By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—NIGERIA’S Ambassador to The Netherlands, Oji Ngofa, has said the invitation of President Muhammadu Buhari to attend the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Rome Statute of International Criminal Court, ICC, is an indication that Nigeria’s support to the court was recognised and appreciated.
The Ambassador also said the good bilateral relationship between Nigeria and The Netherlands propelled the Dutch government to promise to expedite action to see that their embassy resumed issuance of Schengen visas in Abuja.
This came at a time about 30 Nigerians are said to be in detention in The Netherlands due to immigration offences.
Ambassador Ngofa, who spoke to journalists at The Hague, yesterday, in view of President Buhari’s visit to the country, stated that Nigeria had always been a strong pillar of support to ICC, especially in Africa, since the adoption of the Rome Statute, which established the court on July 17, 1998.
He 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.
“While there have been some criticisms 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.”
According to the envoy, the President’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, Justice 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.
While in the Netherlands, President Buhari is also scheduled to meet with Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte.
“The security and economic development of Nigeria is firmly on the agenda,” the envoy said.
He added that other top government officials will also be on hand to have bilateral meetings with their Dutch counterparts in different areas, all geared towards improving the security, economy and governance of Nigeria.
On bilateral trade between Nigeria and the Netherlands, Ngofa expressed satisfaction with the current volume of trade, which currently stands at 3 billion Euro in the first quarter of 2018.
He said Nigeria was working assiduously 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, ERGP.
“The latest figures released by the NBS (Q1) 2018 shows that the Netherlands is currently Nigeria’s largest trading partner, with 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,” he said.
The Q1 2018 figures by the NBS list Nigeria’s top ten export trading partners as Netherlands, India, Spain and United States.
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,’’ he said.
On other consular issues, the envoy praised the Nigerian community in the Netherlands for being generally law-abiding and contributing positively to various aspects of Dutch society.
He said further: ‘’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.’’