Nigeria as an independent nation started her diplomatic relations and have succeeded over the years in opening diplomatic missions in all the regions and almost in all the friendly nations of the world. Before opening diplomatic missions abroad, Nigeria has always been guided by her foreign policy objectives as enshrined in the constitution. To underline her foreign policy objectives, Nigeria in chapter 11, section 19 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended 10th January, 2010 page 34, states that the foreign policy objectives shall be:
Promotion and protection of national interest,
Promotion of African integration and support for African Unity,
Promotion of International cooperation for the consolidation of international peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination of discrimination in all its manifestation;
Respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication; and
Promotion of a just economic order.
NIGERIA-UKRAINE DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
All observers of the Nigerian foreign policy thrust would agree that Nigeria has never deviated in her foreign relation policies with other countries. It was in pursuance of these objectives that Nigeria after independence opened diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union, a relationship that has continued to blossom after the Soviet Union era. Nigeria maintained full diplomatic ties with the then Soviet Union until the break-up of the Soviet enclave in 1991. With the fall of the Soviet Union, its former fifteen republics emerged as independent sovereign nations with full rights to conduct their respective international relations with other civilized nations of the world. It was in furtherance of Nigeria’s friendly posture and realization of its foreign policy objectives that led to the recognition by Nigeria of these new subjects of International law emerging from the former Soviet Union including Ukraine by extending the hand of friendship and recognition. The act of recognition for Ukraine was formally executed on the 10th of October, 1992 and the Mission in Ukraine was concurrently accredited to the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and later the Republic of Georgia.
. With the growing interest in relations between Nigeria and Ukraine coupled with the demand to attend to the needs of Nigerian citizens resident in Ukraine and the Baltic States, widen the scope of diplomatic and consular services, Nigeria went the extra mile to establish physical diplomatic presence with Ukraine in the year 2000 by opening a diplomatic mission in Kiev. Nigeria has at different occasions re-emphasized that the bedrock of our Diplomacy is the citizens interest. The citizens’ interest must be paramount not minding where or their location as long as they are Nigerians.
NIGERIAN CITIZENS PLIGHT
The Nigerian Mission in Ukraine as earlier observed has concurrent accreditation to the three Baltic States and the Republic of Georgia. There is no gain-saying that the number of Nigerians-both students and other residents in the cities of Ukraine, mainly in Kiev, Vinnitsa, Kharkov, Donetsk, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Ivano-Frankovsk, Lvov, Sumy Ternopol, Vinnitsa and in the three Baltic States of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Republic of Georgia are too numerous to be left to the coverage of the Nigerian Mission in Moscow or the Mission in Poland. Their number outweigh even those in Poland and the Czech Republic or others within this region. The festering frost relations between Georgia and Russia makes it difficult for Nigerians in Georgia to easily travel to Moscow for Consular matters and same as to Poland which is understandably far apart.
Since the break-up of the former Soviet Union, travels by Nigerians in Ukraine to Poland , Russia or other sovereign states of the former Soviet enclave have become so cumbersome as each has their immigration regulations making them not visa free to Nigerians. The visa regulations for Nigerians to travel from Ukraine to any city in the Russian Federation requires invitations and other demands that needs days to fulfill if not weeks. The discomfort and waste of lean resources by these students or other Nigerian residents in this region cannot be overlooked when decisions as closure of a mission are being taken or contemplated. The larger picture and well-being shall include if not must; the burden and suffering it brings on the Nigerian population in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia , Lithuania, and Georgia who are predominantly students. Russia today is at war with Ukraine and subjecting Nigerians in Ukraine to travel to Russia or Poland for consular matters will be exposing them to danger and hardship which will portray the government in bad light and needs to be avoided. In the 1980s and 1990s before the break-up of the Soviet Union many students who were in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine never had it easy travelling to Poland or Moscow, for consular matters because it involved different hazards and extra- accommodation expenses. Also getting Nigerian diplomats to cover Ukraine then was not regular as many Nigerians who had Consular matters suffered greatly in the republics.
The choice the Nigerian Government should consider today is that which would not put to risk the lives and welfare of Nigerians in Ukraine, the Baltic States and Georgia who are over Twenty-Five thousand in number and increases yearly, but to consider the long effect and suffering that would result in the event of closing the Nigerian Mission in Kiev. There is no pretence that diplomacy is an expensive route to travel but it comes with the protection and consideration of the welfare of the Citizens.
What is actually the cost of running the Mission in Kiev with regards to the maintenance of structures and personnel up-keep- estimates per annum? What is the projection of maintaining the Mission in Kiev for the next 5-10years? Does these compare to the gains of rendering standard services to our citizens and taking care of all foreign service officers within this period? What actually is the total of their Foreign Service Allowances as most of them have residences already bought and some in rented accommodations or are there no records of these?
