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NSIL and NAIA Zoom Meetings on African Security: The Issue of Russo-Ukrainian War and Afro

todayJuly 3, 2022

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Bola A. Akinterinwa 

NSIL is Nigerian Society of International Law, established in 1968 by Justice Taslim Olawale Elias, a former Judge of the International Court of Justice, to foster the study and advancement of Public and Private International Law, Comparative Law, International Institutions and International Relations. The NSIL also has as objective the promotion of research and cooperation with societies, associations and other organisations with similar aims. 

NAIA is Nigerian Academy of International Affairs, recently initiated as a special think tank by Professor Bolaji Akinwande Akinyemi, CFR, and former Minister of External Affairs of Nigeria. It has as objectives the promotion of the understanding of International Relations in all its ramifications, provision of a platform for theorists of International Relations and Practitioners of Diplomacy to exchange ideas on how best to advance Nigeria’s foreign policy interests in international politics, by particularly using the understanding of International Affairs, Rule of Law, Democracy and Protection of Human Rights to promote the maintenance of global peace and security. More important it wants to promote international respect for Africa, and particularly Nigeria, in the conduct and management of International Affairs.  

Afro is the name of the single currency being contemplated for establishment and use within the framework of the African Monetary Union. There are some regional currencies, such as the West African and Central African CFA franc. Even though the Libyan dinar (LYD) was the strongest currency as of March 2019 in Africa, efforts to have an Afro currency since thirty years ago, have been to no avail. In this regard, consistent with their aims and objectives, the NSIL held a Zoom meeting on Monday, 27th June, 2022 while the NAIA held its own on Wednesday, 29th June. 

The NSIL investigated the implications of the Russo-Ukrainian war on energy and security in Africa. The meeting, moderated by Professor (Mrs.) Yinka Omorogbe, a Research Professor with the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, President of the NSIL, and former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Edo State, took much interest in the implications for state security, food security, and opportunities open to Nigeria to take advantage of. For the NAIA, it focused on economic security, the need for the establishment of an Afro currency, in the strong belief that a common African currency is a major instrument for economic development which is also a desideratum for politico-economic security. 

What is noteworthy about the Russo-Ukrainian war and the quest for an Afro currency is that the world is currently challenged by recidivist national insecurity and emergence of inter-state insecurity. This development has also thrown up the challenge of the Afro and reduction of Western influence in international monetary relations. This especially raises the significance of the NSIL and NAIA zoom meetings.

Issues in Russo-Ukrainian War and Afro  

The first issue raised by the NAIA’s quest for an Afro currency is the renewal of the controversy over the need for revisiting Professor Bolaji Akinyemi’s call for a Concert of Medium Power (CMP) in 1987. Professor Bola Akinterinwa and Ambassador Godknows Ighali shared the same views on what the CMP would have achieved in promoting Nigeria’s foreign policy interests had it not been myopically nipped in the bud. The objective of the rejected CMP was greatness for Nigeria and this is precisely what has been reactivated by the new politics of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), which aimed at seeking greatness and international recognition for themselves. The quest for greatness and recognition is necessarily an expression of protest and an attempt to re-affirm oneself in the conduct and management of international questions. In other words, it is a message to the world that the BRICS must be relevant in the management of affairs that concern them and where the relevance is not so recognized, then it cannot but be self-reliancism as alternative.

When the idea of a CMP was first mooted, it was never meant to challenge the West but to enhance the capacity of member participants to enhance self-protective measures vis-à-vis perceived Western exploitative dominance. Put differently, the cardinal objective of the CMP was to provide an alternative platform to the political mainmise of Western institutions in the governance of global affairs. 

