Why Nigeria deserves UN Security Council seat-Foreign Affairs Minister
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and supervising minister of the ministry, Professor Viola Onwuliri, led the Federal Government negotiation team to the various bilateral meetings at the just-concluded 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. In this interview, she speaks on the benefits accruable to Nigerians from the ongoing economic diplomacy embarked upon by the Federal Government.
THE Jonathan administration has been engaged in series of bilateral meetings with different countries in an attempt to build new cooperations. What will be the benefit of all these to the ordinary Nigerians? When you open up your doors to people, especially to people who have achieved a lot in their own countries, they come with a lot of goodies and these goodies will be picked by people. These goodies will impact on human beings. Their bringing them to the country will increase the number of people who are working at different levels. That is the beauty of it. As you attract people to your country, they bring investments, they bring investment, they bring other things, they bring what they have. Some of them educational incentives and so on and so forth. You people benefit from it one after the other, in groups, individually and so, it does really impact on people. You open up doors for educational development and people can attract scholarship as different countries offer scholarships if we do agree at that level. In these days of security challenges, some of these countries help us with training of security personnel and sharing of information on terrorists and terrorism.
Many countries believe that Nigeria is doing well and so they want to be part of it. Many say Nigeria is growing at a rapid pace and the country is now changing their way of doing things. They want to come to Nigeria and be part of what is happening in Nigeria.
How do you ensure that the foreign investors you are inviting into the country do not go against its interests? I want to believe that Nigerians should be alert, all those dealing with foreign investments, foreign investors and foreigners. First of all for us in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we will even instructed our embassies that anybody bringing in foreign investments is welcome but what we will not want will be people bringing in their own nationals to come and take over the jobs Nigerians can do because that will not help our drive for employment for young Nigerians. That is part of what we are doing to ensure that the right things are done. The Ministry of Trade and Investment would have to put in place policies that will help to further control excesses of those who are coming in to invest in our country. I want to believe that the security agencies also will be at alert around people who are just coming in.
But we can only say that these are what they can do. But the main thing is with the Nigerians who are interacting with these people, who are with them to be able to give information. If Nigerians are not being treated well, those will be taken up. I think that is also important.
What do Nigerians stand to gain from a UN Security Council seat which the country is seeking? Nigeria is a member of the United Nations. The United Nations is an organisation of 193 member states, Nigeria being one of them and this is where the world is ruled from. The United Nations takes decisions that every other nation must adhere to and so, being part of governance in an organisation you belong to and you also pay so much to belong to is very important so that your ideas can be part of the consideration when decisions are being made. What it means is that things that affect your nationals will be taken into consideration and not another person doing a generalised thing before they take decisions. Nigeria that has been working very hard trying to safeguard this world; we have been involved in peacekeeping mission since the 1960s, we have sent troops to different countries of the world, especially Africa and we have put in money to ensure that democracy reigns in other countries in Africa.
Just recently, Nigeria has also pledged additional $6million to help with election in Guinea Bissau. We have spent money in different countries in Africa to ensure that democracy is established and sustained. In doing that, we condemned different situations where there is rape of democracy on the continent of Africa. So, if we have done so much, it is also important that we are in the seat of government where decisions concerning security matters are taken. So, that will help us also to put up our experiences for the world to learn from. That will help us to talk directly about what concerns our continent.
What will you do to improve the performance of Nigerian embassies around the world as it concerns the welfare of Nigerians abroad? I have thought about it and in fact, we have started discussion on that. We want to ensure that our own staff are doing what they are supposed to do because we still have complaints from Nigerians about the treatment they get from our embassies and I believe that has to stop because if you are sent to a foreign land to take care of Nigerians and you are not doing that, then you should come home. So, that is another angle I am going to pursue to ensure that Nigerians get benefit for their money. Anybody you send out there is in the employment of the Federal Government and he is being paid salary. So, he should work. It is totally unacceptable to me that a Nigerian in a foreign land would want the assistance of the embassy, which is like home, the only home he has there and you are not getting that. So, it is one area we are going to pursue. I also intend to put in place, different training programmes because as an academic, I believe that to change behaviour, you need to also train people. So, I want to put in place different programmes for our staff and for other people. Even for the media