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Jordan assisting Nigeria’s counter insurgency battle, says Amb Yabo

His Excellency Faruk Malami Yabo (MFR), the Nigerian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Jordan, in this interview with MUSA PAM at Amman, Jordan during the 2020 Christian Pilgrimage, says President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is strengthening Nigeria’s bilateral relations with Jordan in the area of agriculture, tourism and counter terrorism

 

President Muhammadu Buhari is considering focusing on agriculture and tourism as an option to reduce the oil dependency of Nigeria’s economy. How do you think Nigeria’s bilateral relations with the Kingdom of Jordan achieve this desired result?

 

Well, thank you very much for visiting the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Jordan. I want to seize this opportunity to welcome all of you including all the pilgrims and the officials to Amman, Jordan.

 

Like I have said, we are very excited to achieve this milestone which I always said is a good business given for Nigeria and equally a good business given for Jordan.

 

I think what President Muhammadu Buhari has set out to do since his election in 2015 is to make sure that Nigeria is once again agriculturally independent with food security. And it is also a vision that all the leaders of Africa have signed up to because African is a continent that has abundant resources.

 

We have a huge amount of rainfall everywhere, from South Africa to Burkina Faso. But when you look at the challenges Jordan is facing, records have confirmed that Jordan is the poorest in terms of water resources in the world.

 

So that is why they have learned how to optimise the little rainfall that they have recorded in this country. They have established so many channels of reserving and they also have ensured that water is dispensed to plants as they are required and not only the traditional way we do in Africa where rain will just fall. But sometimes, you just use a bucket because you have plenty of water, and I always know that necessity leads to invention.

 

So, they are doing very well in terms of agriculture. Of course, the mountain side of the country is naturally endowed; they grow apple, maize and all sorts of things.

 

But on the lower part of the country, they are like Israel, have mechanised forms of agriculture which has increased their outputs. So in Nigeria, the President and his administration and equally the Central Bank and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture collectively have been introducing policies that would lead and create food security.

 

 

Because once you don’t have food security the country will never be stable. And we have seen so much resource, and one of the spectacular policies and decisions that were taken is to ban rice importation.

 

There was a lot of outcry but that policy has been sustained. You can now see that Nigerians now have choices when they go to restaurants and choose different varieties of made in Nigeria rice.

 

I know the collaboration between states like Kebbi and Lagos and so many states are doing it from Abakaliki rice and so many coming from Jigawa and Sokoto. So, it is a major market milestone and I think we can do better with the amount of water   resources.

 

So what does Jordan have to offer in this regard?

 

Jordan has a lot to offer in terms of how a country that has poor water resources can transform its agricultural development policy to a huge fortune.

 

And by the grace of God we are inviting stakeholders in Nigeria from all the sectors to come and explore what Jordan has to offer by using technology as a major component and which is also why we need to do that.

We have to also understand that in Nigeria traditionally, farms are usually owned by the locals unlike what we have in Zimbabwe and Southern African parts. You will have mechanisation but at the end of the day once there is inequity, there will be imbalance in the way these resources are distributed and it will not be sustainable. You know, just like the Zimbabwe situation.

 

 

So, in Nigeria, the local farmers are still the sole owners of their own farms but t h e only i m – pediment they are having is that they are not deploying modern technology.

 

With modern technology you cannot only double the output but you can have so many rotations. I am sure today on your way to Madaba you saw a lot of controlled farming which Jordan is doing and when you go to the other side of Israel it is the same thing. You know and they are known for this. And I think that is something that Nigeria should collaborate with Jordan in that aspect.

 

The theme for 2020 Christian Pilgrimage to Jordan is “Peace and Development”, while we have a lot of challenges in Nigeria, Jordan is a peaceful country. What is the Embassy doing to replicate what is happening in Jordan in Nigeria?

 

Okay, I think, of course the Embassy is sending reports to the mother Ministry, stressing the functional model Jordan is enjoying. But one other element is citizens’ diplomacy. Citizens’ diplomacy is when you have people coming either for religious, education or tourism expeditions.

 

They are equally ambassadors of the country. So from our records the total number of Nigerians in Jordan is not more than 250. A substantial part of them are students while some of them are working with international organizations like the UN at the highest level.

 

And then we have few people who are investors. But, when you have 600 people from Nigeria coming to Jordan and which will be potentially 1,670, that element of citizen diplomacy will create some sense of interface between what Jordan has a n d what N i –  geria has. I know that the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) faces a lot of challenges, for instance in the course of convincing people to come to Jordan for pilgrimage this year.

 

Also when I was posted to Jordan, many thought that I was coming to meet a country that is disturbed but to my surprise they are doing credibly well. Another thing about Jordan is creating a middle class society.

 

When you look at Amman as a city you can see that you don’t find slums or segregated areas belonging to very rich or very poor persons. They are somehow living equally.

 

So by the time a nation achieves that kind of progression in terms of human progression and mobility definitely peace and stability will be achieved. The king was 110 years old when I came in and he was a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad.

