President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday urged Nigerians not to see themselves as “Northern” or “Southern” citizens, but as people and a race bound by the same history and constitution.
Mr. Jonathan stated this in Abuja at the annual National Migration Dialogue organised by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and internally Displaced Persons.
The Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, who represented the President, called for an end to the classification of Nigerians as “indigenes” or “non-indigenes” of any particular state.
“We must insist that in relating among ourselves as a nation, there are no Northern or Southern citizens neither are there citizens of any particular state in the East or in the West”, Mr. Sambo said on behalf of the President.
“We are citizens of Nigeria, a people and a race bound by the same history and constitution”, he said. “We must continue to insist and uphold our constitution that guarantees the right of all Nigerians to live anywhere in Nigeria without any fear of economic, political, religious, or social exclusion.
“Our ethnic diversity, ideally, should be a source of strength, not weakness; a country where people freely profess and practice their respective religious beliefs anywhere within our national boundaries, without any fear of discrimination. The future I see is of a nation where people are no longer identified by their ethnic or religious affiliation but by the very virtue of their Citizenship as Nigerians”, the president said.
According to him, the Nigerian Constitution and the recommendations of the recently concluded National Conference guarantee the right of every Nigerian to reside anywhere in the country without discrimination.
While acknowledging the role migration plays in national development, the president noted that the country has the highest volume of international migrants, and the largest remittances in sub-Saharan Africa worth $20.76 billion in 2013.
He, therefore, stressed that Nigeria, while aiming to mitigate the negative impact of migration, would continually to deploy strategies to encourage Nigerians in the Diaspora to invest remittances in social infrastructure, human capital development and other activities.
He stated that his administration had made it a cardinal principle that Nigerians must be treated humanely and with dignity in any country of their residence.
On internally displaced persons, the President said he had directed that victims must be given due care and maintenance without any form of social exclusion.
Mr. Jonathan expressed the hope that the national migration dialogue would help shape Nigeria’s national migratory orientation.
In her remarks, the Federal Commissioner for Refugees, Hadiza Kangiwa, noted that Nigeria was the first country in ECOWAS sub-region to institute the dialogue.
She said the dialogue was conceived as a strategy for mainstreaming migration into the post development agenda, and was also a derivation of the draft National Migration Policy document.
According to her, the objective of the dialogue is to provide a platform for debating the impact and linkages between migration and development thereby shaping Nigeria’s national migratory linkages.
She said the dialogue would also provide opportunity for reviewing the various operational challenges at the implementation level.
The participants at the dialogue were drawn from the 36 States of the federation and international development partners such as the International Organisation for Migration.