Nigeria’s foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, has praised the leadership of Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and the work being carried out by the Secretariat.
The minister was speaking at a news conference after their bilateral meeting during the Secretary-General’s first official visit to the country.
“The Secretary-General was elected at the summit that was held a few years back in Malta and since then she has introduced a lot of very new and very important initiatives within the Secretariat really empowering Commonwealth countries and Commonwealth citizens,” he said. “A lot of them are technology based innovations and governance based initiatives, and these are in the form of 42 toolkits covering different areas. Very exciting things are happening, and the Commonwealth is at the centre.”
Secretary-General Scotland said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also at the forefront of innovation, inspiring the people of Nigeria. To applause, she demonstrated to journalists and ministry officials the new tools available for member states on the Secretariat's website, including the Innovation Hub and the Office for Civil and Criminal Justice Reform (OCCJR).
“I think this is really great,” said Minister Onyeama. “An international organisation that is really daring to think outside the box, and this is just really fantastic. As you know one of the three priority areas of our president is anti-corruption, so it’s very good to see among the toolkits that you’ve prepared for countries are some very important ones supporting anti-corruption efforts.”
During her visit to Nigeria, the Secretary-General spoke at the 8th Commonwealth Conference of Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Africa where the theme is ‘Partnering towards assets recovery and its return’.
She told reporters, “We were very proud in the Commonwealth when the president graced us at the Tackling Corruption Together Conference in May 2016. He explained so graphically the poison that comes from corruption, the way it makes ordinary people suffer. I don’t think anyone will forget when they asked him: ‘What do you want out of this?’ he said, ‘I want my money back to the people of Nigeria.’
“And it’s been a matter of pride to us in the Commonwealth that we have been able to assist Nigeria in getting its money back. In one year Nigeria has managed to get back more money than in the past 10 years. It’s recovered about USD 3bn. That’s money that can go to schools, housing and roads, and I hope we’ll get even more money back together.”
Secretary-General Scotland also applauded the efforts of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and its acting chairman, whose new headquarters were opened by the president earlier in the day, in pursuing those who were corrupt.
“We look to have even more cooperation and engagement with the Commonwealth including funding,” said Minister Onyeama to the Secretary-General. “We believe in the Commonwealth, and we believe the better funded it is the more responsive to our needs it will be. We can see that from a lot of the deliverables that you have come up with, that you’re addressing the core needs of Commonwealth countries and certainly of our country. We thank you for that and commit ourselves to supporting you.”