Mr Samuel Adewusi is the Chairman, Board of Trustees of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) Americas. He is a practicing lawyer in the State of Maryland and Washington,DC. In an interview with Zacheaus Somorin, he spoke about the activities of the organization, Implications of Donald Trump’s presidency, governance in Nigeria among other issues
How can you describe the activities of NIDO Americas so Far?
We just had our Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Convention in Calgary, Canada. It was one of our most successful convention ever. NIDO Americas has re-organised itself structurally. The energy we have now is very strong across board. We put structural changes to re-orient our members and project a better focused organization.
For example, we have made our aims and objectives very clear to everybody. The aims and objectives are first to turn the brain drain to a brain gain. Second, foster technology and knowledge transfer back to Nigeria; third, to facilitate direct foreign investment; and the fourth is to support our Diaspora community.
Project-wise, currently we are focused upon manpower and projects development within Nigeria. In July 2016, immediately after the Diaspora Day event in Abuja, NIDO Americas conducted a free IT seminar for three days.
The free IT Seminar was held at the Abuja International Conference Center. The IT Seminar was made possible by five NIDO Americas IT volunteers from the United States who traveled down to conduct the seminar free–of-charge for the Nigerian youths. In addition, we are constantly engaged in a lot of beneficial activities within the United States. Not only is the state of NIDO strong, but we are also making huge strides to make sure that our mission objectives are being fulfilled.
What has been the impact of NIDO America at home and abroad?
When I became the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, I initiated a collaboration with the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). The main reason for the collaboration is to assist our fellow Nigerians who may be filing for immigration benefits within the United States. Each NIDO Americas’ chapter in the US can partner with local USCIS Filed Offices to host US Citizenship Education Outreach for Green Cards holders. According to the Director of the USICIS, currently there are over 9 million green cards holders who are yet to apply for the US citizenship. Therefore, NIDO Americas is working with the USCIS to organize classes and provide resources to our people in the US, who are Green Card holders, so that they can quickly become US citizens.
Another huge impact that NIDO Americas is making is in the area of Nigerian passport intervention. It is a fact that the US has 50 states; and Nigerians are found in all the 50 states. It is also a fact that Nigeria has only one full embassy in Washington DC, with two consulates. The consulates are located in New York, with another one located in Atlanta. America is a big country, and it is very expensive to travel with families to do the picture capture for the Nigerian bio-metric passports.
In order to make life convenient for fellow Nigerians in the US, we launched a partnership with the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) offices at the Nigerian embassy and consulates for the purpose of facilitating what we called ‘Passport Intervention.’
What that means is that the NIS staff at the embassy and consulates work with the local NIDO Americas’ chapters to conduct passport issuing exercises for two to three days. Within those three days, new passports and visas are issued to Nigerians who live far away from the embassy and the two consulates.
The great advantage of the wonderful collaboration between NIDO Americas and the NIS is that fellow Nigerians don’t need to spend too much money and time travelling down to DC, New York or Atlanta to obtain international passports. Consequently, instead of families going through the stress of expenses and travel, they get their passports issues resolved in their states of residence, courtesy of the local chapters of NIDO Americas and the NIS.
Furthermore, NIDO Americas constantly organizes seminars and symposium for the benefit of the Nigerians in the US. For example, in the Summer of 2014 our Washington DC Chapter conducted a ground breaking symposium on religious tolerance, on the campus of the American University. That seminar was well attended by the cross section of the African Diaspora and the Americans.
In addition, our Calgary Chapter hosted a business networking event for young Nigerian – Canadian professionals. Not to be left out, various local chapters of NIDO Americas held business and investment seminars to attract foreign direct investments into Nigeria.
Moreover, for the first time we started publishing a Continental-wide NIDO Americas’ Newsletters so that our members and the public at large can access our stories of accomplishments and success. I am also happy to report that we added new chapter in South America. In April 2, 2016, we inaugurated a new chapter in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In summary, NIDO Americas is having great impact at home and in the US.