To effectively run the Mission in Kiev that covers the five countries on its concurrent accreditation, the main manpower or personnel projection needed are: An Ambassador, a Foreign Service Officer as Head of Chancery, A Financial Attaché, An Administrative Attaché, Consular//Immigration Officer, Financial Attaché. Local Staff are always engaged in other areas as might be necessary. This definitely cuts cost or are there other bloated costs?. What else are the hidden expenses that Nigeria cannot bear for the interest of her citizens who travel in their thousands every academic year to Ukraine, the Baltics and Georgia for their tertiary education; and other Nigerians and their families resident in those countries that the Mission in Kiev have concurrent accreditation to? Have the proponents of this closure theory imagined the agonies of these students’ families and loved ones in Nigeria who pay their taxes and contribute to the growth of the economy here in Nigeria. How much is too big for Nigeria to spend in looking after their wards diplomatically in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Georgia?
While we play with everything, we shall not play with history because history at the long run will record that it was you that misled the Nigerian Government into taking wrong decisions while you know the truth to be otherwise. Your conscience will certainly be troubled even at death.
Would it not be reasonable to acquire properties for the Head of Mission, Chancery and for other officers, saving the Country the cost of renting accommodation for diplomats and their accompanying families over time?. It is common knowledge that most of the former ambassadors who served in this mission, made recommendations for the purchase of properties from inception, but again the machinery ever slow in decision making became an obstacle. The story remains till date. The Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would make a good name by dusting up the files of recommendations and make it possible for Nigeria to acquire properties at the long run in Ukraine after twenty five years of establishing full diplomatic relations.
It really baffles this writer how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs arrived at the decision to close this Mission in Kiev. How many former Ambassadors or Heads of Mission that represented Nigeria in this region were asked to make input or their opinions sort on the prevailing tendencies in the region before arriving at this decision? If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have their records or contacts , let it be known that at inception Ambassador Alfred Nanina, a career diplomat opened the Mission with now Ambassador Joseph Ayalogu as then Deputy Head of Mission a career diplomat, other ambassadors per tour of duties were late Ambassador Ignatius Ajuru, Ambassador Amos Idowu who once served in this mission as Deputy Head of Mission is a career diplomat, before the appointment of Ambassador Ibrahim Pada and Ambassador Frank Isoh also a career diplomat. It would have been worthy to seek the opinion of some of them on the peculiarities of this mission and what they would advice. Let us for once work with records as a Nation of the 21st Century and protect our citizens wherever they are than to abandon them to their fate as this decision seems to portend. DIPLOMANCY IS NOT ONLY ABOUT TRADE AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS;. CITIZENS’ WELFARE IS PARAMOUNT.
It may be necessary at this point to enlighten those Nigerians who may actually not know the potentials of Ukraine and what Nigeria gains and would continue to gain in maintaining this vital diplomatic relationship.
Nigeria has placed a lot of emphasis in the rehabilitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant. It is no secret that about 70% of Ukrainian Engineers were the core Soviet Union Engineers who built all the facilities at Ajaokuta through the Soviet Union contract with Nigeria on the establishment of the steel complex since 1977. Presently, as efforts are geared towards the rehabilitation and resuscitation of the plant, most of the engineers that would be involved are also from Ukraine. It is important to note that some of the Companies showing investment interests in the Ajaokuta Steel Complex rehabilitation are from Ukraine. Trade and business interests with this region needs to be promoted beyond the level that it is today.
The aspect of manpower development has remained one of the positive gains of the diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Ukraine through the education sector. About one thousand Nigerian youths or more travel to Ukraine annually, for studies in most of their tertiary institutions in different disciplines. Good and qualitative education at affordable fees! This tremendously pays off as source of manpower development for Nigeria.
It is on record that many states in Nigeria signed agreements with tertiary institutions in Ukraine for the training of their state sponsored students. These areas of interest and manpower development is working and more scholarship opportunities from the Ukraine Government is achievable and could be expanded after signing the necessary bi-bilateral agreements. It is not surprising that Nigeria still sends students through the Bureau for External Aid under the Ministry of Education to Ukraine.
At the present development level, Ukraine has solved her problems in the areas of power generation, distribution and transmission. Their source of stable power generation ranges from thermal, nuclear, hydro, wind and alternative sources like solar energy. There are functional institutions and factories that produce all the components starting from cables, transformers, solar panels and power generating gas turbines. On the same magnitude is the training of experts in these areas. With the present investment friendly climate that exists in Nigeria, these Ukrainian business outfits can be encouraged to set up assembly plants in Nigeria and over time start the local manufacturing of components with locally sourced raw materials, a vista for unquantified job creation and national security.
