Olugbenga Ashiru Dies At 66

Olugbenga AshiruA former Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, has died in South Africa at the age of 66, after a protracted illness.

He was Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister from 2011 to 2013.

During his tenure, he was known to have highlighted the need to increase awareness about Nigeria’s economic potential but more importantly he championed what is termed citizen diplomacy where he placed emphasis on the treatment of Nigerians abroad.

In 2013, he ordered the repatriation of some South African citizens in retaliation of the ill treatment meted out on some Nigerians on account of not possessing the yellow fever vaccine card before arriving in South Africa.

Before his appointment as Foreign Affairs Minister, the late Olugbenga Ashiru was Nigeria’s envoy to the United Kingdom, Democratic People’s Republic Of Korea, South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho and Swaziland.

Amnesty International Faults Nigeria’s Foreign Minister’s Apology Claim

Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has expressed disappointment over the comments allegedly made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, alleging that Amnesty International has apologised for factual errors in its 2012 report about human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Director, Lucy Freeman made this disclosure in a statement released to journalists.

The statement said “Amnesty International is deeply disappointed by the Minister’s comments – the government should be demonstrating its commitment to human rights by investigating credible and serious allegations of human rights violations by its security forces.

“Amnesty International stands by the findings of its report ‘Trapped in the Cycle of Violence’ launched in November 2012.

“Amnesty International has never – publicly nor privately – apologised for any of the contents of the report and stands by its research, conclusions and findings 100 per cent. She added

Freeman noted that “In a meeting with the Attorney General in Abuja on 1 August 2013, Amnesty International reiterated its concerns about grave human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces and received assurances from government that it was conducting investigations into them.”

SOuurces say Ambassador Ashiru onTuesday said the group had apologised to Nigeria during the “Human Rights, Human Security and Conflict’’, organised by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR).

“Nigerian armed forces have served well over many countries with impeccable record; human rights is part of their training.

“When amnesty was here, they said they were sorry; if you are sorry, you say it outside, let people know. I have given them the invitation to come and open an office so that when they write, it will be factual.

“We are not afraid of our operations because the military keeps to the rule of engagement, that is why there are so many arrests made.’’

Amnesty International in its 2012 report had accused Nigerian security personnel of “unlawful killings, dragnet arrests, arbitrary and unlawful detentions, extortion and intimidation” in some northern parts of the country.

UK N750, 000 Visa Bond: FG Promises To Defend Nigerians

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru has stated that Nigeria has not received any communication on the plan by the British government to introduce £3,000 (about N750,000) fee as visa bond from visitors from Nigeria.

The Sunday Times of London reported that the Conservative government is planning to implement a pilot scheme that would target visitors from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Pakistan and India from November. The countries are considered as high risk of immigration abuse in the United Kingdom.

The Minister, who spoke at a news conference in Abuja on Monday, assured that when received, the proposed visa policy will be carefully studied to protect the interest of Nigerian citizens.

“Really, we have received no official communication from the U.K. government,” he said.

“When we receive communication from them, we will study whatever proposal they are trying to do but I can assure all Nigerians that President Jonathan’s government will defend the interest of Nigerians by whatever means it can.’’

Uk’s Home Secretary; Theresa May said the David Cameron administration is serious about cutting immigration and abuses of the system.

Visitors from 18 years of age and over would be compelled to hand over £3,000 from November for a six-month visit visa.

They will forfeit the money if they overstay in Britain after their visa has expired.

9000 Nigerians in Prisons Abroad

Beside the visa issue, the Minister expressed concern about the number of Nigerians in foreign prisons, many of whom, he noted, are on death row in Asia and pacific countries.

He said over 9000 Nigerians are currently serving prisons term abroad, with the largest number of 752 in the UK.

“Most of the remaining prisoners are concentrated in the Asia – Pacific region and a good number of them are on death row” he stated.

He however said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has entered transfer agreement with some of these countries.

“We are concluding Prisoners’ Transfer Agreement (PTA) with all those countries, such as United Kingdom, Thailand, Japan, China, Indonesia, Switzerland, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Hong Kong, so that we can bring home these Nigerians to complete their prison terms.

“I wish to seize this opportunity to appeal to members of different groups; the media, civil societies, religious groups, traditional rulers, etc, to join hands in the education of our youths in an enlightenment campaign against trafficking in drugs, in particular, and other social vices in general.

“This assignment should not be left alone to Governments at different levels to handle.’’

The Minister also revealed that Nigeria has acquired a total of N8billion foreign direct investment in 2012 following its bilateral ties with other countries.



Jonathan To Lead Dangote, Otudeko And Others On Economic Mission

President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria will on Monday lead a team of key members of Nigeria’s Economic Management Team to the World Economic Forum on Africa holding in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity), Reuben Abati in a press release described the trip as part of the president’s efforts to promote rapid national economic growth and development; as well as an opportunity to assemble with global leaders to brainstorm on new strategies for accelerating economic diversification and the availability of essential infrastructure in Africa.

“President Jonathan is scheduled to leave Abuja for Cape Town tomorrow and will, at the invitation of President Jacob Zuma, undertake a state visit to South Africa ahead of the opening of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.” Abati said.

The Forum themed “Delivering on Africa’s Promise” is expected to provide a platform for African leaders in government, business and civil society and their counterparts from other regions of the world to discuss further on the continent’s integration agenda and “renew their commitment to a sustainable path of growth and development that will further unlock Africa’s potentials and talents.”