What do you think would be the Implication of Donald Trump’s presidency for immigrants?
There is always a silver lining in everything that occur in life. Donald Trump election as the President of the United States is one way that life will give you a lemon. Our job as adaptive smart human beings is to make lemonade out of the Trump’s lemon.
That being said, I trust that majority of Nigerians in the US have papers. And for the minorities that don’t have papers, those are the people that we have to worry about.
Let me be clear, before Donald Trump can take any executive actions in the area of immigration policy, the USCIS must codified such executive actions into rules and regulations; before the actions can be enforced. Whether Trump likes it or not, there are still areas of the federal laws that must be modified before he can say he wants to start deporting people; this is because there are existing rights for immigrants and non immigrants coming into the US. In the future, I expect the immigrants and other pro-immigrant organizations to challenge in courts the anti-immigrant decisions that Trump might enact using the executive powers. Bear in mind that the Republicans challenged President Obama’s executive decisions when they opposed such policies. Whether the immigrants will prevail in court, is another issue entirely.
In regard to this issue, what is important is that we have an active Nigerian-American Lawyers Associations. In addition, there are other pro-immigrant organizations that are actively engaged on this matter. NIDO Americas is ready to work and partner with all of the relevant stakeholders and to utilize all available legal resources to help our fellow Nigerians.
In the past years, prior to the election of Trump, NIDO Americas held immigration seminars to educate fellow Diasporans on the relevant important immigration issues of the day. Each of our local chapters are empowered to organize immigration seminars within their respective states. In fact, in 2013 when I was the Regional Director in Region 2 Washington DC, the local chapter held an immigration seminar targeted to the Nigerian Diaspora in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
Likewise, in the coming years, and because of the election of Trump, NIDO Americas will intensify its effort in making sure that our people understand their rights within the US Immigration and Nationality Act.
What strategies do you think government should put in place to get Nigeria out of recession?
Well, I am not an economist. But what is important now is that the party in power made some promises prior to the election. And based upon those promises, Nigerian voted them into power. My suggestion to the government now in power is to fulfill those election promises as soon as possible. For me, the first step towards this is to restore power. I have said this before, and I will say it again: Nigerians are not lazy people. Nigerians are the most creative, smartest, and hard working people on earth. However, smart people cannot produce without electricity – Nigeria needs power to unleash the productive capacity of the people.
When there is adequate power supply, welders and technicians can work all the time; while tailors need not wake up at midnight to work; and launderers can iron customers’ garments in due time.
It is fact that every area of small, medium and large businesses need electricity in order to produce and provide gainful employment to Nigerians. The government should do all within its powers to fix electricity and the people would not forget this government. Just like people did not forget former President Obasanjo for launching mobile telephony in Nigeria.
Another area in which the current administration can make life better for Nigerians is to build better and safe roads network. According to a Chinese proverb, “build roads and wealth would follow.” The roads we have in Nigeria today are totally awful. We know that when bad roads prevent farmers in Benue from transporting products to Lagos to sell; that situation will inevitably results in agricultural stagnation and reduced incomes. The same applies to a farmer coming all the way from Katsina to sell his produce in Abuja.
Therefore, the government in power needs to do three things urgenntly: 1, employment creation; 2, to restore regular 24/7 supply of electricity and power generation; and 3, to urgently fund roads network within Nigeria. These three action items will definitely resolve most of our problems, and make life better for our people.
The APC government has been fighting corruption within its own capacity, what is your opinion about this?
NIDO Americas supports the government’s fight against corruption. Nevertheless, fighting corruption solely neither creates jobs for the people, nor does it house or feed the people. Ordinary Nigerians are asking if the fight against corruption will feed their family.
The fight against corruption will not help a welder who doesn’t have power for several days. Similarly, a hungry tailor does not care for the fight against corruption when he cannot deliver completed product to his angry customers; who also refuse to pay him.
So, for me any government should be able to multi task. Our government is filled with smart people who can get things done. Fighting corruption should not bring our government to a standstill – that is why we have different government ministries.
