Only Nigeria can solve its insecurity problem, says Munchow-Pohl
Acting German Consul General, Dr. Bernd von Munchow-Pohl, in this interview with Ngozi Egenuka, spoke about insecurity, trade relations and the stolen Nigerian artefacts.
What can you estimate as to the value of Nigeria’s trade relationships with Germany?
WE have long-running trade relations with Nigeria. In sub-Saharan Africa, it’s the third-largest, but there is always room for improvement. Given the size of the Nigerian economy, we have not fully developed its potential yet. The trade relations, however, could be more diversified. Right now, the biggest part of what Germany imports from Nigeria is crude oil but Nigeria has potential for many other export items, which will also be suitable to the German market.
Apart from crude oil, what else does Nigeria export to Germany?
There are also some agricultural and processed food products but we would like to see more non-oil products. There is great potential for that, but it will take some of the nation’s strength and will also need support, especially, through policies from the government to enable this exporter to do business so that the country will be less dependent on oil.
Are there talks with Germany to help Nigeria achieve a diversified economy?
That’s something that would have to happen here because every country or company follows its own interest. If you partner with us, it is because you want to get something from us and we partner with you because we want to get something from you and it is very normal. Germany is a major producer of machinery, so, Nigeria is very interesting for us because it has a huge market. To produce goods that will serve the population of Nigeria, there is a need for a lot of machinery. To become less dependent, you need to understand the whole regularity framework and policies in place that enable the production of certain things vis-a-vis importing. In the automotive industry, for example, in earlier decades, there was a local assembly of Volkswagen in Nigeria, but it doesn’t exist anymore and this has to do with the policy framework of the government of Nigeria.
What investments opportunities are available for Nigerians in Germany?
We don’t have many regulations that limit these things, so, if an individual or firm has the money to invest, they should find out the best field to invest in.
We are seeing a lot of talent export from Nigeria to other countries, is this also happening in Germany or what kind of skills are you seeing in your country?
I see Nigerians who work in Germany or have worked in Germany before and can speak fluent German too. I will say there is not yet a mass influx of skilled human labour to Germany. The expectation of skilled labour is very high in Germany, so, there is not so much happening yet. In some German factories, you hardly see a lot of people, so, we are very specific about labour and that is my opinion, but Nigerians have a chance because they are very gifted, creative and hard-working people.
What is the update on the repatriation of the stolen artefacts?
The German side is committed to returning the stolen artefacts. The artefacts were obtained legally by the German museums because they bought them somewhere, but it doesn’t change the fact that it belongs to Nigeria as its country of origin. Those German museums that hold the artefacts are ready to return them. This is not for the German government to say because we are not the owners but the museums. However, the German government has played a key role in initiating the process. You might have noticed from the local media that there are different interests on the Nigerian side on who will be the keeper of the artefacts. Now the parties involved have agreed to have the Federal government sign for it but a Nigerian foundation will be in charge of caring for and getting the artefacts a new home. We hope that with this, the process will be faster and Germany is willing to help with part finance and construction of the exhibition centre where the artefacts will be displayed.
What way is Germany supporting Nigeria in tackling insecurity?
We have various parts on the German government institutions such as the armed forces that embark on programmes to help curb these issues. However, insecurity in Nigeria is a problem only Nigeria can solve.