By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye SAN, has called for better negotiation skills in dealing with expiring international trade agreements as well as in establishing new ones.
He made this call in his opening remarks at a 2-day workshop on Mitigating Illicit Financial Flows themed “Capacity Building for Nigeria’s Negotiators for Improved Terms of Engagement with the Rest of the World” which kicked off at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
In his paper titled “From Gunboat Diplomacy to the Negotiation Table”, Professor Owasanoye opined that globalization has made interactions with diverse global communities inevitable, however the rules of engagement are more often than not, unfavorable to poor economies of the global south who lack the development and technological advancements of the global north.
“This has often led to poorly constructed trade agreements which have ultimately been disadvantageous to the growth of the country and also opened loopholes to encourage illicit financial flow”, he said.
The ICPC boss illustrated the archaic practice of European super powers using their military might to cohesively reach one-sided agreement with economic minions. This “Gunboat diplomacy” as he referred to it, eventually forced nations without capacity to depend on imperialists for raw materials and overseas markets.
According to him, “This inimical approach was eventually countered by the Hague Convention (No 2) Respecting the Limitation of the Employment of Force for the Recovery of Contract Debts of 1907 and then replaced by diplomatic protection whereby states exchanged notes on how investors should be treated by other governments.”
Professor Owasanoye enumerated several reasons why there was need to focus on capacity building to improve negotiation skills especially in the trade and investment sector.
Said he: “Nigeria requires trade and investment to grow the economy. To attain this desire, we must have the potential to harness capital and technology in a manner that is not inimical to development.”
He further pointed out that the pillars of international trade agreements were erected years ago and they tended to confer undue advantage to colonialists while Africa – itself largely under colonial rule – had little to no say and thus at a disadvantage. These pillars, in his opinion, do no not work for Nigeria.
The ICPC Chairman stated that Nigeria must align with one of the ideals expressed recently by President Thabo Mbeki which champions the need to ‘build capacity to combat illicit financial flows at national and continental levels.