By Sani Adamu
Critics have, on many occasions, asked whether or not diplomatic foreign trips made by President Muhammadu Buhari from the inception of the present administration are beneficial.
But Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister Information and Culture, observed that the trips have benefited the nation’s economy.
The minister stated that the president’s trips were reviewed at a recent Federal Executive Council meeting, insisting that the country had started witnessing influx of foreign capital into the economy.
“If you look at the various trips the president undertook towards the end of last year, that is the trip to Iran, it was a conference by gas exporting countries.
“Nigeria is more of a gas exporting country than actually an oil country and with the decline in the price of crude (oil) it was about time that Nigeria put much more emphasis and that was the meeting he attended.
“That meeting also provided the opportunity for the various heads of state also to even talk about the falling price of crude because don’t forget that, incidentally most of the countries that export gas also export crude.
“So, it was an opportunity to address the falling price of crude.
The world today is so global that you cannot stay in your country and think that what is happening elsewhere would not affect you.
“You are supposed to be there also to contribute and let the people see it from the perspective of your country,’’ he noted.
According to him, in the last nine months, the president has succeeded in addressing the fear of insecurity, corruption and terrorism being expressed by foreign investors.
In the same vein, the Minister of Environment, Hajiya Amina Muhammed, said the president’s foreign engagements had been yielding stronger partnerships for Nigeria among other nations.
She argued that Nigeria’s participation at the Paris Climate Change conference, in particular, was a unique opportunity to state the country’s position on Climate Change and how it aggravated security challenges in the country and the West African region.
She also said the Gas Exporting Forum held in Teheran, Iran, assisted Nigeria to enhance efforts aimed at attracting joint investment in the gas sector.
She pointed out that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta also addressed the issues of migration and strategies of tackling corruption which are central to the current security challenges facing Nigeria.
In spite of critics’ view in that regard, observers insist that Buhari’s nomination to address the 24-member European Union (EU) Parliament in Strasbourg, France, is significant, being the first of its kind to be extended to any sitting African leader since 2004.
Such rare privilege, according to them, has also presented Nigeria with the opportunity to attract greater global attention to its development challenges.
Stating more gains from such trips, Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, said while in Strasbourg, Buhari briefed the parliamentarians on key development issues being tackled by his administration since its inception.
He said that Buhari chronicled the efforts of his administration in tackling Boko Haram and his determination to rescue the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno in April 2014.
“The government will not rest until the girls are rescued alive and reunited to their parents. We have reorganised the Nigerian Armed Forces and repositioned them to deal decisively with the Boko Haram terrorists.
“Local government areas in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, where the insurgents once dominated have been gradually recaptured,’’ Buhari told the EU parliamentarians.
At the meeting in Strasbourg, Buhari commended a number of European countries for pledging to support the military operations against Boko Haram and to help in the rescue of the Chibok girls.
On human rights, Buhari told the EU Parliament that his administration was doing its best to protect the fundamental human rights of persons in the course of the operation against the Boko Haram insurgents.
Buhari said that his government also shared the EU’s commitment to peace and security, respect for human rights, democracy and good governance, equality and tolerance as ways of developing prosperous and strong societies.
Buhari also spoke of Nigeria’s concerns about the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU, Africa, Caribbean and Pacific group of states which was endorsed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
He said that Nigeria had yet to sign the agreement because pertinent technical issues raised by the Federal Government had not been satisfactorily addressed.
“Giving due consideration to the mismatch of the two regions — Europe-ECOWAS — in terms of technology and manufacturing experience, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and Associated Trade Unions raised concerns over the negative impact of the agreement on Nigeria’s industrialisation programme.
“Nigeria is working towards addressing its own side of the issues and I, therefore, urge our EU partners to also address our own concerns to allow for an economic partnership agreement that is mutually beneficial,’’ he said.
The president solicited greater support from the EU to complement Nigeria’s efforts at checking oil theft.
“Nigeria is facing the challenges of oil-theft and illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta as well as recovery of illicit funds.
“In this regard, Nigeria solicits the cooperation of the European Parliament to support the efforts aimed at stemming these vices.
“Our attempt to restore security, curb corruption and fight crime will result not only in improving social stability in Nigeria but will re-open the doors for full economic relations with Europe and the rest of the world.
“Those who wish to invest in our country have immense opportunities and we intend to guarantee the security of people and investments brought to Nigeria,’’ he said.
Disturbed by the large number of African migrants to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, Buhari pledged to collaborate with Europe to address issues of illegal migration.
“Our government is making concerted efforts to address the push-factor that propel migration, especially from Nigeria, as both destination and transit country.
“In this year’s budget, the government has provided for more than 500,000 graduate employments in the teaching profession alone.
“We are equally collaborating with the states and local governments to strengthen skills acquisition centres in order to train the teeming youth in various vocational skills, so that they can be self-employed and eventually become employers of labour,’’ he stated.
Buhari said that his administration was also making efforts to diversify the economy by giving impetus to agriculture and solid minerals exploitation to create wealth and employments.
“Nigeria welcomes the outcome of the Valletta EU-Africa summit on migration, including the inauguration of 1.8 billion Euros Emergency Trust Fund to address the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe.
“Nigeria will work with the countries of the Sahel and Central Africa to submit our identified projects for funding to the board of the emergency trust fund in due course,’’ he noted.
Besides this, Buhari also renewed his plea for the international community to provide more support to people in the Lake Chad region affected by insurgency.
“Climate Change poses serious threat to Nigeria’s security and development. We watch as the Lake Chad dries up, EU should lend support,’’ he pleaded.
Buhari said that Nigeria had no choice, nor could the country afford to be an island in itself, thus it had partnered its neighbours and beyond in its developmental initiatives.
At a reception for members of the Diplomatic Corps in Abuja recently, Buhari said that his administration was pursuing the foreign policy vision anchored on meaningful engagement with Nigeria’s neighbours, the African continent and the world at large.
“We would continue to build strong partnerships, strengthen regional ties and promote global solidarity.
“Nigeria will remain a responsible and active member of the international community, promoting tolerance, accommodation, reconciliation and pacific settlement of disputes.
“We will also continue to shoulder responsibilities in peace keeping under the auspices of the United Nations,’’ he maintained.
By and large, analysts are hopeful that the president’s diplomatic foreign trips will open more vistas of opportunities and greater economic prosperity for Nigeria.(NANFeatures)