The CMP was conceived to be an informal and flexible consultative organ of 16-member regional powers or countries that had important modicum of influence in their regions. The 16 members were carefully chosen from the four regions of the world: Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Dr. Femi Aribisala has explained the purpose of the CMP better by submitting that the members were not only expected to act together in mediating capacity in pressing global conflict-situations and building a bridge between competing interests in the international system, but also enabling ‘its membership to exert greater collective influence in world affairs. By so doing, it would ensure that questions of international peace and security would no longer be the exclusive preserve of the superpower and their respective alliance systems’ (vide his “Bolaji Akinyemi’s Concert of Medium Powers,’ in Financial Nigeria, 02 January 2013. For more information, see also Bola A. Akinterinwa, “The Lagos Forum and the Medium Powers Debate,” International Problems, Society and Politics (Jerusalem, Israel), Vol. XXVIII, 52(1-2), 1989, pp. 57-68).

And perhaps most importantly, Dr. Aribisala drew attention to two points relevant to our discussion here. First is that whatever is generally initiated in Nigeria is hardly appreciated at home. Nigerians act as if they are only consumer intellectuals which ought not to be. Explained differently, if the initiation of a CMP had come from outside of Nigeria, and particularly from Europe or America, would every Nigerian not have given greater appreciation to it? Secondly, Dr. Aribisala noted that ‘under Akinyemi’s leadership, Nigeria became the first black African country to project itself so vividly at the centre-stage of international politics. The very fact that the sixteen countries which attended the exploratory senior officials meeting in Lagos in March 1987 decided to christen the initiative as the Lagos Forum, out of respect and appreciation for Nigeria as the initiator of the venture, meant that Nigeria’s leadership was recognized and accepted.’

Dr. Aribisala could not have been more correct. In fact, the new initiative of a Nigerian Academy of International Affairs with an objective to promote international respect for Nigeria and Africa is not only commendable but particularly more so with its agenda on how to assisting African leaders in achieving an African common currency. Most unfortunately, however, the Western world was vehemently agitated with the proposal of a CMP and has simply ensured maximum pressure to kill it, but without putting an end to its politico-economic domination of the South. This cannot but be a fresh challenge for the NAIA to begin to address.

A second issue is that of the BRICS, which in collaboration with Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, has decided to establish an alternative international monetary fund by putting together the sum of $2.2 billion each to lend to countries in need and at a very competitive interest rates. This means that the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) will no longer enjoy its current monopoly and, and by so doing, the Western economic hegemony that has continued to characterize the management of international economic relations, will also be no more. 

Undoubtedly, as once theorized by Professor Jean-Baptiste Duroselle of the University of Paris-Sorbonne that ‘tout empire périra’ (every empire shall perish), the American empire appears to be on the path of a very challenging decline. When the making of another international monetary system is examined against the background of the rejection of the CMP by Nigeria’s policy makers, one cannot but ask what Nigeria and even Africa now want to do. In the first case, Nigeria is increasingly not in any way reckoned with internationally. Nigeria’s President can be rightly said to be frolicking around the world capitals in the erroneous belief that active presence in international meetings necessarily constitutes acknowledgment of respect for Nigeria. Most unfortunately, it is far from it. This is a white lie or white belief. Nigeria, which ought to be part of the BRICs, to possibly make the name become BRINCS (Brazil, Russia, India, Nigeria, China and South Africa), has not been invited to join. What we only see Nigeria’s President doing abroad is always shaking hands with other presidents and reportedly signing deals that are dependentist in character and the implications of which are never explained to Nigerians. It is quite difficult to know in which way the recent deal done by the United Kingdom and Nigeria on deportation of illegal immigrants to Nigeria is different from those already done in the past.

On Thursday, 30th June 2022, Britain and Nigeria signed an agreement meant toincrease the deportation of dangerous criminals within the framework of the British new immigration plan. In the words of the British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, ‘our new landmark agreement with Nigeria will increase the deportation of dangerous foreign criminals to make our streets and country safer.’ More important, ‘the deal will mean that operational teams in both countries will share their expertise to take the fight to criminal people smugglers who are responsible for a wider range of criminality and put profit before people while undermining the security of our two countries,’ the Home Secretary said. 

