SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE AG. HON, CONSUL GENERAL OF THE CONSULATE GENERAL OF NIGERIA, NEW YORK MR. CHARLES AWANI ON THE OCCASION OF NIGERIA
The Mayor of Tulsa, The Nigerian Community in Tulsa Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to seize this opportunity to congratulate the Nigerian Community in the State of Oklahoma on the occasion of the 35th Independence Anniversary of their beloved country, Nigeria. As you are all aware, Nigeria is passing through some developing processes, just like what some of the advanced countries went through before they reached their present status. Nigerians, nonetheless, are determined people, people who believe in themselves that they will achieve the goal they have set out for themselves. It however needs the concerted efforts of every one of us, who truly love Nigeria to achieve that goal.
Nigeria joined the world arena as an independent and sovereign nation some three and half decades ago, and has, within this period and also within the means of resources available to her, conducted herself as a major and responsible player in the affairs of the international community. Her commitment to the universal principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations has been commendable. Her respect and commitment to
the Charter of the Organization of African Unity, has equally been extolled. The role Nigeria has played to maintain world peace and stability in Africa in particular, and in the world in general has not gone unnoticed by the international community. The exemplary role of Nigeria in the sub-regional peace-keeping force – ECOMOG in Liberia is one of such examples. Even though the critics of Nigeria would not want to recognize the contribution of Nigeria, the records at the disposal of the UN and OAU will clearly show the significant contribution of Nigeria to the shared responsibility of global and peace keeping with attendant sacrifices of Nigerian lives. All these selfless services offered by Nigeria seemed to be eclipsed by the unfortunate event that occurred in Nigeria in June 12, 1993, when a previous administration annulled an election and caused the state to drift.
I would not want to over flog this issue. Suffice it to say
that the prompt intervention of this present Administration (Abacha’s) in November 1993 saved the country from rapidly sliding towards anarchy and civil conflict, Nigeria has gone through a civil conflict some twenty-six years ago, it would be disastrous and even fool-hardy for us to go through the same tragic experience the second time. The question then is, where do we go from here? The answer is not as simple as many would think. Nigeria is a complex and heterogeneous society. It is an entity that is geographically diverse and ethnically intricate. In these complexities, we all have a duty to make Nigeria work, a country to be respected internationally. I would therefore want to use this forum to appeal to all of us to desist from being used by the detractors of Nigeria abroad to tarnish the image of the country. We have only one country, and we must all be true Ambassadors, whether in our capacity as government representatives or private citizens, we all have to positively contribute towards the rebuilding of Nigeria’s image.
Please I would not want my intentions to be misconstrued. In other words, I am not saying that people should not express their opinions on matters of national interest or even criticize the government, but let us do it with sincerity of purpose, objectively and constructively, so that we do not play into the hands of our detractors. Suffice it also to say that some selfish interests would be served nationally and internationally by the chaos that some narrow-minded individuals not necessarily Nigerians, would create in the country by such unguarded utterances.
Permit me to briefly touch on the Nigerian-US relationship especially in the area of business. It is no longer a secret the blows the country’s image has absorbed due to the nefarious frees activities of some Nigerians and their international collaborators who engage in the notorious advance fee fraud scam popularly called “419” in Nigeria. The Nigerian Government is leaving no stone unturned to apprehend these fraudsters. As you are aware, the Central Bank of Nigeria has once again re-issued a press statement (first issued in 1991), also taken paid advertisements in both national and international press to alert the international business community of the activities of these fraudsters. Of equal importance is the reaction of the Federal Government to the programme titled “60 Minutes,” aired by CBS in the fall of 1994 – as reported by Mr. Mike Wallace. As you are all aware, all the corrupt civil servants that appeared on that programme were arrested, and are awaiting prosecution. The fall-out of the tragic event was the total re-structuring of all the affected Departments, the arrival to the USA of a senior Government Official, of the rank of a Commissioner of Police, and number of Interpol Officers to meet with the
victims and have some discussions with them.
Despite all these negative publicities by the US media, Nigeria still enjoys some warm economic relations with the USA. To encourage flow of investments into Nigeria, the Foreign Exchange Control Act of 1962, which regulated the exportation and importation of foreign exchange, was abolished. The Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree, which allowed Nigerians only to invest in certain sectors of the economy and insisted on partnership between Nigerians and foreigners, a decree, that the US found very unfavorable has also been abolished. Thus, opening a way for more American investments to move into Nigeria. It is however unfortunate that all these enormous potentials for trade and mutually beneficial economic cooperation are not being exploited due to the US decision to suspend commercial flights between the two countries because of the exaggerated fears of insecurity in Lagos International Airport. It is regrettable that the US Government has also put up signs at the various airports both local and international, warning its nationals of dangers that would confront them at the Lagos International Airport. It is hoped that now that the Nigerian authorities have met all the security conditions laid down by the US Federal Aviation Authority, that normal and early resumption of these flights would follow.
It is also worth mentioning that the Nigerian government has been cooperating closely with the USA in combatting international drug trafficking. The Chairman of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the Special Adviser to the Head of State was recently in Washington to meet with his US counterpart on the modalities of reinforcing the agency to be more effective in combatting drug trafficking.
To conclude, I would like to inform you that the Government representatives in the US are always available to forge a strong force with the Nigerians residents in the USA to work towards enhancing and rebuilding the image of the country so as to restore it to its past glory. This explains the reason why the Government representatives reach out to you, exchange views with you, and render Consular Services whenever needed. It is my hope therefore, that with all the concerted efforts we will all make it.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria! God bless the United States of America! And thank you all!