Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama is Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. In this interview with a cross session of the media, he spoke on 72nd UNGA where the President, Muhammadu Buhari addressed the world on the way forward. Peoples Daily Lawrence Olaoye was there. Excerpts:
Why was the President presentation skewed towards the international community?
I think it is misguided, first and foremost was that he was speaking to the international audience on a global stage and the UN is there for global issues. So, I think it is absolutely in order because Nigeria is part of a global community addressing global issues. But he addressed all those issues covering also all the things that affect Nigeria as a country. When Mr. President came in, he outlined three priorities: security governance anti-corruption and the economy.
On security, he addressed the security issues, he talked about the Boko Haram and the importance of the international community being engaged in that fight and also taking measures to stop ISIS infiltrating into the sub region. He talked about the humanitarian crisis and thanked the international community of what they have done so far in helping us in that context and also the importance of keeping an eye on that crisis.
On anti-corruption which is a priority for us, he called on the international community to insist and maintain good governance and he himself talked about good governance being a priority for this country and wanted the international community to key into it because we are looking to these countries to help us get the stolen funds back.
On the economy, he is saying a lot of the conflicts in this world today are as a result of the nature of relationships between countries you have those that have and those who do not have and we have to start looking for a more equitable society, economic equity. Again, this is part of what the sustainable development goals has as an objective.
On the issue of how much is stolen from the country, it is an ongoing thing. We have been discovering all the time because you see the sophistication that there is today in hiding money around the world is amazing. Even western countries themselves have a lot of problems and it takes them a lot of time and they discovered about the Panama papers. Nobody knew about all those funds illegally stashed until you suddenly have the revelations under the Panama papers. So it is really an ongoing thing and then new ones coming up all the time, as you saw recently we never knew about the US evedroping on some telephone conversations of members of the previous government and private sectors talking about investments that were made in the United States. It just suddenly came out like that, so it is an ongoing thing.
What strategies are being put in place to recover the monies?
He cooperated with David Cameron when he was the Prime Minister of the UK to organize a global conference on anti corruption. You know for a very long period of time, it was not a priority for industrialized countries to worry about money flowing from developing countries into their banks because as far as they are concerned they have their own image of rulers of third world countries. So the President’s strategy was to put it on the front burner for them to buy into.