Cablegate: Engaging the Nigerian Diaspora

DE RUEHUJA #1765/01 2671322
P 241322Z SEP 09





E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A
SUBJECT: Engaging the Nigerian Diaspora

REF: STATE 86401

1. SUMMARY: An estimated 20 million people of Nigerian descent
reside outside Nigeria, with about three million in the United
Kingdom (and about one million in the United States. Nigerian
immigration to the U.S. began in the late 1960s and accelerated in
the the mid- to late-1980s due to political and economic problems
exacerbated by the Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha military
regimes. The departure of much of Nigeria's small professional and
middle class over the past four decades has significantly undermined
Nigeria's capacity for development. Due to the global financial
crises, we hear anecdotally that many Nigerians are returning from
the U.S. to help with development, work in government, and open
businesses. END SUMMARY.

2. Nigerian immigrants to the U.S. continue to be well-educated,
pursuing educational opportunities in undergraduate and
post-graduate institutions. Currently, over 6,000 Nigerians study
in the U.S., the largest number of Africans to do so. The largest
Nigerian diaspora communities are in Chicago, Houston, Prince
George's County (Maryland), New York, and Atlanta. In addition to
its Embassy in Washington, Nigeria has consulates in New York and

3. Responses to questions in reftel follow:

(A) Nigeria has the largest population in Africa and its people
constitute a significant portion of the number of immigrants (legal
and illegal) to the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Nigeria's neighboring

--Several websites cater to the Nigerian diaspora: One of the most current sites, it has a
minimum of the advertisements "seeking investment" that
traditionally appear on Nigerian websites. This site hosts an oft-visited message board,
but contains several advertisements. Weblog that functions as a loose-knit
online community. According to this website, NIA tries "to
maturely express the Nigerian worldview from the perspective of
Nigerians in America. We are a misunderstood people, granted. We
have also been given a bad name in certain circles by the foreign
media intent on highlighting only the actions of the bad eggs in our
midst. Good thing we also have a voice...."

--Nigerian diaspora on-line media outlets, such as based in New York, are also read in Nigeria.

(B) Connections between the diaspora community and Nigeria typically
aggregate around cultural, religious, hometown, alumni, and social
groups that occasionally fund development projects in Nigeria.

--Nigerians are among the most affluent and best educated immigrants
from sub-Saharan Africa. They include captains of industry (e.g.,
American Express), doctors, lawyers, university professors,
scientists, professional football (20 currently in the NFL) and
basketball players, and college administrators.

--Our Consular Sections in Abuja and Lagos see the push-pull effect
and influence of immigrants on a daily basis, including through
letters of introduction and support for visa clients wishing to
travel to the U.S. for one reason or another.

--In the mid-1980s, the Embassy's immigrant visa unit consisted of
one FSN employee and one part-time FSO interviewer. Today, the unit
has ten FSNs and five FSOs to support the immigrant and diversity
visa case-load. Since Nigeria has been allocated ten percent of the
Qvisa case-load. Since Nigeria has been allocated ten percent of the
FY10 Diversity Visa program, the Nigerian diaspora in the U.S. seems
set for further growth.

--A 2003 Western Union report claimed that transfers via the company
to Nigeria averaged about $3 billion per annum for the previous
seven years. (Note: This is significantly higher than the amount
stated below.) Western Union does not transfer funds from within

ABUJA 00001765 002 OF 003

(C) As far as we are able to determine, the GON has not activated
its diaspora communities for humanitarian relief beyond what is
outlined below. However, there are a number of Nigerian-Americans
that lead NGOs in the U.S. and Nigeria in health and education.
Opportunities to maintain diaspora community involvement in Nigeria
over the long term will continue to increase.

(D) Nigerians in the U.S. and Nigerian-Americans play important
roles in promoting U.S.-Nigeria trade and investment. Examples
include Kofa International, a Chicago-based company that supplies
construction, dredging and other heavy equipment (new and used) to
Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. The company, led by a
Nigerian-American, is a leading exporter from the U.S., represents
several major U.S. manufacturers, and is a prominent client of the
U.S. EximBank.

--Clear Essence Spa in Lagos is an investment by two Nigerian-born
U.S. citizen brothers, one of whom is a chemical engineer and well
known as an innovator and developer of cosmetic and beauty products
popular in the U.S., Nigeria, and throughout Africa.

--Several Nigerian chambers (e.g., Los Angeles and Miami) and
associations function in the U.S. Their effect in promoting or
facilitating trade and investment is unclear, but the organizations
offer networking opportunities for their members and maintain
contacts in Nigeria.

--Houston-based Global Energy USA, which has 12 to 20 expatriates
working in Port Harcourt and Abuja and is led by a
Nigerian-American, is planning to sponsor a tour by the Houston
Symphony Orchestra to Abuja and Lagos in 2010.

