Nigeria is referred to as an African giant. It has the largest economy in Africa. It has a population of more than 200 million and it holds the biggest oil reserves on the continent after Libya. It is a strategic partner for the European Union, an essential leader in the West Africa sub-region and plays a stabilising role, both bilaterally and through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) peace and security architecture.
This week, President Bola Tinubu called on the European Union to assist Nigeria and Africa in strengthening security and economic development to alleviate poverty in the continent.
The President spoke during a telephone conversation with the President of the European Council, Mr Charles Michel.
The European Council is the EU institution that defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union.
The President said that Nigeria and the whole of Africa require the help and partnership of friends and development partners like the EU to address the excruciating poverty in the continent.
According to the President, and he is right, poverty and insecurity, which he promised to deal with squarely, constitute themselves as the problems that must be urgently addressed because they undermine Nigeria’s constitutional democracy and its potential as a major economic and diplomatic power.
However, while such challenges like insecurity, increasing poverty, escalating unemployment and bad governance need to be addressed at the domestic level, they also represent important avenues for international partners, such as the European Union, to engage, based on Nigeria’s needs.
International partners, including the European Union, can help by fine-tuning their analysis of Nigeria’s political, economic and security dynamics and pushing for a realistic review of the practices that have held the country back.
The European Union is a critical partner in this process. It has supported Nigeria’s efforts to improve its democracy and proceed to a fairer distribution of power between its central and federated elements, mediating between national and local interests whilst preserving internal unity. Attempts to address national and regional challenges to peace are consistent with the Union’s values, and reflect the European Union’s own interest in having a stable regional partner.
It would be recalled that in the 2009 Nigeria-EU Joint Way Forward, both parties agreed to enhance their dialogue and cooperation including with the federal Nigerian government and state and local governments. They also agreed to seek participation, whenever relevant and appropriate, from civil society, private sector and other non-state actors as defined in Article 6 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement.
In fact, given the growing importance of Nigeria’s influence in the region and in international fora, dialogue should cover regional and international cooperation, in addition to the domestic situation and include migration and peace, security and stability issues.
The European Union needs an effective ally in ECOWAS, and there cannot be a better one than Nigeria, to address the increasing number of security challenges in the Sahelareas. Nigeria is instrumental to ensuring ECOWAS plays an effective role in maintaining peace and security and it has shown itself capable of doing so through past interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Domestically, however, the security situation is threatening the development of Nigeria as abductions and other forms of violence are on the rise and there are almost daily reports of violent attacks. These attacks do, in fact, threaten the political and economic survival of the country and undermine Nigeria’s capacity to intervene positively in the region.
The security architecture in Nigeria is fundamentally defective and operationally flawed. The government’s response to Boko Haram has been a disproportionate use of force, resulting in escalating casualty figures and alienating relevant communities who could otherwise provide a valuable intelligence reservoir, or at least act as a moderating factor.
Corruption has undermined the credibility of past governments, impoverished the country and fuelled insurgency and violence. Nigerians have come to believe that their government not only condones corruption, but facilitates it. The federal system that operates in Nigeria allocates much of its funds to the central government without the administrative infrastructure to account for their use.
Oversight mechanisms that should monitor resource allocation, at both the federal and state level, are weak. This opens the door to extensive misappropriation. The constitutionally recognised, unqualified immunity granted to governors and the president allows for widespread impunity and fiscal fraud. Grassroots demands for greater resource control and a revised allocation formula between the federal government and states will not achieve the desired goal unless there are effective anti-corruption mechanisms.
Thankfully, the Europe Union has the opportunity to make a difference in Nigeria, as President Tinubu will love to see it make, by promoting democracy and supporting the fight against corruption. It can start by highlighting the inadequacies of current anti-corruption efforts and supporting civil society engagement that introduces constitutional reforms to strengthen the anti-corruption framework. After all, the twin evils of corruption and insecurity are, without any doubt, closely associated with the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria.
Fortunately, what is being agitated for coincides with the European Union’s own efforts to increase the transparency of European oil companies operating abroad – Nigeria being one of their major investment areas. The current debate on European Union law that will ensure disclosure of payments to governments at country and project level represents a vital step towards accountable revenue expenditure.
Multinational and local corporations working in Nigeria should be held to the highest standards of transparency that would then complement national efforts to discourage the misappropriation and or misuse of national revenues without which poverty cannot be addressed.
Thankfully, too, the European Council President, Mr Michel, used the opportunity of the telephone conversation to point out that Nigeria is important to the EU and International Community and pledges the commitment of the Council to ensure a stronger cooperation and partnership with Nigeria based on mutual respect and common interests.
What counts as Tinubu appoints Chief of Staff, SGF
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, this week, appointed the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, as his Chief of Staff and Senator Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia, a former Deputy Governor of Jigawa State, as the Deputy Chief of Staff.
The appointments were made during a meeting held between the President and some governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) fold under the aegis of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF).
Also appointed during the event was the former governor of Benue State and immediate past minister of special duties, Mr George Akume, to serve as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Akume has since started his work with a promise not to disappoint Nigerians, Tinubu and his party – the APC. It is, of course, the prayer of Nigerians that he succeeds unlike many others before him who have held the office of the SGF and other offices and ended up disappointing everybody.
For the President, regardless of whom he appoints into any office, the preoccupation should be service to Nigeria and Nigerians because for too long, and for no justifiable reasons, public officials entrusted with manning the offices and safeguarding wealth of the nation have failed to live up to expectations.
Instead, the officials have helped themselves and filled their pockets, shamelessly, with monies kept under their watch and meant for use to develop the country and its people who, largely, for no fault of theirs, have been neglected by the governments and forced to wallow in abject poverty, diseases and squalor.
This situation must not be allowed to continue by the Tinubu-led administration. Each public official must be made to be accountable in his official conduct and actions to the country and its people, especially with regard to any money put under his or her care.
Ideally, officials should not only be seen to be transparent in their handling of resources, they should be seen, also, to be judicious and creative and where an official is seen violating his oath of office or embezzle public resources, such officer should be dealt with in accordance with the provision of our law.