I should begin by welcoming you warmly to the 4th Conference of Representatives, otherwise known in 2007 as the Zurich Summit. This Summit follows a tradition began in Brussels in August 2004, followed by Kiev in May 2005 and exceptionally in London in March 2007. This Annual Summit of Chapter Chairpersons and the Board of Trustees has become an important organisational tool for Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE) in reviewing the operations of the preceding period and considering plans moving forward.
The exceptional edge to the Zurich Summit is not only because it is being hosted by the youngest member of the NIDOE family, that is NIDOE-Swiss, but also because it is the first real opportunity for the current Board of Trustees, since assumption of duties in May 2007, to exchange reports with the Chapter Chairpersons, on their work, which to say the least, has been gathering momentum. I feel however that we are bound by duty, to utilize this privileged occasion to highlight a few key issues and to implore us all, as frontline leaders of the organisation, to make necessary decisions today, which will be carried on to the Annual General Meeting, AGM, for ratification.
This great organisation of ours, NIDOE, has come a long way. The past couple of years have not been the easiest in our organisational development. That notwithstanding, we have managed to record some commendable successes, which should provide us with a good basis to build our future on. I do sincerely believe that whatever our challenges are, we have managed to muster enough valuable strength to continue in the process of building an organisation that would be the envy of all.
I therefore feel highly honoured to present below the state of affairs of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe, under my stewardship:
The Board of Trustees realizes the need to strengthen internal communication processes with the grassroots of the organisation via its key leaders, including Chapter Chairpersons. A tool in this direction was introduced by the Board on 14 June 2007, which is the periodic briefing. This is issued after every Board meeting and other major developments in the organization.
The periodic briefing is a public document. Chapter Chairpersons are expected to ensure dissemination of the document to their membership.
Website has become inevitable for all corporate bodies operating in this day and age. NIDOE has always had a modest web presence but as we aim higher and as the desire of the organisation to position the Diaspora as relevant actors in the quest to position Nigeria in its pride of place in the new world order, a more dynamic website became necessary.
The General Secretary has worked closely with the Director of ICT and the result is a revamped website with more possibilities, user-friendliness and dynamism than ever before.
Months ago, you had been presented with the organisation’s key policy plank for the period 2008 – 2010. As a pre-taste of what is to come, let me simply say that by putting down on paper, our dreams and aspirations, with measurable benchmarks, the organisation now knows and better appreciates its priorities. In the same vein, NIDO Europe is working closely with NIDO Americas to fashion a framework document on our relationship with the Presidency as recently requested by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua during a visit to the USA.
In its meeting of 14 June 2007, the Board decided to invite Dr Joseph Aderemi Ojo to join its membership. Dr Ojo was mandated to take charge for the Information Communication Technology (ICT) beat of the organisation. This appointment is to be ratified at the next AGM.
2nd Diaspora Day / 3rd Science & Technology Conference
The presence and input of NIDO in the Abuja Conference in 2007 was very visible. However some suggestions towards improvement have been forwarded to the Nigerian National Volunteer Service and other continental arms of NIDO. As part of the deliverables of the conference, a Project Implementation Monitoring Group (PIMG) was considered. The mandate of the Group is to monitor and report on the status of projects presented and recommended for implementation at the Science and Technology Conference. The Group is to report formally to the leadership of NIDO prior to the next S&T Conference, where their report will also be publicly presented.
The Board took note of the filing obligations with the UK Companies House under whose jurisdiction and regulation it was published. The Legal Adviser of NIDOE Ozobia worked in concert with the Director of Finance to bring the books in order. This has been accomplished. May I seize this moment to commend these highly devoted Trustees, for their tremendous efforts that got this done.
NIDO Europe was invited by the Embassy of South Africa in France to speak at a Consultative Conference on the development of a formal relationship between the African Union and the African Diaspora. This is in line with the determination of the AU to institute the African Diaspora as the 6th Region of Africa. NIDO Europe was represented in the Conference, which took place 11 – 12 September 2007 in Paris, by the General Secretary, Collins Nweke. The participation of NIDO Europe was ably facilitated by Paris based Board Member, Dr Martin Okeke.
NIDOE was also represented by myself and Dr. Onwuelo at the Annual African Ambassadors Forum held in London on the 28th and 29th of November 2007. NIDOE was honoured with a trophy endorsed by the organizers and the International Monetary Fund for fostering Diaspora relations. Today NIDOE is seen as an exemplary Diaspora Organisation and a model for the wider African community.