What is noteworthy in this statement is the insinuation that Nigerians are part of the ‘dangerous foreign criminals’ who made the streets and the United Kingdom unsafe. There is nothing to suggest that there are no British citizens who are dangerous criminals in Nigeria and who may have to be deported from Nigeria to the United Kingdom in reciprocal implementation of the bilateral deal. And more interestingly, the deal as reported by the Home Secretary, is simply saying that the dangerous criminals, who are Nigerians, should be sent  back home to Nigeria, the home of dangerous criminals. 

In this regard, is it that the experts referred to in both countries have not been sharing their expertise in the fight against dangerous criminals in Nigeria? Are the armed bandits, the purported foreign Fulani herdsmen and the Boko Haramists doing battle against Nigeria’s unity and political sovereignty not dangerous criminals? Do they not qualify to be considered as dangerous local criminals? To what extent has the UK been able to help checkmate the problems of national insecurity? In fact, the United Kingdom policy is that all those illegally entering the United Kingdom now and those who had entered the United Kingdom since January 1, 2022 will be deported to Rwanda. Are those being deported to Rwanda not inclusive of criminals, dangerous or otherwise? 

It is on record that the British government has been negotiating with Nigeria to have Nigerians serving jail terms in the United Kingdom transferred to Nigeria. The Nigerian prisoners have generally kicked against that attempt on grounds of human rights and possible mistreatment in Nigerian prisons. However, it is disastrous for the British Home Secretary not only to differentiate between ordinary criminals and dangerous criminals, but more disturbingly for the Nigerian president to believe that Nigerians are dangerous criminals and therefore to quickly jump into signing a deal with the UK.

Implications and Quo Vadis

With the efforts of the BRICS to establish an alternative to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund in order to assist poor countries in need of loans at affordable interest rates, there is no disputing the fact that a New World Order is already in the making, especially in international economic relations. Western domination may quickly come to an end. Economico-monetary services will also be competitive and new opportunities are likely to be created for enhancing the establishment of an Afro currency. And true enough here, one main challenge to the development of intra-African trade is the inability to settle commercial transactions in a local currency. The need to go through corresponding banks to get the dollar or the euro equivalent for settlement of bills has not always been easy. Settlement of debts in dollars necessarily subjects the payer to the whims and caprices of US policies and this is clearly reflected in the US policy sanctions on Russia.

The making of an Afro currency, as well as the making of an alternative monetary system by the BRICS cannot but be taken as an affront in the eyes of the US and its Western allies. But the need for an Afro currency remains a desideratum based on the experience of Euro-American sanctions on Russia. True enough, sanctioning Russia for invading Ukraine and preventing Russia from having access to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift) prompted Russian reactions. 

The SWIFT is reputed to be a ‘vast messaging network banks and other financial institutions used to quickly, accurately, and securely send and receive information, such as money transfer instructions.’ When Russia was banned from membership of it, President Putin decided to also internationalise the Russian currency. It is within this context that the quest for an Afro currency should be understood. Any African member of the SWIFT can similarly be sanctioned by the United States. But how many African countries have the reciprocal power of Russia? 

Without doubt, the West, and particularly, the United States, will not be immediately well disposed to the making of any African currency that will not only begin to challenge the existing supremacy of the dollar but also ultimately seeking to replace it. The same will be true of the Euro. Already, two African currency platforms, the West African and Central African Monetary Unions, both of which are attached to the European Union through France, are using the CFA French franc but which are obstacles to the establishment of an Afro currency apart from other general problems.

For instance, it should be recalled that in 2015, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi opted to have a common currency in the following ten years. To a great extent, there has not been much progress. In fact, commitment to using a common currency has not been strong: Egypt, Eswatini and Lesotho have requested for a two-three year delay, while Seychelles and Cape Verde prefer to join the Euro zone. Mayotte, being a French territory, prefers to use the Euro as its official currency.

As rightly pointed out by Professor Akinjide Osuntokun, OON, during the NAIA zoom meeting that there is the need for one or two strong economies to sustain any common currency to be established, as we do have Germany in the context of the EU, the challenge cannot but be for Nigeria to quickly take the mantle of leadership in the West African region as one of the regional units for continental integration. It is a truism that Nigeria has the largest economy in the region and accounts for about 67% of the GDP. In the same vein, Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire also constitute about 67% of the 350 million people in the ECOWAS region, compared to six other countries with about 10 million people each accounting for only 7% of the ECOWAS population.

