Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki has called on Nigerians in Diaspora to support the present administration in pulling the country out of recession with their abundant skills and expertise which are in dire need in the country at this time.
Saraki, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, made the appeal during an interactive forum, organized at his instance, for the Nigerian community in Switzerland.
The Senate President who led the National Assembly Delegation to the 135th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Geneva, said he is confident that Nigerians in Diaspora have the skills and competencies required to assist the Government in its efforts to exit the current recession and for the progressive development of the country through investments.
He said the Senate and by extension, the 8th National Assembly is working on passing legislation that would encourage Nigerians in diaspora to return and invest at home even as he asked for their input on the kind of laws they want to put in place to make their return profitable.
Saraki told reporters after the event, attended by over 100 Nigerians, comprising students, businessmen and professionals living in Switzerland, that the session was necessary to apprise the Nigerian community of the situation of things back home and the opportunities for collaboration that exist.
“We find that it has become very necessary to interact and share ideas with Nigerians here because a lot of people are not well informed of what the responsibilities of the National Assembly are and some of the work we have been doing, both regarding passing new legislation that would improve the lives of Nigerians and to also give them a picture of the economy which today is a topic of great concern to all Nigerians both in and outside the country – particularly those in the Diaspora.
“We want to really send a message across that the recession is a phase that we are passing through and hopefully, I am confident that very soon we will come out of it. But to come out of it, we have to take certain steps.
“The steps that we hope to take in collaboration with the executive and the prospects ahead of us as a country – both for them in the Diaspora and the role they can play in working together with government to move the country forward,” he said.
He urged his country men and women in Switzerland to partner with the government in critical sectors of the economy by deploying their capacity and making good investments, even as the National Assembly is putting laws in place to make it attractive for them to participate profitably in the economy back home.
“Particularly here in Geneva, you find a lot of them are well qualified and doing very good jobs,” he said. “I am sure a lot of them will like to come back if the right condition is there. All we have to do now is to ensure that we have the enabling condition and environment that would make people come back.
“And when you say investment, it is not just financial investment, there is also human investment where people will be ready to come back and look up opportunities. We talk about the issue of Information Technology (IT), and that there are great opportunities in Nigeria and how we can work together with some of them on the kind of laws that they think will make it very interesting and the incentive for companies to come in and set up different IT structures.”
“If they do that, of course, they will be looking for people that have the capacity to be able to run it and some of them have that know-how, but they just don’t see what role they can play in Nigeria.
“We spent some time explaining to them the importance of the procurement law and the buy-Made-in-Nigeria campaign where we are trying to ensure that at least government agencies give first option to Nigerian companies.
“That is some of the work we are doing to see that we strengthen our development banks, that will provide credit for small and medium-size companies in the areas of manufacturing.
“The good thing is that there is need and desire for a lot of them to want to come back. We have a lot of work to do to create the enabling environment but also more important, is that we must market ourselves.
“I do not believe that not thinking positively about the country or that running down the country will help anybody. At the end of the day, if we do not think positive about our country, nobody will come and invest in our country and the bottom line is that it is clear that government resources alone cannot take us out of the recession,” he said.
The Senate President insisted that the burden of providing infrastructure must be taken away from the shoulders of government to enable it concentrate its scarce resources on tackling social ends.
He said: “Government has to address infrastructure deficit which has built up over the years, government has to address the issue of education, security, and health and by the time you have the limited resources you are not able to do that because funds are not there.
“You must look for alternative sources of investment and that is where the National Assembly is trying to pass a lot of laws in the infrastructure area. We have passed the Railway Amendment Bill to create the enabling environment for private sector to participate in that sector.
“We are taking on roads to encourage and make it easy for the private sector to take that burden away from government – at least on the major trunk A roads. We are working on laws also on ports to make room for private sector participation. If you begin to push away some of the infrastructure burdens to the private sector, government will then have more funds to address the social aspects of life.
“Some of the things we are doing in the Senate is not just to go there to just pass any bill. There is a focus and motive behind it and that is to ensure that we try as much as possible to see how we can raise interest and investment in these sectors necessary to increase productivity,” he said.