Ukraine as at today has one of the best railway networks in Europe. The rail lines have become also one of the safest as there have never been major accidents or breakdown in the last twenty years. All their needs for construction and maintenance are locally manufactured, sourced and as well maintained. Nigeria can tap into the Ukrainian technology and with time have a well-run rail system manned by our trained work force thereby reducing youth unemployment. The same goes for the metro or subway as means of transportation. The standard and level on this transport system in Ukraine creates room for the envisaged transfer of technology which have seen nations grow to meet the challenges of their economy. On this Nigeria stands to gain; now that we think of different visions of our economic growth.. All locomotives and wagons are locally fabricated and produced. Nothing stops us from buying our wagons and locomotives for the recent modernized railway lines from Ukraine. They are durable and competitive in world price value.
In her economic strides, Ukraine has come a long way to self reliance in manufacturing or producing all it needs for natural growth in terms of heavy industrial development, thanks to the industrial base they inherited during the former Soviet Union. At self rule, the country has maintained their growth and innovations in the auto manufacturing industry. The products at the Kremenchuk Auto Plant ranges from heavy duty trucks, construction equipment, tractors of different sizes that compete favourably in the world market. Apart from their technical qualities, their prices are also cheaper and with a good negotiating strategy, they can set up assembly plants in Nigeria which will eventually reduce their cost, provide local employment and make Nigeria a hob for their products in the West African Market.
The same is applicable in the areas of military hardware, training of officers and manpower development. Nigeria has maintained high level of relationship with Ukraine in these areas and more closer ties could be achieved in technology transfer in no distant time.
Our drive in Nigeria for space technological development calls for closer ties with Ukraine which has solid potentials developed during the former Soviet Union and presently sustained for greater heights.
In the areas of diary production, the Ukraine market is known for the high level production of full cream milk powder used in the making of yoghourt, ice cream, bakery and confectionery, chocolate, processed cheese and spreads, recombined sweetened condensed milk etc.
Also ranching is well established in Ukraine with grass growing technologies for cows. These technologies can be transferred easily to assist Nigeria resolve this present security problems of cow rearing.
A group of scientists in Ukraine have developed Organic-Mineral fertilizers that are entirely different from the conventional fertilizers capable of increasing agricultural yields three times than what is obtained with the conventional fertilizers today. These same innovations are not only used in increasing agricultural yields but also serve as soil stabilizers that are of great importance in the control of different types of erosion which has become a problem in most parts of Nigeria.
An improved sorbents discovered by this group of scientists are also applied in the reclamation of contaminated soils, clearing of oil spillages and combating erosion and desertification. The efficacy of their know-how is not in doubt. Nigeria is today faced with the problems of erosion, desert encroachment and need for abundant food production. Nigeria has the ample opportunity to harness these know-how for our national security.
Ukraine can comfortably rely on the palm oil and cassava production in Nigeria as sources of raw materials for its pharmaceutical and cosmetology industries which presently depend on heavy importation of raw materials from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Nigeria Cocoa can be exported to Ukraine for beverages and chocolates production which Ukraine does not have and heavily imports from Cote ’divore and other countries.
Ukraine is another potential market for our locally produced rice as Ukraine imports rice heavily from Thailand, Pakistan and Malaysia.
In the Oil and Gas industry, Nigeria relies on the importation of different heavy duty and highly sophisticated machineries for exploration and production. While Nigeria with comparative advantage in this areas depends heavily on imported machineries, Ukraine offers a handy partner that would be willing to work with Nigeria and assemble the machineries at reduced costs on partnership.
Ukraine is today at war with Russia and the issue of Russian gas transit through Ukraine to Europe and supply to Ukraine has remained a sore point in their relations. Nigeria can be a major alternative to the supply of gas to Ukraine with multiple economic advantages.
These would position Nigeria to continue harnessing the benefits of more contacts with the Ukrainian economy and culture. The intellectual height attained by Ukraine will be a big boost to the development of Nigerian Agricultural Sector and Industrial Development. Irrespective of the economic hardships experienced in Ukraine, the cottage industries are in production. The heavy industrial set-ups are witnessing rapid growth not minding that the country is not as endowed with mineral resources as Nigeria. To develop our scientific and defence industries, Ukraine becomes a handy partner to go with any day by deepening cooperation. Nigeria would definitely tap into the abundant technical know-how and talented scientific environment of Ukraine to support our desires of becoming a highly industrialized nation. It is wrong to recommend closure of this mission as a way of cutting cost for Nigeria. It is insensitive to the lives and welfare of Nigerian Citizens resident within this region of diplomatic coverage. An immediate re-think and reversal is needed.
GOD BLESS NIGERIA
Uchenna Dike Ph.D