 

He is 44 in the lineage which shows that even Islam preaches tolerance, and the King of Jordan has often said that religion at some point used to be hijacked by extremists who do not belong to the religion.

 

So they enjoyed credible support, and by the time a leader is respected and followed when they are doing the right thing, that encourages them to continue doing more. But in the case of Nigeria, we have democracy, we have stiff opposition and sometimes no matter how good the other party is doing, the opposition party would want to fault it.

 

And these sometimes are at the detriment of our unity and development. So this is the mindset that our democracy should lead beyond. When it comes to the issues of national development and the unity of Nigeria, partisanship should not be put at the forefront.

 

I recall when you addressed the first batch of Christians on pilgrimage to Jordan you talked about bilateral relationship in the area of counterterrorism. What do you think gave birth to the situation in Nigeria?

 

 

Perhaps you all know what the government of President Mohammadu Buhari met in 2015. In 2014 Nigeria was on the verge of serious invasion by terrorists. Every city was vulnerable from Lagos to Abuja.

 

 

But in view of the commitment he came with, the administration was able to liberate a lot of local governments that were under siege and at least he has redeemed that part of the pledge. Now, the second aspect is the fall of Libya.

 

We used to commend Niger and Mali that were more effective in terms of security simply because the security threat then was not as overwhelming as it is     today. So the fall of Libya created a lot of horrific incursions into some of these major problems in West African countries. Mali and Niger that you can travel to any time were facing the same thing.

 

So when you look at the insecurity that we’re facing in Nigeria is not a home-grown insecurity.

 

And going to the other side of bandits and others, a sophisticated sets that penetrated not just the Western countries and this particular region but they have felt that with instability here they can now establish their base in West Africa, which, I think in case of King Abbu Dallah he launched a process called the” Acaban process” for Africa.

 

And he also launched the Acaban process for East Asia like Indonesia. So, he has a global initiative for the promotion of peace. So, is not just particular to Nigeria and even the Southern and Central African countries have also signed on and are taking part in this initiative.

 

And these are the ways of getting equipment that can be used by the government and join forces to fight terrorism, and the President signed into the Acaban process as far back as 2017. And we have been getting a lot of support in terms of intelligence gathering, and equipment deployed to Nigeria.

 

That is on the aspect of combating terrorism which is a global issue. Then, we also have domestic crime, like the bandits and a lot of these things. When you have technology, it brings a lot of development but it comes with its own effect.

 

Then too Nigeria has done very well in terms of introducing a cashless system of banking. In the past, normally the robbery we witnessed was on market days when robbers moved around because they knew Nigerians were carrying cash. They used to stop and rob people but these days, everybody has migrated to a cashless system.

 

So, robbers only find out that everybody is having ATM cards, so they have to invent other ways like kidnapping people haven realised that is even more lucrative.

 

But now when they pick and make people collateral to their demands you know families normally would be very anxious to pay ransom against government’s directives.

 

And again when you are dealing with hostages, it is a very serious situation because for you to go and attack the criminals, you have to sacrifice everybody that is there and then it becomes a futile operation.

 

So, that is also the difference. When you go to decimate the camp of criminals, you’re certainly eliminating the people you’re supposed to rescue. Any time you have a new wave of technology-driven criminality, you have to analyze it and find out how you can get to the bottom of it.

 

 

But to be honest when you have everybody turning out to be a criminal because collecting ransom is the new order, this is an unconventional crime which I am sure Nigerian security agencies are doing their best they should be remembered always in our prayers.

 

With our cooperation and understanding, we should be able to surmount this. The only prayer is that the government should use superior technology to overcome them.

 

How do you think the Nigerian economy can move forward?

 

Well, in putting things together you have to remove pessimism. Nigeria is a great nation; we are highly respected everywhere and one of the biggest qualities of Nigeria is our educational system. We are producing leaders for the world.

 

We now have Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO); we have Amina Mohammed the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations (UN); we have Dr. Akinwumi Adesina heading the African Development Bank (AFDB), and we have HE. Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, the Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

 

If the quality of Nigerians and what they represent is not good then, they would not have been given the opportunity to lead these global organisations.

 

So by all standards we have a great country, the richest economy in the continent. Under the administration of President Buhari Nigeria was confirmed to be a rich economy, but our population is huge, and once you have a huge population you have to do other things to make sure that everybody is touched.

 

And then another problem we have is the Nigeria’s oil resources and funds coming from it are insufficient to take care of the demands of Nigerians. But, by the time you do a simple arithmetic of let say 2,000,000 barrels a day with perhaps 40 per cent going to the joint venture, probably in Nigeria is not likely going to have more than a Dollar or 50 per cent of all of this per day.

 

So when you multiply 50 per cent by 365 days, that is to say it is hard for every Nigerian to get one Dollar per day. But our perception is that every Nigerian should get these funds which are equitable.

