Nigeria scales up assistance to ACP countries
In a bid to sustain South-South cooperation as an important pillar of Nigeria’s foreign policy, the Directorate of Technical Aid Corps (DTAC) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expanded its operations to include partnering other developing countries to tackle their specific challenges.
The new initiative which is an addition to the Directorate’s core objective of providing upper and middle level manpower needs for African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries through deployment of
Nigerian professional volunteers to these nations, includes partnering Development Agencies to provide succour to some of the developmental burdens of the benefiting countries.
Already, the Directorate is at the verge of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Islamic Development Bank on the treatment of Obstetrics Fistula in two West African countries of Gambia and Sierra Leone in partnership with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health.
The Chief Executive of DTAC, Dr. Pius Olakunle Osunyikanmi, who disclosed this at the weekend during a brief ceremony to mark the beginning of his five-year second tenure as the head of the Directorate, said the new initiative would invariably serve as a protective shield for Nigerians at the long run. He cited the outbreak of Ebola epidemic in other African countries and how Nigerians were exposed to the scourge.
Osunyikanmi disclosed that the new initiative, which he said, was taking the country’s foreign policy to the next level, also include assisting needy countries to acquire expertise in the areas where Nigeria has excelled, including artistic designs and film production.
While remarking that Nigeria’s presence is being felt in over ten countries with many others signifying interests, the DTAC chief executive said: “In the Caribbean our partnership with Jamaica is working particularly in the area of skill transfer in Batik making and wood carving.
“We are in the process of collaborating with the National Film and Video Censor Board to Sign an MOU where we would be sending upon the request of Jamaica for the best amongst over Nollywood Actors and Actresses to go and train Jamaican Actors and actresses in their quest to create their own version of Hollywood-Jamwood as you might want to call it. Our engagement with Belize is as strong as ever.”
Osunyikanmi lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for providing support for the Directorate to excel despite the economic downturn Nigeria is facing, stressing: “This administration, more than the ones before it has been truly committed to deepening the goals of the Directorate through improved funding, and expanding Nigeria’s sphere of influence in the ACP countries.
“President Buhari from the hindsight of experience knows that the peace of our African brothers in their countries has direct correlation with the peace of Nigeria. He knew that it is more profitable to deploy our human resources; our brains to maintaining peace across the region rather than putting our booths on the ground.
You can imagine the cost to Nigeria in bringing an end to the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“Today, rather than sending soldiers and tanks, we send Teachers, Professors and experts. Education has replaced Ignorance in these countries. Under President Buhari, we have received unprecedented requests for high calibre professionals across the ACP countries. His leadership qualities have endeared those countries that had previously opted out of the programme to now demand inclusion.
Countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Fiji Island, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe amongst others, are currently reviewing our country agreement.
“Today, we are present in about 10 countries and deployment is currently ongoing. We are currently engaging Liberia on revamping their education sector. The request from Seychelles is receiving our attention.
“Nigeria’s involvement in restoring democracy to the Gambia is being matched with corresponding manpower particularly in the University of the Gambia and the Judiciary. As at today we have 32 senior Lectures and Professors in the University and three High Court Judges.
Similarly, we have about seventy senior academics in Uganda and Rwanda. The Nigeria Flag is equally flying in East Africa as evident in our outstanding presence in Zanzibar.”
He said the gains from Nigeria’s involvement in the growth of needy nations is far more than financial for the country, adding, “This aspect of Nigeria’s Foreign policy has fostered harmonious relationship between Nigeria and the recipient countries. These countries have equally remained pillars of support to Nigeria whenever Nigeria takes a position on the international stage.
“The scheme has also exposed our professionals internationally and the experience gained cannot be quantified. Those who teach in the universities are shaping the worldview in their students and these are people who would grow to be decision makers in their countries in the nearest future. They cannot but think favourably about Nigeria.
“Interestingly too, the scheme has virtually eliminated the hostilities that our traders and small scale business men usually experienced in those countries. We have through the scheme, changed the narrative that Nigeria is made up of bad elements. The outstanding performance of our volunteers has erased the narrative and interestingly a number of our volunteers are being sought for.”
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