President Muhammadu Buhari has described the appointment of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as well-earned, despite the support from home.
Buhari made the remark on Monday when he hosted Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala at the State House in Abuja just as Finance Minister Mrs. Zainab Ahmed tabled a list of what Nigeria expected from the global body.
He said: “You also earned it. We are happy you made it, but you earned it with your record of performance both at home and abroad.”
The President’s remarks were contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.
According to him, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has again put Nigeria more on the world map, “and I congratulate you, as well as the country. I know you will represent us so well.”
Buhari, who lauded Nigerian women once again, pointed to key positions they hold in his administration, saying the same would be extended to youths to encourage them, “so that they can be ready for the challenges of the future.”
The WTO boss thanked the President for the pulsating support she received in the race for the position.
She said: “You nominated me; you wrote hundreds of letters and called up hundreds of world leaders. Without your personal and direct intervention, it may not have worked. The people of Nigeria also supported me massively. The youth were wonderful, always encouraging, backing me up on social media.
“Mr President, the world recognises what you have done. Since its establishment, only men have led the WTO. Now, a woman has emerged for the first time, and she’s a Nigerian. We are so honoured.”
Okojo-Iweala, later met with Mrs. Ahmed and the Minister of Industry Trade and Investment. Adeniyi Adabayo.
At the meeting with Mrs. Ahmed, she disclosed that the Federal Government had to clear Nigeria’s 2019 and 2020 WTO arrears to make her ascension to the DG position hitch-free
Ahmed asked her to support the nation’s push for its gas to be classified as transition energy.
The minister explained that Nigeria was advocating “transition energy because it is true now that the issue of climate change is upon us.”
Mrs. Ahmed, who argued that “ gas emissions in Nigeria is very minimal compared to global emissions,” said:: “We have these assets and we have not tapped into them to aid our development”.
“We, therefore, want you to support us and we have it in our agenda in COP 26 to campaign for gas to be classified as a transition energy even if it’s for a limited period of 20 years.”.
Nigeria, according to the Finance minister “also wants the WTO to support us in looking at how we can leverage on bio-economic resources”.
“it is not new we have been too dependent on fossil fuel and crude contributes significantly to the extent that whichever way the market swings to, that’s the situation we will find ourselves and it is unhealthy”.
“We also want the WTO to help facilitate trade under the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and enhance the ease of doing business, strengthen manufacturing, and also get women involved and support Nigeria in driving economic inclusive growth by paying special attention to the contributions of women”.
Mrs. Okojo-Iweala said her visit was to see how the WTO can support Nigeria improve her ability to trade..
She said she sees Nigeria’s poor figures regarding trade as “a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of the AfCFTA and be able to expand and one of the objectives is to see how the WTO can help and add value to our primary products especially within Africa.”
The WTO DG also tasked Nigeria to step up its Gross Domestic Products(GDP) as its 19 percent trade level in Africa is below world trade share GDP.
According to her, Nigeria is 103 out of 167 counties in logistics which means it has a long way to go.
She said: “We have difficulty and challenges with our Economy we have to move fast, we have the potential to do so so long as trade is a strong part of that story.
“The WTO can work with us to help deliver support directly with our own resources in technical assistance, training, and quality upgrade but also with other institutions in unlocking some of the bottlenecks that confront us.
“The WTO is about supporting investments and supporting infrastructure both in technical assistance and getting other organisations to do same, it is not a financial institution but it works with financial institutions. “
Adebayo said under the joint statement initiative, Nigeria looks forward to outcomes that would take into account, its developmental priorities.