In sum, the most critical implication for the NAIA cannot but be how to channel intellectual resources to assist in the making of an Afro, which has also been described as the Afriq. The June 3 1991 Abuja Treaty which established the African Economic Community (AEC), provided for the establishment of an African Central Bank in 2028 and as agreed to in 2019, for an AEC with a single currency to be introduced in 2023. Academic discussions can begin to focus more on the differences in the economic structures of the ECOWAS: oil exporters versus oil importers; reliance on agriculture versus reliance on extractive industries for most of GDP and exports; economies with manufacturing components versus non-possession of manufacturing components; etc. 

Without scintilla of doubt, the ECOWAS decided in June 2019, after more than 30 years of failed deadlines, to have a single currency, called ECO. The year 2020 was fixed for its take-off. Probably in an attempt to avoid another missed deadline, six of the ECOWAS countries, basically the Anglophones, declared their intention to move on to the level of a monetary union by introducing the ECO by 2020. Most unfortunately, the challenges of COVID-19 again nipped in the bud the 2020 plan and a new date, 2027 has been fixed for its eventual take-off. 

As explained by Mr. Jean-Claude Brou, President of the ECOWAS Commission, ‘we are looking at 2022 to 2026 to be able to create conditions that will enable us to stabilize the economies. And so, in 2027, we go back to the currency. The process of the performance criteria is always prioritized if we want to be in a very favourable condition to introduce a single currency.’

True, there are two levels of performance criteria: primary and secondary. The first level of challenges for the NAIA is the challenge of helping the ECOWAS countries in meeting the convergence criteria for a single currency at the primary level. In other words, efforts must be made to reconcile GDP growth and inflation which do not go parri passu across the ECOWAS. Without meeting the primary convergence criteria, the making of a single currency may remain difficult. The primary criteria are that the deficit-GDP ratio must be less than 3%, annual average inflation should be less than 10%, while the gross external reserves should be greater than 3 months of imports. Unfortunately, only Guinea. Liberia and Nigeria have met the primary criteria. These criteria require qualitative policy advice.

The same is true for the secondary criteria which are that the debt-GDP ratio should be lower than 70%; the Central Bank financing of the budget deficit should not be above 10% of the previous year’s tax revenue; while the variation of nominal exchange rate should be within the band of ± 10% (for more information, see Sagiru Mati, Irfan Civcir and Huseyin Ozdeser, “ECOWAS Common Currency: How Prepared are its Members?” Inv. Econ. Vol. 78, no.308, Ciudad de Mexico abr./Jun 2019 Epub 200Febr-2020)

In terms of security implications, they are quite mixed. On the one hand, the Russo-Ukrainian war creates opportunities for Nigeria to possibly take advantage of. For instance, while the EU countries are waiting until December 2022 to finally stop their importation of oil from Russia, President Putin has simply fast-tracked the waiting by taking the battle further from Ukraine to the doorsteps of all the EU members. Russia has decided to stop the export of its oil to the EU with immediate effect. In this regard, Israel has accepted to replace Russia as oil supplier to the EU and has also signed a deal with Egypt as a transit country. The implication for Nigeria is the need to see to the urgent conclusion of the Trans-Sahara road projects, as well as construction of pipelines to enable the export of Nigerian gas and oil to Europe. This first task requires negotiating a deal with the EU.

On the other hand, the Russo-Ukrainian war has the potential to also heighten the implementation of the controversial Fulanisation agenda in Nigeria, because nomadic herding is no longer in vogue and the Fulani want to make Nigeria a homeland for all Fulani in West and Central Africa. This has prompted efforts at forceful acquisition of titled land in southern Nigeria, which are vehemently opposed to, but which PMB is trying to impose by manu militari. And true, Russia and Ukraine cannot but take sides, simply because those resisting Fulanisation are likely to seek assistance internationally from Russia and Ukraine. 

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todayJuly 3, 2022

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