Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Oji Ngofa, on Sunday said the decision of the International Criminal Court to invite only President Muhammadu Buhari among other world leaders to the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the Court was an indication of the high regard in which Nigeria is held.
Ngofa said this in an interview with journalists in The Hague ahead of Buhari’s arrival in the country.
He explained that Nigeria has always been a strong pillar of support to the ICC, especially in Africa, since the adoption of the Rome Statute establishing the Court on July 17, 1998.
The envoy said, ‘‘As the only Head of State invited to this milestone event by the Court, that is indicative of the high regard in which Nigeria is held.
‘‘Nigeria has always been a strong pillar of support to the ICC especially in Africa, in the last 20 years, and this visit shows that this support is recognised and appreciated.
‘‘Whilst there has been some criticism of the Court, President Buhari believes that its work is vital to preventing impunity worldwide, and ensuring accountability for perpetrators of the most serious crimes.
‘‘I am certain that this visit will reassure the ICC that Nigeria remains a strong advocate of the ideals of the Rome Statute.”
Ngofa expressed the belief that Buhari’s visit will be an opportunity to show Nigeria’s appreciation for the honour done to the country by electing a Nigerian as President of the Court.
‘‘The President of the Court, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji is a distinguished Nigerian jurist.
‘‘His election as President by his peers in March 2018 indicates that his cerebral and leadership traits have not gone unnoticed,’’ he said.
The ambassador expressed satisfaction with the current volume of trade between the two counties which he said currently stood at 3 billion Euro in the first quarter of 2018.
He said Nigeria was working hard to diversify its export base and increase the non-oil exports from Nigeria to the Netherlands, in line with the administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
He added, ‘‘The latest figures released by the NBS (Q1) 2018 shows that the Netherlands is currently Nigeria’s largest trading partner, with the trade volume of over €3 billion (N1.2 trillion).
‘‘This total is composed of imports from the Netherlands worth €726 million and exports to the Netherlands of €2.29 billion. Nigeria, therefore, has a healthy trade surplus with the Netherlands.
‘‘However, a majority of the value of the exports are petroleum-based.”
Ngofa also spoke on the visa policy of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Nigeria.
In 2013, the Netherlands Embassy in Nigeria had swapped their visa application processes in Nigeria with the French Consulate-General in Lagos and the Embassy of Belgium in Abuja.
The envoy said, ”This has been one recurring theme in my interactions with the Dutch authorities since my arrival as Ambassador late last year. I also had to get my visa to this country from the Belgian embassy in Abuja, and upon my arrival, I have kept this issue on the front burner with host authorities.
”We have made series of representations and the Dutch have promised to expedite action to see that their Embassy resumes issuance of Schengen visas in Abuja.
”We believe that with the increasing trade relations between our countries, priority must be given by the Dutch to visa applicants in Nigeria, as this would facilitate business and people-to-people contact.”
On other consular issues, the Ambassador praised Nigerian community in the Netherlands for being generally law-abiding and contributing positively to various aspects of Dutch society.
”There are, however, a few Nigerians who are detained mainly for immigration and sundry offences.
”The Embassy always provides consular assistance to them, upon their request, and also liaises with the host authorities to ensure that the basic human rights of the detainees are respected. From our records, there are less than 30 Nigerians detained in the Netherlands,” he said. (Punch)