No longer at ease with the management style of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria has resolved to withhold its financial contributions to the sub-regional body.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, announced the Federal Government’s resolve yesterday, in Abuja during a dialogue with the media on the foreign policy posturing of the Muhammadu Buhari Administration within the first one year of its tenure, hinting also that his ministry was tinkering with the idea of promoting Visa-free movement of citizens within Africa.
Responding to complaints of lose funds management and alleged shortchanging of Nigerians at the sub-regional body, he said the federal government, which is the largest financial contributor to the sub-regional body, has made its position clear to the new administration of ECOWAS on the urgent need for a re-jig of its management.
Confirming that a committee was already working on the matter, the minister said Nigeria has decided to withhold some of her funds, “until we see some meaningful changes in place”, adding that the government has made some proposals to the new leadership of the organization on how to make it more effective and representative of the needs and aspirations of the sub-region.
On efforts by the administration to recover stolen funds stashed away abroad, Onyeama said President Buhari’s visits to most of the countries holding the funds were beginning to pay off, as the authorities of some of the countries were helping to trace the funds, and that repatriation of such funds from two countries, including Switzerland, were almost ready.
“They (countries) are going the extra mile to help Nigeria recover these stolen funds because they believe in the President, the government and the ‘change’ mantra”, he said.
He urged for patience with the government because of the processes involved in tracing and securing release of the funds, pointing out that in some cases, those who claim to own such funds put up resistance and the government has to provide credible evidence before the authorities of those countries, to prove its case.
Listing the numerous gains of Buhari’s many foreign shuttles, the minister said the president has been able to win back the lost confidence of the international community in Nigeria, with many promises of investments in the country.
The minister said the administration was also committed to increasing inter-African trade by promoting greater trade among countries in the continent, while it continues to push hard for two permanent seats for Africa at the United Nations, one of which must be occupied by Nigeria as the “natural leader” of the continent.
Onyeama said as part of the government’s efforts to enhance regional integration and trade within the continent, his ministry was taking steps to promote Visa-free movement of people in Africa, hinting that the proposed project would take off between Nigeria and unnamed eight countries, with the hope that others would join later.
On the gains of the president’s recent visit to China, Onyeama told journalists that inter-ministerial committees have been set up to ensure follow-ups on agreements and set time- lags for their implementation.
He stated that the Buhari administration has observed that apart from tackling insecurity and “endemic corruption” in Africa, there was urgent need for industrialization of the continent to make it exporter of goods, while also investing in education of her people.