In addition to the creation of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations in 2017, Nigeria must continue engaging knowledgeable crack teams and subject matter experts in a bid to avoid the serious economic consequences that arise from badly negotiated or poorly crafted international economic agreements.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, made the submission on Monday at the opening of a one-day capacity building workshop for negotiators of international economic agreements, jointly organized by the Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Inter-Agency Committee on Stopping Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from Nigeria.
Disclosing this in a statement on Monday, Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President, said, his principal expressed the hope “that this capacity building workshop will be the start of a structured regular programme of training for negotiators in the initial areas of investment, trade, environment, natural resources and taxation agreements.
“I expect further down the line that negotiators of other similar agreements financial, air services, shipping, fishing rights and such like will also be included in the programme.
“Our objective must be to build a corps of crack negotiators and subject matter experts in international economic agreements and indeed to develop what should emerge as a national style of negotiations,” Prof. Osinbajo stated.
Referencing instances of agreements that brought about undesirable outcomes for countries, the Vice President noted that the Simandou Iron Ore contract in Guinea, the Bilateral Investment Treaty in Pakistan, and the Strategic Alliance Contract in Nigeria, among others, point to the fact that “poorly negotiated contracts or framework agreements can lead to serious financial losses for countries.”
He explained that one of the most significant sources of economic loss for a country is the consequence of poorly negotiated agreements.
The VP then noted that “every negotiator must realize he or she is putting the entire nation’s economic prospects on the table every time they negotiate.
“My position is that depending on the size of some of these contracts, and their implications, outside counsels who are subject matter experts, should be involved at all stages of the negotiations.”
In preparation for the Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 26), Prof. Osinbajo urged that negotiators from Nigeria and other developing countries must be focused on the issues of a ‘just transition’ to the net-zero emission target, including ensuring that gas projects continue to be funded by international financial institutions.
According to him, “a topical issue in terms of negotiations is the preparation for the Climate Change Conference of Parties taking place in the UK towards the end of this year. I expect that the approach that will be taken as we count down to that event will be to compose an interdisciplinary team of experts and negotiators that can engage meaningfully in the talks.
In another meeting on Monday with Nigerian-born Dr Michael Ugwueke, the Chief Executive Officer of Methodist Hospitals, Tennessee, USA, Prof. Osinbajo said the Federal Government will look into the National Health Insurance Scheme to complement budgetary allocations to the health sector.
The VP said “right now, practically all of the funding for the health care system is from the budget, and for a country this size, 200 million people, it will be extremely difficult to expect that we will resource our health care system purely from the budget.
“The National Health Insurance will be one way of giving us a more substantial pool of resources which we can use not only to improve infrastructure but also improve earnings for personnel.”
Earlier in his remarks, Dr Ugwueke said he was in the country partly to explore areas of partnership between the Federal Government and the Methodist Hospital especially in complementing efforts of the Buhari administration in transforming the health care system.
He commended the Buhari administration’s efforts in tackling COVID-19, describing government’s intervention in containing the pandemic as incredibly successful.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire who was also in attendance said the Federal Government will welcome offers of collaboration from the US-based, Nigerian-born medical expert and hospital administrator.