FOR bilateral and multilateral relations between Nigeria, individual countries in Europe and Europe as a block to address emerging challenges of poverty and insecurity, there is need for Europe to effect serious policy change towards Africa, the Federal Government has said.
The expected policy change stretches beyond the specific issues that were discussed when the special envoy of the Italian president, Hon. Margherita Bonver, conferred with officials of the Nigerian government at the close of last week.
The specific issues include insecurity, terrorism as well as impunity stemming from criminality against civilians.
The prodding on policy change was conveyed to Nigeria’s European development partners at a close-door session with the Bonver-led Italian delegation by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi. But when the Italian delegation emerged from a close-door session with their Nigerian counterparts, both sides did not refer in detail to the recent death of two Italian nationals in Nigeria. First was Mauro Zanin, a suspected fraudster, who died in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and is thought by the Commission to have committed suicide. And the second, the owner of Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited Domenico Gitto, who died in Abuja after approval for payment for contracts executed for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was signed.
His company also recently donated a renovated church to President Jonathan’s hometown, Otuoke, which generated controversies in the process.
But high-level sources at the meeting have since confirmed that a strong demand was made by Nigeria with respect to the needed policy change towards Africa. An investment-propelled partnership that could help create jobs rather that the currently disguised donor- recipient relationship with Africa.
“It was the real issue, which we both looked at. Europe is the most industrialised continent in the world and is just five kilometres from Africa (Through Morocco and Algeria); yet Africa is the least developed. It is this gap that is being filled by China, which is far away in Asia. We have said that a policy change is now needed. We want Europe to ‘work’ with us,” the source further told The Guardian.
At the open talks, ambassador Uhomoibhi stressed that “Nigeria is conscious of the current volatile global trends resulting to economic and financial instability, terrorism, financial crime and religious extremism which have defied national boundaries. These negative global trends have made interdependence and closer cooperation between nations indispensible”
Responding to the special envoy’s concerns on the terror overhang in Nigeria, before the closed door session, ambassador Uhomoibhi stressed: “I strongly believe that some of the problems especially human trafficking, the terrorist activities of the Boko haram, armed robbery, kidnapping and other serious crimes which necessitated your visits to Nigeria are closely linked to poverty. That is why the Nigerian government is now calling on the business community of friendly countries like Italy o come and invest in Nigeria. More foreign investments will accelerate economic growth leading to more employment, improved educational and health facilities and the general socio-economic wellbeing of the people”
It was also learnt that, following Nigeria’s newly introduced visa policy for businessmen, diplomats and tourists to promote trade and investment, a formal request by the Federal Government has been submitted to the EU Commission to reduce the visa processing period to 14 days for Nigerians. The request is currently before the committee of EU ambassadors in Brussels, who are expected to make representations to the EU ministers for approval.
Countries within the EU block has consistently stressed that issues of terrorism, border control and (most especially) zero tolerance of criminality against civilians are the core tasks that Nigeria needs to address.
The unspoken expectation is that a headlong tackling of the issues are welcome sweeteners to the current cooperation between these countries and Nigeria both in the security sector and its wider global implications, as well as training of Nigerian personnel (police, customs and immigration).
Special envoy Bonver had said, for instance, that “Italy considers bilateral relations with Nigeria with utmost importance. We are ready to partner with Nigeria on all of the identified areas. But today we urge your government to apply zero tolerance to criminals and criminality against civilian Nigerians. We are pledging our assistance in this regard”
On his delegation for the Nigerian tour were the country’s ambassador to Nigeria Dr. Roberto Colamine as well as counsellor Alberto Bertoni.