The Nigerian government has structures established to enforce the law – such as the EFCC, the Police Department and the DSS. And we have different ministries.
It is high time that all the different ministries should do the jobs they were created for. At least, we know that the ministry of employment and labour is not going out with the EFCC to arrest people accused of corruption; hence, the Ministers and ministries should do the job they were created for. Why should everything come to a standstill because we are fighting corruption. Why do we have ministers?
Do you think the ministers have been performing enough?
What performance? Have you seen any? We are all Nigerians. Let’s ask average Nigerians if they have seen changes that were promised to them prior to the elections. Ask Nigerians if they have been able to have 18 hours of uninterrupted electric power supply since the change of administration.
So far, all the indices you have to measure performance are all in the negatives. Yes, I understand there are challenges. Nevertheless, the government should get its act together and take concrete measurable steps to make life better for the Nigerian people.
Many have been opining at home that the government is failing, what is your view about this?
At the present time, I will not give the government a failing grade yet. However, I will say that the government needs to get its house in order very soon. Yes, we can see that some ministers are performing, but not all. Nigeria is presently in a serious economic situation that can easily turn nasty if urgent action is not taken by the government.
My scorecard assessment is that the ministers cannot wait for four years to perform. Would I call that failure? Let’s look at it again – how long did it take for the budget to be passed? NIDO is ready to support the government, but the problem is the fact that Nigerian people are suffering – hunger and joblessness are the the order of the day.
There is an urgent need for the government to work with all stakeholders to create jobs for the people. The promised massive job creation should have started yesterday so that there will be sufficient fund circulating in the domestic economy.
In addition, Nigeria needs stable electricity and power generation, so that our people can start working and producing again. Moreover, the roads network should be increased and made safe so Nigerians can regain access to the market to sell their goods.
Are there plans by Nigerians in the Diaspora to intervene economically through investment at home?
At the conclusion of the NIDO Americas Convention in Calgary, Canada, we released our Whitepaper Report to the Nigerian press and sent copies to the government.
Apart from advising the government through policy papers, NIDO Americas is doing its own part, and not just saying that government should do everything. On our part, we are constantly working to identify US medium and large corporations interested in bringing foreign direct investments (FDI) to Nigeria.
The efforts to attract FDI by NIDO Americas will be more successful in the US if the government can bolster critical sectors in Nigeria. The first is security. The second is constant electricity and adequate power generation. The third is to build more efficient roads network. The fourth issue usually raised by potential foreign investors is that there is no clear policy on ground. Let me make this clear, besides foreign investors there are many Nigerians in Diaspora who want to come home and invest. However, many of them are afraid of being kidnapped, or are afraid that current monetary policy will decrease the value of their investments.
Based on our practical experience, there must be an enabling environment for investors – such as security, power, clear and stable monetary policy and good roads to attract the Diaspora and foreign investors.
A vivid example of the lack of clear monetary policy occurred when the United Airline pulled out of Nigeria due to the tight monetary policy and the unfavorable exchange rates. Similarly, due to the same reason many other airlines relocated to Ghana.
You don’t have to be an economist to imagine the huge jobs loss that resulted because Ghana displaced Nigeria as the major airline hub in West Africa. Consequently, Nigeria really needs to do better. I know we have the capacity to do better, because we are smarter than this.
The agitation for Biafra has been hot in recent times Nigeria…
(Cuts in) As the Chairman-BOT, I am not going to talk about the Biafra issue because NIDO America is comprised of all ethnic groups in Nigeria. Therefore, I will submit my personal opinion: had it been that the Nigeria is properly structured, we would not be having the Biafra problem. Nigeria is over 56 years old; so ordinarily, our foundational structural problems should have been ironed out by now.
If, and when we are able to iron out the structural problems, the issue of Biafra will be laid to rest. Personally, I know it is not too late to resolve the issue. If we have the political will, and can think out of the box to address these structural problems, I am sure that the Biafra issue can be amicably resolved.