During my Opening Remarks on behalf of the Worldwide Diaspora, I announced the intentions of NIDOE, to set up a Diaspora Investment Fund for strategic investments in Nigeria. The initiative was welcome by both press and public in Nigeria. The board of Trustees appointed a three-man committee, which has been consulting widely and developing the Fund. The Chairman of the Diaspora Investment Fund Committee, Dr. Ray Onwuelo will be reporting to the Summit, seeking your input and making decisions, pending ratification at the AGM.
Prior to and after the constitution of the Electoral Reforms Committee in Nigeria by President
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, NIDO Europe, in collaboration with NIDO Americas and NIDO Asia, made representations to Government for the inclusion of Diaspora representation in the Committee. NIDO held that this will be a logical sequence to the formidable role played by NIDO, on behalf of the entire Nigerian Diaspora during the 2006 National Political Reforms Conference.
The first phase of uniform House Style for the organisation has been initiated with the creation of Chapter-specific email addresses. Chapters are being encouraged to configure the email addresses as quickly as possible and put them to use. In the second phase, the letter-headed paper of NIDOE will take a common shape and format to enhance image, professionalism and commonality of purpose. It some point in the near future it will become necessary for NIDO to harmonize its House Style globally. NIDO is one Nigerian Diaspora organisation with a global spread. This should be evident from a common House Style and NIDO Europe will be initiating discussions with our brothers across the Atlantic with a view that the desired harmonization.
One of the functionalities that the revamped website has afforded us is the online registration for membership. It must be emphasized that the essence of the online registration is to facilitate easy registration in line with modern technological advancement. Studies have shown that individuals respond quicker to online registration and payments as opposed to paper registration. The Board is conscious of the fact that the Memorandum and Articles of Association did stipulate that registration would take place via the Chapters and that a certain percentage of the registration and subscription fee would be retained by the Chapters. At some point during this Summit, the Board will formally propose a resolution to enable online membership registration pending ratification at the AGM. The Resolution that will be put to you will have no bearing whatsoever on previously agreed financial arrangements but will pertain exclusively to using online membership registration to engender popular membership of NIDOE as de facto all-encompassing organisation of the entire Nigerian Diaspora. I shall crave your rational flexibility here to achieve desired results sooner than later. This will assist us tremendously in developing our much desired data-bank as the revamped website is configured in this regard.
As agreed at the last Summit, the Board has made serious efforts to secure an office space for the Headquarters at the Nigeria High Commission in London. The NNVS has written to the acting High Commissioner to support our request. In October 2007, the Head of Chancery confirmed his commitment to provide a room at the High Commission for NIDOE, where our furniture and equipment can be kept prior to authority from the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to create a proper office space.
European Union Representative Office in Brussels
With the appointment of Collins Nweke as European Union Representative of NIDO and the articulation of a specific European Union strategy, the Board has also written to the Embassy of Nigeria in Brussels requesting for office space to facilitate the implementation of our European Union Strategy. I must pause here to commend the Nigerian National Volunteers Service (NNVS), who has graciously supported our quest in this regards and continues to work conscientiously with the organisation in realizing this policy objective.
Partnering with the Wider Nigerian Organisations
The Chairmen of NIDOE and CANUK (Conference of Associations of Nigerians in the United Kingdom) held a meeting on synergy between both Organisations and issued a Communiqué stating mutual commitment to work to compliment one another. The document identified key differences in focus of both Organisations and the need to join hands on common areas for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation has identified the following, among others, as the imperatives of our time and shall be working assiduously towards achieving them:
We have done so much but it is obvious that a lot more needs to be done. I congratulate us all for the efforts and the job well done. But I also invite you to face the tasks before us head-on because development impact on Nigeria using NIDO as a choice vehicle is a collective one.
God bless you all.
God bless Nigeria!
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Being a Speech delivered by Dr. Ayo Ojajune,
Chairman, NIDOE Russia, at the NIDO Europe Summit held in
Zurich, Switzerland, on 1 December 2007
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Permit me on behalf of our chapter, NIDOE Russia, and members of the Interim Administration, to extend our warmest greetings to the members of NIDOE Board of Trustees, Chairpersons of NIDOE Chapters, and all delegates to the Zurich Summit.
