Nigeria will hardly make meaningful impact on the international scene unless she strengthens domestic policies and institutions, experts have said.
Akin Oyebode, professor of international law, University of Lagos, led the pack of experts who urged leaders of the country to steer domestic sectors such as manufacturing, education and health sectors, among others, to exert significant influence on international policies.
“It is clear that a country like Nigeria has limited room for manoeuvre in terms of its foreign policy as it is axiomatic that foreign policy is a spin-off from a country’s domestic policy,” Oyebode said, at the foreign policy dialogue organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), weekend.
He therefore advocated self-reliance and cooperation with new trade and financial arrangements being proffered by China, as against that of the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank and International Monetary Fund).
He also said South-South cooperation as well as strengthening the country’s manufacturing, education, power and medical care, was necessary for the country to be taken seriously in the comity of nations.
Akinwumi Ambode, governor, Lagos State, represented by Tunji Bello, secretary to the state government, said the economic interest of a country should be a principal factor in determining its foreign policy.
“Domestic policies must be right to strengthen the capacity of the domestic private sector to take advantage of the foreign policy benefits,” he said.
He called for true federalism, which will include state police and allowing a state like Lagos to develop its electricity capacity to further boost industrialisation and investment.
Remi Bello, president, LCCI, said the economic interest of a country should be a principal factor in shaping its foreign policy, stressing that Nigeria’s domestic policy must be right to strengthen the capacity of the private sector to take advantage of the foreign policy benefits.
“We need to take our rightful place on the African continent. We need a strong economy to support a respectable foreign policy and vice versa,” Bello said.
Bintan Famutimi, president, Nigerian-America Chamber of Commerce, regretted that Nigeria had been forced to believe a lie for a very long time, as she felt there was never a time the oil market would be as bad as it was now.
Nigeria has unlimited resources that have been left to wither, Famutimi said, pointing out that a country like Trinidad that produces 125,000 barrels a day is a well-known supplier of gas and ammonia to the world, unlike Nigeria that produces over 2 million barrels but cannot refine them locally.
Gbolahan Olufon, a legal practitioner, said industrial development depended on rights, saying that states must put land policies that would encourage development.
“Nigeria can wean itself from export of raw materials. We import bitumen even when we have it here. We import starch even when we have cassava here,” Olufon observed.
“Nigeria currently has no coherent foreign policy that can guarantee trade development. Also, some people who represent us there are not the right ones,” he said.