The Nigeria In Diaspora Commission says it has drafted an amendment to its establishment Act and is set to submit same to the National Assembly for consideration and possible passage.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa disclosed when the Senate Committee on Diaspora paid an oversight visit to the Commission.
She said that the commission sought amendment to its act to improve diaspora engagement with particular reference to reviewing the taxes Nigerians were compelled to pay to repatriate funds to Nigeria from abroad.
According to her, Nigerians were taxed 9.6 per cent for such repatriations, noting that the tax is the highest in the World compared to about three per cent which other nationals pay for the same purpose.
Dabiri-Erewa argued that if the taxes are reviewed and reduced, more Nigerians in Diaspora would be encouraged to send money to Nigeria, thereby increasing the inflow
“We have prepared amendment to the NIDCOM Act which will be submitted through the Clark to the committee.
“One of the areas we seek amendment is the issue of diaspora engagement: there is NIDO but the way it is is structurally defective.
“Also the issue of remittances: there has to be a legal framework.
“Here is what we are saying: 26 million dollars coming into Nigeria is a lot of money and it is being impacted on Nigerians now because those flows are reducing because of COVOD-19,
“Even these remittances, we have the highest tax charges in the World, 9.6 per cent is what you pay to transfer anything from anywhere in the World. It is too high while others pay about 3 per cent.
“A legal framework can stop all that,” she said.
The Chairman added that apart from reviewing the taxes, the Commission also targeted a situation where the Nigerian government will also get a percentage from the taxes.
She opined that the percentage can come in through the commission and would be used for important programmes and projects.
“Secondly, the charges from all these money, something must come to Nigeria even if it is a certain percentage of what they charge.
“If you charge 3 per cent, a percentage comes to Nigeria through the commission to be able to do some diaspora investment and development.
“That is something we will expect the parliament to help us legally put in frame, it is something that should be possible and should happen,” she said.
Throwing light on some of the projects for which the commission sought amendment to its act and upward review of its funding, the Chairman said that NIDCOM was currently working on developing a diaspora database.
She said that the database will require funding to come to pass, adding that it would help the commission to be more efficient in its activities.
“Critically we are working on building our database of Nigerians in the diaspora and it is part of the area that we are going to need funding for: without data you cannot do anything.
“We have the Diaspora housing programme with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, that would soon be finalized.
“What we are saying is that Nigerians in the diaspora can sit in the comfort of their homes, get a mortgage and own a house.
Besides the problem of funding which she identified, Dabiri-Erewa also pointed out the importance of having a Diaspora House so that all members of staff can work from one place to enable better coordination.
She also prayed the Senate committee members to make it possible by way of funding for NIDCOM to own some Continental offices to make its work more efficient.
“This is a small commission with huge responsibilities and I believe that in the last one year we have lived up to our responsibilities and made an impact.
“The law allows continental offices and I am hoping that if it is possible we should be able to have those offices as and when available,” she said.
Chairman Senate Committee on Diaspora, Non-governmental Organization and Civil Societies, senator Oloriegbe tasked the Commission to be more innovative in carrying out its constitutional mandates.
While reacting to the challenges faced by the commission, Oloriegbe said that the commission needed to think out of the box to get a befitting building for its office.
NiDCOM was recently driven out of its office at Mbora District, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) but now has an office at the Federal Secretariat.
Oloriegbe said: “You need to think innovatively and not to think of getting government funds alone to do such a thing.
“Government spending is based on budget and I’m sure one year budget cannot build you a befitting office accommodation, based on current situation because we know there is no money.
“Government can make a lot of contribution but you have a lot of partners including Nigerians in the Diaspora; they should be able to help out, you are service provider to them,” he said.
The chairman also said that for the commission to be able to realize its targets, the commission needed to come up with a business plan.
According to him, with a well-designed business proposal, the commission will be able to seek resources to make it more effective.
On the proposed National Diaspora Policy, he said that the committee would write the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be able to provide an update for the Senate to fast track and put in their own input.