As you are aware, ours is one of the youngest members of this organization. Our rather late membership is predicated on a variety of factors, some of which, I think ought to be addressed here. NIDOE as an organizational concept became palpable in Russia in 2001, immediately after President Olusegun Obasanjo’s visit to Moscow. Although the President failed to mention NIDOE at his meeting with Nigerians resident in Russia, considering his all-important and pivotal role in the conceptualization and formation of this new professional body worldwide, some officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Russia still went ahead and held meetings and discussions with some Nigerian professionals. And, consequently, a NIDO Local Organizing Committee was inaugurated.
However, the Committee soon collapsed due to obvious reasons. In the first instance, most Nigerian professionals and entrepreneurs in Russia were somewhat averse to the then leadership of the Nigerian Embassy, and therefore found it difficult to trust any initiative coming directly and mainly from them. Secondly, information about and contacts with NIDO were understandably scanty in those days, as a result only a handful of people could comprehend its essence and purpose. Thirdly, some members of the Committee later left Russia, while the remaining ones complained of lack of funds, or any financial incentives from any quarters traditionally required to set up such an organization.
It is noteworthy that the very limited number of Nigerian professionals and entrepreneurs resident in Russia was one of the factors that militated against the earlier emergence of an organized NIDO. Furthermore, occasional scandals published in the media about NIDO, coupled with the erstwhile belief, in certain circles in Russia that NIDO was primarily a London-Washington affair, did little to add colour to the image of this novel outfit.
Notwithstanding the fact that NIDO as an organization failed to materialize, its concept was somehow sustained throughout the years by intermittent internet communications between the Secretariat and the Coordinator of the defunct Local Organizing Committee, Dr. Bashir Obashekola, who in turn distributed same to interested individuals. However, it was the former and last Nigerian envoy to Russia, Ambassador Dan Suleiman and his staff, who played a decisive role in sensitizing the Nigerian professional community in Russia, individually and collectively, to the relevance of NIDO.
Amb. Dan Suleiman’s positive stance encouraged Nigerians in Russia to the extent that some of us started appreciating NIDO. For example, my wife and I attended the 2nd Abuja Conference in 2006, with the sole purpose of familiarizing ourselves with NIDO structures and objectives. On our return to Moscow, I had series of consultations and meetings with Nigerian groups, professionals, and some members of the Nigerian Embassy, which culminated into a General Meeting of Nigerian professionals in Russia in May 2007, at which the present Interim Administration of NIDOE Russia was elected.
One of our main tasks is to raise awareness among all Nigerians in Russia and the people and organizations of our host country about NIDO Europe in general, and NIDOE Russia in particular, and formally launch it. To this end, we were able to organize for the first time in the history of Nigerians in Russia, an official delegation comprising of seven professionals and one student to the 3rd Abuja Conference and Diaspora Day in July 2007.
While in Abuja we seized the opportunity to hold a press conference on the case of the six kidnapped Russian nationals - workers of Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) , an affiliate of the Russian company RUSAL, and appealed for their release. This was meant to complement the joint efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Government of the Russian Federation in this connection. The Russian specialists were released before our return to Moscow.
Our presence at this Summit today is another testimony to our strong commitment to consolidating NIDOE Russia, and making it a viable, effective and integral component of NIDO Europe and NIDO Worldwide.
At present the Interim Administration is concerned with defining and establishment of our membership base, we are pre-occupied with the search for a suitable future legal status, we would like to develop effective working relationships between our chapter and the Secretariat and other NIDOE Chapters, and we seek to evolve a set of priorities and programmes, which can be locally supported and coordinated for the advancement of Nigeria.
In conclusion, I would like to make a short contribution to the on-going debate on the relationship between the secretariat and the chapters. Let me emphasize that everything must be done to build and consolidate the chapters; efforts should be put to making chapter members have confidence in their local chapter administrations. The idea of on-line direct membership registration and remittance of membership fees and dues to the Secretariat by-passing the chapter administrations may dampen enthusiasm, undermine local structure and destabilize NIDO Europe. It seems the current NIDOE Constitution has a clearer and principled position on this issue.
Finally, I would like to express our chapter’s profound gratitude to the General Secretary, Mr. Collins Nweke, our hosts, Messrs Onuoha and Ugochukwu, the Chairman and Secretary of NIDOE Switzerland, respectively, for facilitating the documentations required for our journey and participation in the Summit.
Let me seize this opportunity to wish you all, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, most fruitful deliberations.
Dr. Ayo Ojajune
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