Nigerians should stop ridiculing their country, says Minister

Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Abubakar Bagudu addressing the Samoa agreement issue at a Ministerial Press Briefing series in Abuja on Saturday. LILIAN EDWARD brings excerpts.

If there is no money involved in this Samoa agreement, why would Nigeria sign any agreement that is not beneficial to the country and how will you convince Nigerians to trust you?

That is why when I started, I gave a history that not only with the EU, Nigeria signs cooperation agreements with many countries. It is a requirement by those countries so that it will set out the parameters of the cooperation. We had one with the EU in 1975. We had the Cotonou agreement. When you get a copy of the document, you will see this is a broad agreement. It is about education, food security, and about water and sanitation. It is about decent work. It is about demography. It is about you. It is about culture and sustainable development. It is about inclusive economic development. It is about private sector development. It is about human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. It is about good governance, public administration, personal data, peace and security. So those are how the articles are. Each article is about an area of cooperation. We signed an agreement with the EU to say that we believe we can cooperate in these areas. In the several areas which are about 100 and almost 200 distinct areas of global governance. And when we sign this agreement, especially I will restrict my answer to this particular EU OACP. So even when we signed this agreement, we also had to sign a specific implementation agreement. For example, we have a rule of law agreement signed I think about four months ago, which the EU will say for this period between 2024 to 2027, for example, we are going to give you this amount of money. I think the rule of law one, for example, is 30 million to support ICPC, EFCC, as well as other Ministry of Justice and others. We have the migration agreement also. We also have the democratic institutions framework. So what I said is that within this agreement, there is nowhere where it is mentioned that Nigeria is going to receive N150 billion, or any sum for that matter. But these areas of cooperation are areas that will develop further, and explore further, and they will lead to capital, will lead to technical support so that we can enhance food production. One of the biggest support we are receiving from the EU, for example, is part of our digital called IDISE, about $600 million worth of projects are coming under that. So I was saying that there is nowhere in the body of the document where you see 150 billion, but these are agreements which I believe, like with other countries, define what we want to relate with those countries in and how to go about it.

In the course of your presentation, you said that Nigeria’s signing of the document was accompanied by a declaration clarifying the understanding of the agreement. Is there any chance that Nigeria’s understanding of the agreement may be different from that of the EU or the framers of the document, and if there is a risk of that, what can be the implication?

The declaration agreement. The European Union in a public document which we may also either provide the link or print out for members also explained that the 27 member countries themselves have national differences about some areas of the cooperation. So you can imagine what about 79 other countries. That is why the agreement provides a proviso where each country, not just Nigeria, can issue a declaration clarifying some basis on which it is signing. We will make the declaration available, which is a public document that was presented along with it. We didn’t offer it because of concerns about the misrepresentation of LGBT, for example. But we are worried that because of the way Europe is moving to clean energy, we don’t want to sign something that limits our capacity to develop our oil and gas sector. So one of the declarations you see makes it clear that even though we sign, any climate thing we sign, we are categorical that that is not to limit us in any way consistent with our constitution and laws and developmental strides. And other elements of the declaration are such. More importantly, it establishes President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s assertiveness in Nigeria’s sovereignty, where we say that whatever offends our constitution and laws is null and void. Not because we are worried, but just for clarification. Mr President has been consistent with his campaign promise with very demanding policies in other to convince the world that we need all the support and the world is taking them seriously because they saw transparency and clarity. I recall when we visited Saudi Arabia for the first time, the Minister of Investment of Saudi Arabia stated that they compare what President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is doing to that of his brother, the Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia, taking bold, courageous measures that maybe should have been taken decades ago. Development partners, as you very well know, are also media savvy. They see what is happening. So let us not ridicule our nation based on misrepresentation. Let us support the commendable endeavours and reward the hard work so that the development partners we are relating with, and the investors we are looking for, will be strengthened in our resolve. When an investor or a development partner sees a lie carried too far, they will have the right to worry. So we know that some will do it because it is politically expedient, we can do nothing about it. But we believe the majority of Nigerians can see facts for themselves and support so that Nigeria can continue to be respected, Nigeria can continue to be an investment destination. And also to appreciate that hard-working men and women in service, in ministries, are dealing with these issues and they will be demoralised if all they see is their effort being misrepresented by somebody with a big voice in society, using their power wrongly, a media house or a group of media entrepreneurs. So I appeal to all Nigerians to support the bold, courageous endeavors we are taking so that our development partners will also be strengthened in continuing to relate with us and to know that we appreciate what they are doing for us.

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