 

In Saudi Arabia or Qatar, I think they don’t have over population like Nigeria. Qatar is a country where they produce even 5,000,000 barrels a day, and they own the oil producing infrastructure 100 per cent. It is possible to achieve that.

 

When you do the arithmetic you see that these people have almost 100,000 which is not only for purchasing power but per capita. But in Nigeria, still, when you look at our GDP of 445 billion dollars and our population was still around 2,200 to 2, 300 dollars per capita.

 

Where is it coming from? Certainly not from oil proceeds. That means our agriculture still represents 50 per cent of our economy. We are doing extremely very well in terms of manufacturing.

 

We have a decent and modern banking system, and our telecommunication, so we just need some sort of organisation and to achieve some sorts of organisation and partnership that we have to suspend and later we have to compare ourselves, build our system so that nobody can circumvent the system.

 

I think the most important foundation that President Buhari’s administration has laid is that for the first time the whole world has acknowledged that this is a leader that has impeccable integrity. You cannot link him to any corruption.

 

And to cleanse your system you have to start from that point then every other thing would fall in place. So, we have a President who is not doing everything for personal gain, and everybody can attest to that and that is the most important choice that Nigerians have made. Then the rest is politics and our collective resolve should address that.

 

Another area we look at is very key in Jordan is tourism. How do you think Nigeria can key into it?

 

It is something very exciting because when you look at Jordan, every Western chain is here. You can see McDonald’s; you can see Tabor. So they have been able to convince international investors with that mantra of peace and development that they enjoyed in the region.

 

So, by the time you have those businesses coming up it creates huge employment opportunities for the young people.

 

By these they can even sponsor themselves to any level of education. The tourism sector in Jordan is something we should study very well. And if we can apply some of the models which they use, I believe it can create a lot of employment opportunities for our young people.

 

And another aspect is to be able to link education with the existing gap of unemployment in Nigeria. We have to figure out that it is not just about getting a degree it’s also about what you read.

 

I think those who read professional courses such as Nursing, Engineering, Medicine and Law are better placed to access employment opportunities or be on their own both in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.

 

Universities in Nigeria need to be tasked in making sure that students are guided once they have finished their ordinary levels to go for courses that would make them employable, whether within or out Nigeria. This is with a view to making them marketable and profitable.

 

For instance, when you look at Kenyans and Ethiopians, most of them are studying Tourism and Aviation Management with a lot of good opportunities from their own countries. When you get to the Emirates you will see a lot of Africans; when you go to Dubai still you will see a lot of Kenyans working there.

 

You don’t see Nigerians that much, but only those who attempt to go to Dubai to do business. But people who are employed, who are bringing a lot of income to their economic sector but Nigerians who have gone there to do business are people who have gotten educated outside, and that is why the remittance line is also very, very important and also very, very critical to our economic development.

 

We can’t live without asking about the welfare of our 250 compatriots in Jordan. How about their welfare?

 

Well, like I said earlier, when I came here I rolled out a very comprehensive strategy and met with the Nigerians living here in Jordan.

 

There is Pastor Sam Okenah; Pastor Elijah; Kabir who is the Regional Manager in UNICEF, and we have also Rita the Head of Finance for UN and so many of them. So, we invited them and they were able to come up with their own leadership.

 

Then we met the same crisis with the students union because we met them and noticed that some were calling themselves “Hausa Students, Northern Students Association, South-West and South- East”.

 

So we’re been able to also unite the students’ umbrella to become one and they have established an interim EXCO that has also included women in that.

 

Also the most important is our collective points for selling Nigeria to Jordan through this application that we have developed and access to it available online. Nigerians here who are distressed and segregated have access to the mission through any of our distress lines.

 

And on the distress lines we have dedicated people who are always committed. Like I said we don’t have so much counsellorship issues; we have few cases and the Embassy has rooted lawyers to make sure that those Nigerians in distress are at least salvaged from the authorities.

 

In some cases where our citizens are the ones disobeying the law, we are pleading with the authorities to make sure that we have them and take them back home.

 

And the Embassy is also rendering counselor assistance to most of our citizens because in Jordan if you overstay they will just live you, and by the time you are living even if its four, five years you will still pay because every day there is certain amount they charge you once your visa expires and there is no way you can get out of Jordan without going through their airport.

 

So, in most cases you have Nigerians who are deceived by fellow Nigerians that come to Jordan, just like the physical traffic, would come thinking that they have something for them and at the end of the day they have lost what they have collected from their parents and they cannot go back.

 

And the third part is even when you are going back you have to pay the penalties. So you cannot just take your bag and live like other countries. Here they won’t harass you on the street, but they know that no matter how long it takes you would want to go home and they will calculate it.

 

And the mission has been helping those that genuinely want to go back and those that have been brought here to be exploited.

 

But like I said here in Jordan we have a Holy place as a mission, we have coordinated with the authorities and they are very supportive to us.

 

In fact I met with the Governor of Amman two weeks ago and he confirmed that he does not have any issues with any Nigerian which is quite very commendable on our community and very responsible as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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