Nigerians in Diaspora, who may be interested in bidding for public sector consultancy or contracting jobs back home in Nigeria, are seeking a waiver of the three-year tax clearance requirement as a precondition for their eligibility.
The waiver was canvassed in response to the exhortation by the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, who spoke at The Nigeria Conversation programme at the weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, where he urged Nigerians living abroad to stop bemoaning the influx of certain other nationals into Nigeria, and instead take advantage of the immense investment opportunities in the country.
The Minister listed power, mining, agriculture, and the railways as some of the sectors with high investment potentials, noting that Nigeria had become the leading investment destination in Africa. He also informed the audience that the non-oil sector was the key accelerator of Nigeria’s GDP growth.
Mr Maku said that with Nigerians abroad officially remitting nearly US$22 billion home in 2012, as against about US$8 billion foreign direct investment over the same period, it was obvious that Nigerians in Diaspora could muster the resources, as well as technical cooperation with competent companies in their host countries, to enable them participate actively in the investment options that abound in Nigeria.
Reminded of the likely disqualification of otherwise competent Nigerians abroad, who do not possess the three-year tax clearance certificate normally prescribed for bidding for public jobs, the Information Minister said that the waiver being advocated could not be granted arbitrarily, since the tax clearance requirement was part of the procurement process grounded in law. He, however, promised to take home the request, for consideration as a policy proposal in exceptional cases.
On a comment by a participant at the Conversation that the Nigerian government first reach out to the Diaspora to recruit qualified Nigerians as expatriates, rather than foreigners, Mr Maku reminded the audience of the presence of a number of Nigerians head-hunted from the Diaspora, who are members of the Federal Executive Council. He cited the Minister of Finance, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina.
The Minister also said that state governments were equally recruiting from the Diaspora, stressing that the mix of local and foreign-based talents was desirable for the country’s development agenda.
Reacting to the repeated demands for the enfranchisement of Nigerians in Diaspora, Mr Maku noted that universal adult suffrage was not always the norm, even in the most advanced democracies, including the United States, where, until the 20th Century, women and African-Americans were not entitled to vote in elections, even though they were residents.
The Information Minister drew attention to the current state of Nigerian law, which did not allow for voting rights for Nigerians living abroad. He said while the enthusiasm of Nigerians in Diaspora to vote in Nigerian elections was to be appreciated, he said he was confident that such arrangements could be possible in future, depending on, among other factors, the capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The Minister stated that sustained reforms of the electoral process in Nigeria were delivering elections rated by domestic and foreign observers as free, fair and credible.
A model of the Commonwealth Conversation, The Nigeria Conversation is a citizenship mainstreaming initiative designed to engage Nigerians of all ages, at home and abroad, on national development issues, through periodic interactions. Previous Nigeria Conversation events had taken place in London, Berlin, New York, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, among others.
The theme for the Atlanta Conversation was, “Nigeria Centenary: Better Days Ahead”. The event witnessed the circulation of a national development commitment form, requesting respondents to “Do Something Positive for Nigeria”.