Alex Enumah in Abuja
For the first time Nigeria may not be fielding any candidates in the various vacant positions in the African Union (AU) when the body meets next week at its 27th Ordinary Session to elect new members that would lead them for the next two years.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, made this disclosure monday while briefing journalists on the level of preparations for the 2016 AU summit.
The summit which has as its theme: ‘African Year of Human Rights,’ with particular focus on Women’s Rights’ is scheduled for July 16 to 18, 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda.
While noting that the nation has not taken a final decision on whether it would field candidates or not, the minister disclosed that Nigeria had initial plan to sponsor candidate for the peace and security commission currently occupied by Algeria, which according to him was vying for the position of the chair but had to withdrew following Algeria’s decision to retain cash position.
Onyeama however stated that if the call for the postponement of the election till next year succeeds, then Nigeria could cash in on the opportunity to field a candidate.
Apart from the election of members into various positions, other issues the summit would look at include the issue of human rights in the country, as well as the full integration of the continent through the establishment of Free Trade Area and the African Union passport.
Onyeama stated that the occasion would permit Nigeria the opportunity to showcase the successes recorded by this current administration in the area of human rights enthronement.
He said as part of measures at enthroning human rights in the country particularly in the North-east, the administration was taking steps to de-militarise the zone, as well as investigating and punishing reported cases of abuse.
Onyeama added that the government had also embedded the principle of human rights both in the military as well as the judiciary.
While commending some African countries that have introduce punitive measures for culprits of early child marriage, he said Nigeria had increased its funding towards girl child education as well as slots to women in politics, adding that with the education of the girl child and the various empowerment programmes for women, it would address the issue of child marriage in the country.
On the economic front, the minister said with the formal adoption of the AU’s passport which would be issued to Heads of State and Government of the AU at the summit, a major step towards trade liberalisation in Africa had been achieved.
Onyeama who observed that 10 per cent of trade in Africa is intra-Africa i.e trade among African countries, argued that with the AU passport coming into operation, it would be easier for member countries to do business with each other.
He said while the introduction of the AU passport would allow freer movement of people accross the continent and by extension cause the movement of arms to fuel violence, the conscious efforts of member countries particularly in intelligence gathering and stringent border policing will curtail arms proliferation.
He emphasised that Africa’s integration is a win-win situation for all members, noting that Nigeria stands to benefit a lot from the situation as it provides access to trade and a large market for the nation’s manufacturers.
The summit is also expected to fine tune modalities for pushing its quest for two slots in the United Nations Security Council as well as a critical appraisal of the projects under the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD).
According to Onyeama, the Nigeria-Algeria gas pipeline is a major project of NEPAD that the summit would be giving attention this year.