President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, declared that his administration is fully determined to combat and defeat all acts of criminality, banditry and terrorism in the country.
Speaking at a meeting with the Executive Committee members of the Nigerian Community in Ethiopia (NICE), the President appealed to all Nigerians to support and cooperate with security agencies, who are ready to defend and preserve the unity of the country.
This is as Nigeria and Ethiopia, also Tuesday, signed a visa waiver agreement for diplomatic and official passport holders, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the field of Defence.
President Buhari and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed witnessed the signing of the agreement in Addis Ababa by their Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and Gedu Andargachew, respectively, during the State Visit of the Nigerian leader.
President Buhari’s meeting with NICE, moderated by Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had observed a minute’s silence in honour of Nigerians brutally killed by Boko Haram terrorists on Monday in Borno State.
Regarding the insecurity in parts of the country, President Buhari assured Nigerians, at home and abroad, that their protection would continue to remain a key priority of his administration, as well as fighting corruption and bringing prosperity to Nigerians.
On economic matters and doing business in Ethiopia, the Nigerian leader said he had been briefed on the challenges faced by some Nigerian companies with investments in the country, especially the Dangote Group and Lubcon.
”I have directed the relevant ministries to take up these issues with a view to resolving all complaints amicably with the Ethiopian authorities,” he said.
On the issue of Diaspora voting, the President while responding to a request by the leader of NICE, David Omozuafoh, said he was in support of it, but legislation was required to make it a reality.
”I have said it severally that I am not against it. However, you will need to convince National Assembly to amend the relevant laws to make Diaspora voting a reality,” he said.
On the conduct of Nigerians living in the Diaspora, the President expressed concern that some of their actions have not projected the country in good light, urging them to change their ways and obey the laws of their countries of residence.
He, however, commended Nigerians in Ethiopia, noting that they had the highest concentration of professionals working in international organizations such as the African Union and United Nations agencies.
”This is a correct representation of the Nigerian spirit of excellence and high achievement,” he stressed.
President Buhari told the meeting that his government is committed to supporting and protecting all law-abiding Nigerians, at home and abroad, to prosper, urging all in the Diaspora to help achieve this by being good citizens and worthy ambassadors of Nigeria.
The President also encouraged them to be the best in all their legitimate engagements in their host country, reminding them: ”while you are out in the Diaspora, do not forget home as you represent some of the best human assets that Nigeria possesses.”
He, therefore, urged them to use their resources, skills and talents to help the development of Nigeria.
In his remarks at the meeting, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the AU, Bankole Adeoye, extolled the huge investments of the Federal Government of Nigeria in Ethiopia since independence through the Embassy.
He described the Nigerian Embassy in Addis Ababa as one of the Nigerian missions in the whole of Africa with the largest diplomatic and residential premises.
”Nigeria has continued to live the saying that Africa is the centerpiece of her foreign policy especially with the many impacts in the AU, the United Nations Economic Community for Africa (UNECA) and Ethiopia as whole,” he said.
The Ambassador commended President Buhari for reciprocating the visit to Abuja of the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia given the country’s zeal to develop stronger ties with Nigeria.
He further extolled the President as one who has appointed the highest number of career ambassadors and attributed it to his flair for professionalism.
Also speaking , the President of NICE commended the President for the establishment of NiDCOM and his continuous leadership and contributions which have cemented Nigeria’s role as a central player in strengthening the AU.
Omozuafoh appealed to the Nigerian government to fast-track the implementation of the MoU with the United Nations on the Junior Professionals Programme allowing young Nigerians access to opportunities in international organizations.
”Similar opportunities should be explored with the UN Volunteers Programme, the AU Volunteers Corps as well as the ECOWAS Youth Volunteer Programme, ” he said.
Before the signing of the visa waiver and MoUs, President Buhari, while meeting with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, had discussed how to explore new areas of collaboration to further enhance and expand Nigeria-Ethiopia bilateral cooperation for the mutual benefits of the two countries.
The visa waiver agreement is expected to ease travels by officials and contribute to further strengthening of bilateral relations.
The MoU on Defence Cooperation is important to both countries in the coordination of efforts in the fight against terrorism and securing peace and stability in their respective sub-regions, as well as on the continent of Africa.
The MoU will also enhance bilateral military cooperation in the areas of training and education, technical assistance, exchange of visits and defence technology transfer.
It also entails cooperation in peace support operation issues within the framework of the respective laws of the Parties and on a reciprocal basis.
Both sides agreed to swiftly conclude negotiations on the revised Bilateral Air Services Agreement and the MoU on cultural cooperation.
The consummation of these two agreements will provide veritable platforms for deepening existing air transport services, tourism and cultural exchanges between the two countries.
President Buhari expressed gratitude to the Government and People of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia for the warm and generous hospitality extended to him and his delegation during the visit.
He further extended an invitation to Prime Minister Ahmed to pay a reciprocal State Visit to Nigeria on mutually convenient dates.