Nigeria’s Foreign Ministry to woo global investors

Godwin Ukaa, Abuja

The Nigerian government has concluded plans to explore investment potentials in the 119 countries where it has Embassies and High Commissions.

The country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, stated this in an exclusive Voice of Nigeria interview programme: ‘In-The-News’.

According to the Minister, Nigeria will employ its policy of economic diplomacy identify, strategise and exploit the numerous investment opportunities that abound in the 119 countries.

He said conversely, the Ministry was also taking advantage of the current goodwill for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, to open more areas of need and identify specific focal points to draw investments into the country.

Mr Onyeama explained that this would be achieved through effective collaboration with other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies-MDAs of government.

“We expect that on the Nigerian side, working with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, MDAs that want to engage or trade with the outside world or export finished goods, will identify the products from the regions they are coming from. The basic strategy for export; (will be to) get these in a data base that would be made available in all the 119 countries,” he stated.

Mr Onyeama explained that “the challenge would then be for the embassies or the focal point on trade in each country to identify potential partners or potential importers and investors and of course different mechanisms of doing that through trade fairs, through visits, etc.”

Measurable indices

The plan envisages that the focal points will then market products and materials in their countries, with measurable indices such as timelines, indicators, success criteria, reporting mechanism and monitoring.

To fully harness and implement the benefits of the plan, Mr Onyeama said that Nigerians in the Diaspora, especially those resident in the 119 countries where Nigeria has presence, would necessarily play significant roles.

He said: “they would be key players in propagating the investment potentials in Nigeria, based on the provided data of Nigerian goods and services, which they too will be able to access, assess and provide valuable contributions to.”

He noted that despite the foreign media’s negative portrayal of the country, Nigerians continue to be held in high esteem and are highly respected as courageous, intelligent and professional.

“In most developed economies of the world, Nigerians are not only given awards but have been receiving applause for their astounding achievements in different professional spheres, from the sciences, arts, ICT, technologies, businesses, politics, and so on.” Mr Onyeama stated.

Security synergy

The Minister reaffirmed Nigeria’s determination to continue to work with its neighbours in the Chad Basin and the Gulf of Guinea, the Economic Community of West African States-ECOWAS, the African Union and other friendly countries, to propagate and execute the country’s three-pronged foreign policy objectives of combating insecurity, fighting corruption and fast-tracking economic development.

In this regard, Mr Onyeama enumerated ongoing efforts to engage, strategise and implement agreements with Nigeria’s immediate neighbours to combat insurgency, particularly in the North-east geographical zone.

“The Foreign Affairs Ministry drives the process even before the Defence and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies get involved and work out agreements. We have to maintain a friendly relationship with all the countries that Nigeria relates with, in order to provide an enabling environment for us to effectively tackle those challenges,” he noted.

The Minister emphasised that terrorism was a global phenomenon that required the whole world to work together in order to exterminate it. The strategy, he stressed, was reaching out to countries beyond Nigeria’s neighbours which also requires diplomacy engagement.

Nigeria for Africa

Mr Onyeama also restated that Africa remained the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. According to him, because the world is now a global village, Nigeria needs such collaborations, integration and other ventures with the rest of the world, for the general growth of the country.

“Yes, Africa is the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. We have a regional integration mechanism in place, being implemented by the regional body-ECOWAS. The desired goal of almost all regions of the world is to have a United States of Africa. There can also be a side effect. When you have free movement of people, you in turn get the good with the bad but again, this calls for greater co-operation among all the countries and greater sharing of intelligence,” the Minister submitted.

Vigorous anti-corruption

Mr Onyeama told Voice of Nigeria that the present administration was committed to vigorously fighting corruption. For its part, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is already planning a policy that would look into procedures and processes in use, to identify areas of leakages and tighten them up.

The Minister said: “First of all we want to carry out an audit of our missions around the world and within the Ministry. Currently, we are looking at the budget for the Embassies around the world; you have to live within the budget allotted to you. There is no space for improving or expecting more funds. The Missions need to structure themselves in a way that they can function within that budget. Furthermore, this administration believes very strongly in probity and the mandate given to MDAs is to be prudent in all their expenses.”

Mr Onyeama said that the Foreign Affairs Ministry was already in the forefront of implementing that the policy.

He gave assurance that “within the frame work of the zero-budget system, this government is working on a plan that identifies precisely what the needs of each mission is, costing all the activities and resources and approving the costs against activities and specific capital projects.”

Recovering looted funds

The government’s internal fiscal discipline is taking place alongside efforts to retrieve Nigeria’s commonwealth, which were stolen and stashed in foreign banks.

According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, “Nigeria has been holding talks with the Swiss government, where a chunk of funds have been identified. We are looking at a modality for the return of such funds. The world is out there to the government for several countries that are in position to help if they are aware of moneys that could be in their country. We also have to identify and alert these countries.”

Mr Onyeama however, explained that the sum total of money stolen and stashed in foreign banks was yet unknown but stressed that Nigeria was working with relevant countries to uncover and repatriate such funds to Nigeria.

“There is no specific amount in this kind of situation. It is difficult to be precise about the amount. You always do your investigation. For instance, we have approached the UK government to assist in getting in touch with some of the marine insurance companies that insure some of the oil tankers because a lot of Nigerian oil was bunkered illegally. They may have some information about the ownership and some of the people behind the criminal acts.” He said.

Mr Onyeama explained that Nigerian Missions abroad were also helping to fast-track the intelligence gathering in aid of the investigations, with specific instructions to report back to base, so as to facilitate the retrieval of such stolen funds.

To ensure successful execution of the country’s foreign policy goals, the Minister disclosed that the Ministry had worked out plans to adequately train and retrain Nigerian diplomats, as well as ensure that only the best and the brightest among those who display the highest level of discipline, professionalism and moral ethics are deployed to represent the country.