Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, New York
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, met and congratulated Mr. Toni Iwobi, a Nigerian and domiciled in Italy for 41 years, who is the first black man ever to be elected Senator in the European country.
He was elected in March this year, on platform of the far-right League Party.
Iwobi was among a high-powered team from the Italian Senate who met with President Buhari.
“My congratulations to you, and to Italy more,” President Buhari told Iwobi. “It shows the advanced respect of Italians for human beings, in spite of colour. It’s very impressive.”
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the team from Italy discussed issues like illegal migration and how it could be curbed through investments in Africa, recharge of the Lake Chad via inter-basin water transfer, among others.
“Africa doesn’t need charity, but collaboration to develop,” Senator Iwobi declared.
Responding, President Buhari noted that what causes irregular migration from developing to developed countries include lack of security, education, health care, among others, stressing: “Climate change has had negative impact on a big country like Nigeria.
“That is why our youths often defy the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea, to try and get to Europe. It is a problem that needs to be solved.”
The Italian Senate delegation plans to visit Nigeria soon.
In a related development, President Buhari has pledged that Nigeria would always live up to its financial commitments to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
According to him, “Since we don’t want to be big for nothing, we will always look for the money.”
He made the pledged after he received briefing from the President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, in his capacity as Chairman of ECOWAS.
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President Buhari was brought up to speed with developments in Guinea Bissau, which should hold elections soon; Togo, where constitutional reforms are in place, and which would hold parliamentary elections on December 20; as well as Mali, where the situation is still fragile, despite concluding presidential polls recently.
President Buhari commended the work being done by ECOWAS Commission, noting that “it is always better to talk and resolve issues, rather than be confrontational.” He added: “If you represent a people, you won’t like to see them suffering.”
President Buhari approved that Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, joined the President of ECOWAS Commission on a special mission to deepen the peace process in Mali.