The President will be accompanied on the trip by the Governors of Zamfara, Anambra and Bayelsa states, Senator Smart Adeyemi, Honourable Abubakar Momoh, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mr. Jim Ovia, Chief Oba Otudeko and Mr. Tony Elumelu.

Several ministers including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina and the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Alhaji Musa Mohammed Sada will also be on the presidential delegation.

The President will also participate in the Grow Africa Investment Forum and thereafter honour an invitation by his South African counterpart, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma to discuss ways of improving trade and economic relations between Nigeria and South Africa.

During the visit, he will also deliver an address to the South African Parliament, co-chair a meeting of the South Africa/Nigeria Business Forum with President Zuma and hold separate meetings with the Chairmen of the Management Boards of MTN, Toyota and Nissan in South Africa.

At the conclusion of his visit to South Africa on Thursday, President Jonathan will proceed to Namibia for a one-day state visit to hold talks with President Hifikepunye Pohamba and attend a meeting with the country’s business community.

President Jonathan is expected to return to Nigeria on Friday, May 10.

Stop Meddling In Internal Affairs, Minister To U.S Spokesperson

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday sounded a note of warning to the spokeswoman of the United States of America Embassy, Deb MacLean over comments concerning the state pardon the National Council of State granted the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy to protest a statement credited to Deb MacLean on the Embassy’s Twitter account stating that it is ‘‘deeply disappointed’’ over the pardon granted to former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

The Embassy of the United States of America is also reported to have described the pardon as ‘‘a setback in the fight against corruption’’ in Nigeria.

In the protest conveyed via a diplomatic note, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the comment from the US Embassy in Abuja, which it described as undue interference and ‘meddlesomeness’ in the internal affairs of Nigeria.

The foreign Ministry pointed out that this was not the first time the Nigerian government or elsewhere would grant state pardon to individuals who have committed one crime or the other.

The Ministry further stressed that the pardon granted is entirely consistent with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.

The Ministry expressed the hope that the Embassy of the United States of America would henceforth desist from making unwarranted comments on Nigeria’s internal affairs which are capable of undermining the friendly relations that exist between them.

Jonathan to leave for Brussels on Wednesday

President Goodluck  Jonathan will on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council meeting, depart for Brussels, the European Union capital, on a one-day official visit to Belgium.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the president on Media, Dr Reuben Abati, announced on Tuesday that President Jonathan is scheduled to deliver a keynote address at the Summit of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) in Brussels on Thursday.

Accompanying the president on the one day trip will be the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, Senator Dahiru Kuta and Honourable Chinda Ogundu will also be amongst the pack.

President Jonathan is expected to meet with the Nigerian Community in Belgium before he returns to Abuja on Thursday evening.

Respect laws of your host countries, Minister tells Nigerians abroad

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbenga Ashiru.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbenga Ashiru on Friday advised Nigerians travelling abroad not to indulge in criminality in their host countries.

Mr Ashiru gave the advice at the on-going ministerial platform to commemorate the anniversary of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in Abuja.

He said the advice became necessary because 17 of 300 Nigerians had been on death row in Indonesia for drug trafficking but assured that the Federal Government had intervened on the matter.

“We have been pleading with the necessary authorities. I have sent two delegations around to see to their welfare, so that tells you we have not abandoned them.

“This is one of the reasons we appeal to Nigerians not to be involved in acts of crime because when you are caught, there is nothing the Federal Government can really do.

“Nigerians should respect the laws of their host countries; we cannot, as a government, promote criminality.

“Many Nigerians are doing well and as we all know, in every country, there are the good eggs and the bad ones but the media, agencies and civil society organisations should enlighten people.

“If we keep letting people know the risks involved, it should stem any recurrence.

The Senate President, David Mark had on Tuesday said Nigeria’s upper legislature will not intervene in cases of the 17 Nigerians found guilty of criminal activities in Indonesia.

“We will not defend any Nigerian who breaks the laws of foreign countries. If they break the laws there, they should face the consequences. This is a warning to other Nigerians abroad. They cannot continue to tarnish our image,” Mr Mark had said.

Foreign affairs Minister talks tough on deportation of Nigerians

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru has stated that the federal government will no longer tolerate the maltreatment of Nigerians in foreign countries, particularly when it involves deportation of Nigerians.

The former ambassador warned that such deportation must be done with dignity and decency, warning that the federal government “will not tolerate the mal-treatment of Nigerians for no just cause.”

The Minister made this known in Abuja on Tuesday, while addressing members of the diplomatic corps serving in Nigeria.

He noted that the Nigerian government is “not opposed to deportation of Nigerians who no longer have the rights to remain in the country from where they are begin deported, especially after they might have exhausted all local remedies” but added that such “deportation should be done within the appropriate institutional and legal framework and with dignity and decency.”

Nigeria was recently involved in a diplomatic row with South Africa over the deportation 125 Nigerians for possessing fake Yellow-fever vaccination cards. Authorities in Pretoria later apologised for the development and sent envoys to Abuja to meet with President Jonathan.

Mr Ashiru also called for improved services to Nigerians at visa centres and embassies in the country, while urging the diplomatic corps to treat Nigerian citizens abroad with utmost respect.

He also gave the foreign envoys the assurance that terrorist attacks in the country will soon be a thing of the past and called for the need to device creative ways of increasing and diversifying trade and investment between the countries, “in all sectors of our own economy especially in the power sector.”

He urged Nigerians all over the world to be law abiding and not abuse the hospitality of their host.