Former Directorgeneral, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Prof Bola Akinterinwa
One of the issues Nigeria faced last year was xenophobic attacks on its nationals in South Africa. The only way it can be prevented on a permanent basis is if the government of Nigeria ensures that its South African counterpart changes the perception of its people. When that is done, then, we can expect at least a change in attitude. The second way is the introduction of the rule of reciprocity in all our agreements. In our diplomatic relations as a whole, Nigeria’s foreign policy must not be simply reactive; it must be proactive. If you look at Section 2 of the constitution, under foreign policy objective, it is stated that one of Nigeria’s foreign policy objective would be to respect international treaties. How can the foreign policy of a country be to respect international law? I cannot as a professional student understand that. I want to believe that it is an error in statement. If you (Nigeria) want to put a stop to the embarrassment across the world, then have a foreign policy of grandeur. As it is, Nigeria doesn’t have any foreign policy of diplomatic protection.
On the visa on arrival policy, the point is why any reasonable government would want to facilitate the entry of all manners of people, especially when the agents of ISIS and their mercenaries have been completely neutralised and Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria is one of their partners. I do not know whether the situation we find ourselves is truly redeemable with this kind of policy. It’s the worst policy I have seen as a professional student.
And on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, it is a very good policy; beautiful on paper, but there are issues to take note of. When you say you are promoting trade, what are you trading in? Even if a country like South Africa can lay claim to a fairly advanced industrialization, what is the level of industrialisation in Nigeria, the so-called biggest economy in Africa? How many goods do we manufacture? Why did we close the land borders with our neighbours? It was because of the violation of the principle of the rule of origin and same issue would be applicable to the AFCFTA. Again, the infrastructural development Nigeria requires to protect its national productivity is not there, therefore, it will only become a dumping ground for all manners of imported goods. Consequently, I would say it is not time for Nigeria to ratify the agreement.