ANNUAL remittances by the Nigerian diaspora worldwide fell by about 20% over the last year as a result of the economic crisis precipitated by the global coronavirus pandemic cutting into the expected figure of $25bn.
Historically, Nigeria has always been among the top five countries in the world when it comes to remittances behind India, Mexico, Egypt and the Philippines. Last year, however, all these economies suffered drops as a result of the pandemic but the Nigerian decline of 27% was 18.2 percentage points below the 8.8% decline projected by the World Bank for both Nigeria and the Sub-Saharan African.
In a report issued last October and titled Migration and Development Brief 33, the World Bank projected that remittances inflow into sub-Saharan Africa will fall to $44bn in 2020 from $48bn in 2019. It also projected that remittance inflows into Nigeria will fall to $21.7bn in 2020 from $23.8bn in 2019.
Speaking in Abuja today while announcing that the 2021 Diaspora Day will take place on Sunday July 25, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the chairperson of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission (Nidcom), said home remittances were over 83% of Nigeria’s national budget and 6.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP). She added that the pandemic has eroded the value of remittances but the government has several targeted programmes to shore up the deficit.
According to the World Bank, remittances by Nigerians in the diaspora declined by 27.7% in 2020 from the $21.45bn sent in 2019. Hon Dabiri-Erewa explained that the remittances serve as economic buffers and safety nets to families for school fees, feeding, hospital bills and many other social support systems.
She added that 30% of the remittances are channelled into investments including real estate, commercial businesses and others. Responding to a question on the impact of the pandemic on the remittances, Hon Dabiri-Erewa said that the pandemic has reduced the annual diaspora remittances by 20%.
Hon Dabiri-Erewa added: “Remittances actually go to support families but we are having targeted programmes from the diaspora, particularly housing which would be unveiled that day.”
In addition, the Nidcom chair pointed out that that the nation could not afford to ignore about 17m Nigerians living outside the sovereign boundaries of the nation, sending home remittances of about $25bn annually. She noted that the National Diaspora Day 2021 celebration themed Diaspora Integration for National Peace and Development, would anchor on peace to accelerate diaspora engagement for national growth and development, adding that no nation succeeded in an atmosphere of insecurity, hatred and divisive tendencies.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences, Hon Dabiri-Erewa explained that the 2021 Diaspora Day would be celebrated via a webinar and would feature the presentation of the recently-approved National Diaspora Policy, nomination for awardees for the proposed National Diaspora Merit Award and the presentation from the Diaspora Investment Summit Initiative, among other activities. President Muhammadu Buhari, the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations Dr Amina Mohammed and the director-general of the World Trade Organisation Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will address participants.