The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that Nigeria’s foreign policy in a fast-changing world should seek to engage other nations in finding solutions to new challenges and threats so that collectively, they can address them.
He specifically cited climate change, easy flow of capital/funding of terrorism, and the rapid growth of technology as some of the new challenges altering the way the world functioned in the past.
Gbajabiamila, who was speaking in Abuja on Monday at the opening of a three-day Conference on the Review of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy, noted that the country should define the terms of its foreign policy by engaging the rest of the world to address the different manifestations of the challenges.
The conference was organised by the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affair.
“To do this, we must establish the values that underpin and motivate our foreign policy as this is necessary to determine everything else, including how we protect our country from the downside of globalisation while ensuring our people benefit from the opportunities that abound”, the Speaker told the session.
For instance, Gbajabiamila said Nigeria today faced threats of insecurity and huge unemployment, which it must find solutions to internally and tailor its foreign policy to address both.
Gbajabiamila explained further, “Today in Nigeria, we face two existential threats of insecurity and unemployment that have caused a deep loss of faith amongst our people.
“All our governing efforts must be geared towards finding solutions to these problems. Whereas the rest of the government looks inwards, it is the mandate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to look outward. It is not an easy task.”
Pledging the support of the 9th House under his leadership and the entire National Assembly to achieve this, the Speaker recalled how the resort to ‘parliamentary diplomacy’ in recent times by the Legislature helped to douse tensions between Nigeria and some African countries.
Gbajabiamila informed the session how the intervention of the House helped in checking the xenophobic attacks in South Africa from becoming a full-blown crisis between Nigeria and its Southern African sister.
He also stated that the House intervened in the trade dispute between the authorities in Ghana and Nigerian traders in Accra in 2020, using parliamentary diplomacy to engage the Ghanaian Parliament to address the dispute.
“I assure you that the House of Representatives stands ready to be an effective partner in advancing our nation’s foreign policy objectives”, the speaker added.
Earlier, the Chairman of the House committee, Rep. Yusuf Yakub, observed that the world has become “highly-dynamic”, requiring a comprehensive foreign policy response from Nigeria beyond the age-long position of Africa being the centrepiece, a non-aligned nation and practising democracy.
He said, “It is about time we had a fully and comprehensively articulated document that addresses what we call the foreign policy of Nigeria.
“Though foreign policy in its true nature is dynamic, such a document must encompass as well as engender ideals that will make Nigeria maximise the gains of its relationship with every other part of the outside world, be it Asia, Africa, Europe or the Americas.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, in a remark, thanked the speaker and the House for the initiative, which he said tallied with the thinking in the ministry.
“This is an excellent and timely initiative by the House of Representatives to review the foreign policy of this country. We thank Mr Speaker and we look forward to the outcome of this conference”, Onyeama added.