(E and G) Members of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the
Americas (ANPA) regularly return to offer assistance to patients and
doctors in Nigeria. Several opportunities exist for the
Nigerian-American medical community to become involved in tackling
HIV/AIDS through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

(F) Several organizations attempt to harness the influence and
technical skills of the Nigerian diaspora community in the U.S. to
assist in conflict resolution, including Delta Diaspora Direct (D3)
( D3 involves a Delta state
government-sponsored initiative aimed at linking Delta diaspora
expertise with home-based talent to accelerate development of the
state. According to the D3 website, Delta State diasporans want to
contribute to the government's effort at socio-economic
transformation of the state. The D3 Initiative provides a platform
for mobilizing technical expertise, financial resources and contacts
that Delta diasporans can use to support development of their state.
Initial areas of focus include the Governor's three-point program of
peace/security, human capital development and infrastructure
development as well as agricultural, medical care and environmental
protection sectors.

(H) Many Nigeria-related organizations and universities in the U.S.
are pushing to ensure future elections in Nigeria, especially the
April 2011 presidential election, improve markedly over the 2007

--The Change Nigeria Project Incorporated
(, recently established to lobby for
Nigerians in the diaspora to vote from overseas, has taken on a
broader mandate. The organization will host a forum October 1
entitled, "Nigeria at 49: The Way Forward Conference," at the
Qentitled, "Nigeria at 49: The Way Forward Conference," at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington to discuss
electoral reform, the Niger Delta, Diaspora Voting Rights, and the
Role of Diaspora in Nation Building. The GON, while aware of this
organization, has not committed to sending a representative to the
upcoming forum due to concerns that it will devolve into a
GON-bashing exercise.

--The National Endowment for Democracy recently hosted
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Anyakwee Nsirimovu for a five-month
fellowship that concluded in a June 2009 presentation, "Arms
Proliferation as a Threat to Democracy in the Niger Delta,"
examining how the proliferation of small arms in the Niger Delta
region and governance deficit threatened efforts of civil society,
the donor community, and others to advance democracy in Nigeria.
Nsirimovu is founder and executive director of the Institute of
Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), a Nigerian human rights

ABUJA 00001765 003 OF 003

organization that serves the Niger Delta region.

(I) Since the return of multi-party democracy in 1999, former
Nigerian head-of-state Olusegun Obasanjo has made numerous appeals,
especially to young Nigerian professionals in the U.S., to return to
Nigeria to help its rebuilding effort. Obasanjo's efforts have met
with mixed results, as some potential migrants consider Nigeria's
socio-economic situation unstable. However, due to the recent
economic slowdown in the U.S., anecdotal evidence suggests some
professional Nigerians have returned home to pursue economic
opportunities, including opening small businesses and restaurants.

--The Nigerian government has attempted to harness the diaspora and
has several American-Nigerian citizens working in appointed

--Nigeria's National Assembly created a Committee on Diaspora
( to "promote the exchange of ideas
between home country and Nigerians in the diaspora and to collect
and maintain data on Nigerians in the diaspora from consulates,
ministries of foreign affairs, education, justice, the population
registers, censuses, employment agencies and statistical divisions
of international organizations and international census bureau for
domestic planning and uses. The committee aims to initiate policies
to recognize and harness the potential of Nigerians in the diaspora
in support of development and growth in both their home and host
countries and to encourage and monitor diaspora networks and
organizations and assist in the realization of their agenda and
promote institutional change to help public servants collaborate
effectively with diaspora representatives."

--Chairperson Abike Dabiri-Erewa said the Committee has worked on
citizen diplomacy by creating diaspora desks in all Nigerian
missions abroad. Dabiri claimed the total remittance of Nigerians
in the diaspora was not less than N18 Billion (about 117 million
USD) annually.

--According to its website (, Nigerians in Diaspora
Organization (NIDO) in the Americas serves as a non-profit
organization in Washington, DC, drawing upon resources from the
synergy of all Nigerian professionals in the diaspora, to instill
ethical consciousness and civic responsibility. NIDO is focusing on
professional networking, social advocacy, education, healthcare,
technological and economic empowerment, skills, and cultural
exchange projects. The GON recognizes NIDO as the umbrella
organization for all Nigerians in the Americas and Caribbean
including their community-based organizations. In 2005, NIDO
established an official charitable arm for the organization.

NIDO, located at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC, will host
its first annual Business and Community Development conference in
Boston on October 10.

(J) Ambassador Sanders has participated in speaking engagements in
the U.S. with audiences that include members of the Nigerian
diaspora. She recently conducted an event with the African-American
community in Washington, D.C.

(K) Mission has had no experience in this area.

(L) Mission has not designed or participated in public diplomacy
programs customized to diaspora community needs and interests due to
Smith-Mundt limitations and has no plans to do so in the future.

(M) We encourage the Nigerian diaspora community to access our
website ( regularly to read about our ongoing
Qwebsite ( regularly to read about our ongoing
activities, to learn about opportunities to further engage, and to
provide feedback.

4. Embassy recommends that S/GPI contact NIDO at the Nigerian
Embassy in Washington as the first step in investigating
opportunities to engage the Nigerian Diaspora in the U.S. Point of
contact for future reference and follow-up is Political Section
Deputy Chief Jeffery A. Salaiz (email available on the Global
Address List, extension 4219).


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