By: Paul Ndiho, Annapolis, Maryland.
The US state of Maryland is home to more than 23 thousand Nigerians according to the Maryland’s governor martin O’Malley. Earlier this week, Maryland and cross river state – Nigeria signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a sister state relationship between the two communities.
The Nigerian community is one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in Maryland, and as their ranks have expanded; so has their prominence and visibility. Now to cement that relationship, Nigeria’s cross river state has sealed a friendship pact with Maryland that will promote tourism, agriculture and industry between the two states.
Presiding over the signing ceremony, Maryland governor, martin O’Malley, noted the sister-state relationship between the Maryland and Cross River provides a unique opportunity for Maryland and its citizens. The governor observed that the West African nation has a history of good diplomatic relations with the United States and the state of Maryland and that the memorandum of understanding between the two states was vital.
“The relationship between Maryland and Nigeria is already strong and we have the ability to make it stronger in trade and many other things that unit our people. We’re very fortunate here in Maryland to have a large very civically engaged Nigerian community. We have 23 thousand Nigerian Americans here in Maryland who call Maryland home and who contribute in every way to the cultural, social, the economic, health of our state from across the span of professionals, doctors lawyers, and engineers they are all part of each and every part of Maryland. They help our state to move forward, provide jobs and create more opportunities for more of our people.”
The sister state agreement will provide a forum for economic development, tourism, and cultural understanding through business, high school, and university exchange programs. Senator Liyel Imoke is the governor of Cross River state, Nigeria.
“Well the MOU that has just been signed with the state of Maryland would provide an opportunity for us to strengthen partnerships and relationships and share experiences and take advantage of opportunities in key sectors. That we hope can have a significant impact on the people of cross river state and of course on our economy. We hope that it will also lead to stronger partnerships in the development of the social sector and developing areas in which cross river has a comparative advantage with in the context of the Nigerian economy.”
As Cross River state governor, Liyel Imoke, is credited with improving basic services, tourism, information technology, and the agricultural sector. His tourism initiative has resulted in making his state is the number one holiday destination in Nigeria. Maryland has the 15th largest economy in the u-s. Imoke says it’s a win- win for both states.
“Some of their policies in terms of education, healthcare and some of their legislation and there laws are relevant even in our developing economy and so we want to learn from those experiences and partner with some of their institutions that are there — so that we don’t have to re -event the wheel. We can now borrow from what has been developed here and modify it to fit our conditions and environment. And I think that’s critical in a sister state relationship.”
The initiation to establish a relationship with the state of Maryland was led by consultant Cheryl Hill for cross river state and other partners. With Maryland’s tremendous population of Africans, particularly professionals, governor Imoke says it’s a natural fit:
“We can tap into those resources. Actually this experience will translate into development for us. When we speak of Maryland as a state and the opportunities that it presents – it has a very structured system; it has a business community that is looking to invest in Nigeria and to Africa and we want to position ourselves as that entry point into Nigeria.
The sister state initiative between Maryland and cross river began in 2011 when Maryland officials visited Nigeria. That was followed by a visit by Nigerian officials to Maryland in 2012. Both hope the relationship will thrive and grow in the years to come.