Sunday, 14 February 2016

UNDIPLOMATIC COMMENTS OF AN AMBASSADOR

Paul Arkwright
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, on a visit to Kano the other day set conditions that Nigeria must meet for his home government to return money stolen from Nigeria. Such conditions include, how the repatriated funds will be spent by the government of Nigeria, and to what judicious end. If Arkwright truly said this, and it has not been denied he has committed a diplomatic blunder to the point of impudence.

But not done, the high commissioner recommended a holistic reform of  the Nigerian judiciary, and an overhaul of the security and other government institutions  ostensibly to improve the quality of governance. He even wants the prisons comprehensively reformed too. These ‘suggestions’ fall far short of acceptable diplomatic norms.

First, Arkwright’s comments cast doubt, with no proof yet, on the intention of the sitting government and impugn its capability to manage and apply public funds for the greatest good of the greatest number of the citizens. Second, the entire suggestions constitute interference in the internal affairs of this country contrary to Article 41(1) of the Vienna Convention. They also do not promote friendly relations that are one of the functions of adroit diplomacy.

The utterly reckless behaviour of Nigeria’s political, government, and business elite which has indeed given cause for the British envoy to speak as he did, are well known. If there were no thieving Nigerians who, in collusion with foreign bankers, lawyers and facilitators are, sufficiently unpatriotic to stash their loot in, and for the development of foreign countries, surely there would not at all be cause for foreigners to begin to define terms on which Nigeria can spend its own money. The whole truth about repatriated Sani Abacha loot remains hidden from the Nigerian public. Were there no government officials so bereft of integrity as to re-loot repatriated funds, comments such as ascribed to Arkwright would not arise.

So, fundamentally, Nigerians, or just a fraction of the population really are the cause of the disrespect or disdain in which the country and a whole people are treated.  But building Nigeria is work in progress and far more citizens are sufficiently unhappy with the state of things to welcome and support any and every effort to this end – including from  abroad. Indeed, this is the reason Nigerians voted for a change of government.

A friendly country like the United Kingdom is rightly expected to help improve quality of governance in all aspects. However, this must be done within the bounds of reciprocal respect, with due sensitivity to the sovereignty of this country, and without adopting a teacher-on- responsible-management posture.

The point must be made with all emphasis that every  jurisdiction that respects international laws and conventions as well as seeks, in its very own interest, the economic stability of other nations, has a duty to prevent illicit, corrupting funds into its financial system. Besides, no one should conveniently forget the axiom that the thief of public money and the colluding receiver are both guilty. Nations that allow, by acts of omission or commission, inflow of stolen money bear at least, moral liability for the crime.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should watch more closely the manner in which representatives of foreign countries have lately gone about their assignments. Too many visits to persons and places for not-so-clearly-purposeful reasons, uncalled for utterances that make Nigeria look bad and its people look less than responsible; these  are not acceptable and must stop. The institution to enforce this is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In so far as the ministry is ‘dedicated to the vigorous  pursuit of the vital national interests’ of this country,  it can be reasonably construed that these interests necessarily include that Nigeria and its people are treated with respect within and outside its shores. The ministry should live up to its mission statement. (Guardian)