The new United Kingdom’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright may just have been the magic wand Britain needs to increase its presence, impact and import in Nigeria.
Last July 23, UK’s foreign ministry announced the appointment of His Excellency, Arkwright to Nigeria as the country’s High Commissioner, succeeding Sir Patrick Pocock who retired from diplomatic service about same time the current High Commissioner was appointed. However, he was to assume duty in September. That was normal in whatever way one look at it.
No sooner had he presented his letter of credence to President Muhammadu Buhari early this month than Arkwright settled down to the brass tasks of his posting.
His outing during his very first official meeting with Nigeria’s President was instructive of what was to be expected from his stay here.
Pronto, Arkwright assured Buhari of Britain’s preparedness to give Nigeria the fullest possible support and assistance in the recovery of its looted resources.
His words: ‘‘We are most ready to help. We have a good team at the National Crime Agency, NCA, working with your Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Tell us where and how we can help and we will provide the assistance.’’
He was responding to Buhari’s remarks that Britain had been of tremendous assistance to Nigeria in its anti-corruption war, and however called for the speeding up of the processes of investigation, prosecution and repatriation of public funds stolen by past corrupt public officials and their accomplices.
British Navy ship coming
And to give bite to his earlier pledges to Buhari, his government and people of Nigeria, Arkwright is coordinating efforts to strengthen ties between Nigeria and Britain in many sectors. For instance, his home country has concluded plans for a Royal Navy Ship, HMS LANCASTER to visit Lagos.
The vessel, a Frigate class (F229) ship, which is currently in South Africa, is scheduled to arrive Lagos before the end of October. Lagos is the headquarter of the Western Naval Command; and the visit would be a four – day working visit where, alongside its crew, they will train with their Nigerian counterparts.
British High Commission’s Defence Attaché, Col. Dominick Fletcher disclosed this when he paid a courtesy call on the Flag Officer Commanding the Western Naval Commend, Rear Admiral Raphael Osondu, saying the vessel will arrive Lagos this month for a joint training with Nigerian Navy personnel.
According to Fletcher, both navies will train on counter piracy, illegal bunkering tactics, boarding and interdiction and other necessary manoeuvres that will be mutually beneficial.
“It is basically capacity building, to enable the Nigerian Navy to be more effective in dealing with prevalent challenges in Nigeria, whether it is oil theft or criminality along the Nigerian coastlines,” British High Commission’s Defence Attaché further said.
Energy, prosperity, security
Just before Nigerians could digest the import of the expected visit of the Naval ship, UK’s Minister for Africa, Grant Shapps, arrived the country with another message of hope.
The Press and Public Affairs Officer in British High Commission in Abuja, Mr. Joe Abuku, announced in a statement that United Kingdom would be providing a comprehensive package of support to Nigeria, including expanded military training and intelligence cooperation, anti-corruption capacity building and investigative support, and an annual development programme worth £218 million, contributing to the increasing prosperity at the heart of a thriving trade relationship worth £6.1 billion per year.
Saying that the visiting Minister pledged the foregoing as well as promising to support Nigeria’s stability and development at the start of his first visit to the country, the statement quoted Schapps as saying: “The UK has a strong relationship with Nigeria and we will continue to promote vital investment, tackle corruption and create a safer and more prosperous future for the country. From a trade relationship worth over £6 billion every year to our military cooperation against Boko Haram, Nigeria is a country whose security and prosperity truly matters to the UK.
“With more than half of Nigeria currently living without electricity, it is vital that more people can access clean and reliable solar energy. Not only will this transform people’s everyday lives, it is a tremendous opportunity for growth.
“I am determined that Britain will build on its close relationship with Nigeria by sharing our skills, knowledge and expertise.”
Nice words; and well said too.
As it is traditional with the average Nigerian, when there is the appearance of good tidings coming just when a visit enters your home, he is not only seen as a harbinger of the goodness that has come, but also represents the manifestation of greater glory to come.
Thus, in the above context, Arkwright and his posting are bringing the above to Nigeria.
While we all pray that Nigeria reaps so much from it all that before long its impact would be manifest in the land and among its people, it must be sounded here that whatever progress we all envisage the above development would bring depends on commitment on our part in making things work.
Realising that there are two parties to such bilateral relationships, Nigerians must rise up to the demands of the speed with which the British are arriving the country for mending the apparently broken down walls of bilateral communications and cooperation for the mutual benefit of both countries and its peoples. In the current regime of change, it is incumbent for all to align with our foreign friends of goodwill to move this nation forward.
Certainly, this is not a time for diplomatic double-speak; it is not a time for large-scale insincerity that easily derails otherwise well thought-out programmes; it is not a time of one country trying to outsmart the other by employing tactics unknown to modern day diplomatese. As for fellow Nigerians, that it is now taking a foreign country to be so deeply concerned about our peace, security and economic progress must interest us all.
On this note, let all the 419ners, Yahoo-Yahoo boys, men and women of evil intentions steer clear of this goodness that is coming from the British High Commission to Nigeria. One set of Nigerians I must appeal to here are the civil servants whose expertise in declaring vital files and documents missing as well as deliberately being cog in the wheel of progress which legendary. Enough of the bad name you guys have given this country in the years past. It is time to clean the Augean stable; and the British that are coming in to work with Nigeria must be taken in as partners in the unique Project Nigeria.