When experts gathered to sharpen Nigeria’s foreign policy

The nation’s technocrats and foreign affairs specialists on November 29, met in Abuja to review the Foreign Affairs Policy of Nigeria which was done 30 years ago

Former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was Nigeria’s leader when the nation’s foreign policy was reviewed in 1986 at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, near Jos.

Africa has been the centre of Nigerian foreign policy as a regional power and by attachment to several fundamental principles, including her unity and independence, capability to exercise influence in the region, peaceful settlement of disputes; non-alignment and non-intentional interference in the internal affairs of other nations, and regional economic cooperation and development.To achieve these principles, Nigeria participates in the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations (UN) among others.

There was however the need for a robust policy instrument to achieve these aims and which undoubtedly needed constant review to match the dynamics of the ever changing world and global politics.

Speaking at the two-day “Stakeholders’ Conference on Nigeria’s Foreign Policy and Strategy: Responses to the Dynamics of the Domestic and Global Environments in the 21st Century” organised by the NPSS, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the Federal Government is committed to reviewing the nation’s foreign policy to match the global and ever dynamic trend.

“We live in a dynamic and changing global environment. It is proper that we undertake a broad review of our foreign policy and strategy. I have no doubt that this workshop will carry out this assignment in a comprehensive and holistic manner,” Osinbajo, represented by the Special Adviser to the President, Office of the Vice President, Ambassador Adeyemi Dipeolu said. “Some of these issues are immediate and confront us on a dual basis, while others are moving slowly but surely. Some of our more obvious and pressing concerns include overall security, corruption and the economy which are matters of great priority to the Buhari administration with a view to determining Nigeria’s role in the global landscape and the challenges of managing the global community.”

The acting Director General of the NIPSS Mr. Jonathan Mela Juma said that the nation’s foreign policy thrust has been Afrocentric where it prioritizes the political, economic and socio-cultural well-being of other African countries, leading to her global role in peace and security. He however wondered about the strategic advantage accrued to Nigeria over the years despite the huge money and other resources expended and lost pursuing the policy.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Goeffrey Onyeama represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Ambassador Sola Enikanolaiye said the nation’s foreign policy which evolved 30 years ago deserves a strident and robust review due to the complex nature of domestic and global occurrences.

At the end of the conference stakeholders drawn from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), security agencies, academia, Media, Civil Society Organizations, retired Career Ambassadors and other stakeholders noted that since the last All-Nigeria Foreign Policy Conference 30 years ago, numerous changes have occurred in the domestic and global environment like terrorism, extremism, massive poverty, global economic recession, crises of migration,  terrorism, human right issues, shift from globalism to nationalism among others, which has affected the conduct of Nigeria’s foreign policy.

“Aware that critical issues such as narcotic and drug trafficking, illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, human trafficking, cybercrimes, recruitment of child soldiers, smuggling of illegal goods and mineral resources as well as maritime piracy have continued to pose challenges in the inter-relation amongst nations,” the communiqué said.

It was noted that in the context of the changes and challenges at domestic and external environments, Nigeria has not vigorously pursued its national interests in the conduct of its foreign policy. Nigeria’s Foreign Policy process and framework has been elitist and not all-inclusive, neglecting several key stakeholders, most especially the private sector and civil society organizations, making it undemocratic.

Concern was also expressed that the paucity of funding of the MFA, the poor coordination between the MDA’s and the MFA, the weak interpersonal relationships among the personnel of the Missions, have combined to weaken the quality and effectiveness of Nigeria’s foreign policy.

The experts also expressed alarm at the increasing dominance of China in the Nigeria-China relations and its implications. They observed that while Nigeria and India-ASEAN relationship has been cordial, investment opportunities are still largely untapped, particularly in the area of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), technological cooperation and skill development.

The conference resolved that President Muhammadu Buhari should set up a Technical Committee made up of eminent Nigerians, career and non-career diplomats, academics, business community, civil society, Nigerians in diaspora, relevant MDAs and other critical stakeholders to comprehensively review Nigeria’s Foreign Policy and strategy with the National Institute (NIPSS) as coordinating agency as well as the secretariat.

They added that Nigeria’s national interest should constitute the bedrock of the review of the country’s Foreign Policy and Strategy, and that such policy strategy should be more pro-active and responsive to inputs from all stakeholders in both the public and private sectors. They suggested that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) be enabled to retain a significant percentage of the revenue it generates from immigration and consular services, as may be worked out with the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) as well as designing appropriate mechanisms to manage its overseas properties.

In addition, they suggested that consideration be given to the denomination of Mission’s budgets in United States Dollars (US$), as was done in the past, to avoid all forms of depreciation which has led to shortfalls in the Ministry’s allocation. They also called for the establishment of a Diaspora Desk in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and located in the Office of the Permanent Secretary.

“A Special Unit should be created in the Ministry to further address the global and rapidly evolving menace of terrorism, cyber security and transnational organized crimes and keep abreast of the germane issues,” it was resolved.

The conference called for an audit of Nigeria’s membership of International Organizations with a view to withdrawing from moribund and unnecessary bodies, thereby reducing the financial outlay regarding the country’s assessed contributions to these organizations, while ensuring timely payment of annual dues in bodies such as ECOWAS, AU, UN and other Treaty Bodies.

They said: “Government should adopt a strategic approach in seeking appointive and elective positions in regional and UN bodies, taking into account Nigeria’s specific and potential needs in those organizations. In this regard, suitably qualified Nigerians should be encouraged to seek such positions in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.”

A request for a holistic review of the Host Agreement signed between Nigeria and ECOWAS with a view to ensuring that Nigeria reaps the full benefits of her enormous investments and contributions to the sub-regional organization. Also, that the ECOWAS Protocol be reviewed to ensure that rules related to Trade Liberalization Scheme and Common Exchange Tariff are obeyed and not skewed against Nigeria as the host nation. “In line with the Change Agenda of the Federal Government as envisioned by the President, the Station Charters provided to Nigeria’s representatives abroad should be Missions-specific and driven by the urgent drive for mass employment, robust security and intelligence, response to insurgency and terrorism, zero tolerance for corruption, renewed drive to address infrastructure and advancement of other national interests.

“The Federal Government should approve Public Private Partnership in the management and maintenance of government property in the Missions and also for the purpose of revenue generation,” the conference agreed.

They equally resolved that the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN) should be involved in the foundation of citizenship diplomacy and provide empirically-based advice to Government on foreign policy direction in light of global and deepening challenges and suggested that all mechanisms relating to Nigerians in Diaspora, especially in Europe and America should be strengthened to tap into the resources of professionals.
Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/feature/when-experts-gathered-to-sharpen-nigeria-s-foreign-policy/179502.html#yGabBpjAgKVl3kkq.99

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