGs called for viable alternative sources of funding which Nigerians in the Diaspora represented.
Noting that sustainable development “is multidimensional and multifaceted in nature’’, Okoyen said diaspora engagement should be prioritised in the process.
In a 2018 report, international audit firm, PriceWaterCoopers (PwC), said Nigerians in the Diaspora remitted 25 billion dollars that year making them the country’s biggest export.
The figure, according to PWC, represents 6.1 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 83 per cent of the Federal Government’s budget in 2018.
Okoyen urged government and other stakeholders to engage the diaspora in remittances; trade and investment; transfer of knowledge, skills and technology, and policy formulation and implementation.
In a goodwill message, a New York State senator, Mr Robert Jackson, emphasised the importance of partnership by stakeholders, which he said was critical to attainment of the SDGs.
Focusing on Goal 13, which borders on climate action, Jackson said climate change was real judging by the rise in the incidence of flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, drought and tornadoes around the world.
“It is up to us as legislators and leaders; Nigeria being one of the leading countries, to make sure that this world is a better place for us all,’’ the lawmaker said.
Also in a goodwill message, the President of Manhattan Borough, Ms Gale Brewer, focused on the issues of gender equality and women empowerment as catalysts for the attainment of the SDGs.
Brewer called on governments at all levels to eliminate all barriers to the full participation of women in the development process.
Mr Obed Monago, Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Americas (NIDOA), said in spite of the huge contributions of Nigerians abroad to national development, they were not recognised until now.
Monago lauded the recent creation of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), which he said would help government to fully engage with Nigerians abroad for national development.
“NIDCOM as intended and if well managed, devoid of the `Nigeria Factor’ will help tremendously in harnessing the talents of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
“NIDCOM’s first step, in my opinion, is to find modalities to bring all the fragmented Nigerian Diaspora organisations under NIDO’s umbrella.
“Then they should seriously synergize with this administration in creating that enabling environment that has been so elusive.
“If this can be achieved, the names of the people involved will forever be written in Gold’’, he said.
In his welcome address, the Chief Executive Officer of African Trade Centre, Mr Prince Nwaubani, said the event was organised to echo the call for diaspora engagement in sustainable development in Africa.
The event featured presentation of awards to Okoyen, Jackson, Brewer and other leaders in recognition of their achievements in public service.