Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has invited 7 African countries to attend the G8 summit this month.
Leaders from Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Malawi, Ethiopia, Egypt and Algeria will be in Muskoka. The summit will be held June 25th and 26th, overlapping the G20 summit in Toronto on the 26th and 27th. Columbia, Jamaica and Haiti have also been invited.
A major topic will be drug trafficking routes from South America and the Caribbean to Africa and then on to Europe, North America and elsewhere. Authorities are concerned about possible links between drug trafficking and terrorist groups such as Al Qaida.
VOA reporter Chinedu Offor is on assignment in Nigeria and says reaction to Nigeria’s G8 invitation is favorable.
“This is a big deal in Nigeria as government officials and commentators see this as an endorsement of the leadership qualities of President Jonathan. They see it as the beginning of the resurgence and emergence of Nigeria as an international and regional force after several years of problems and declining power and influence,” he says.
“According to a statement by the president’s advisor on media and publicity, the Nigerian president intends to broaden and deepen bilateral ties between Nigeria and these leading nations of the world. He also says the president will seek increased support from G8 leaders for his political policies,” says Offor.
President Jonathan is also expected to seek support for economic development to create jobs and build more power plants. Electricity interruptions in Nigeria are a daily occurrence in many places.
Nigeria also wants to show the G8 that it’s serious about curbing drug trafficking in the West Africa region.
“Nigerian government officials are clearly worried about the reputation of the country as a growing transit point for drugs. The president has stated his resolve to tackle the issue and he has increased funding and personnel for…the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency,” says Offor.
Nigeria has also created screening points and machines at airports to detect illegal drug shipments.
“On a daily basis, about two or three on average people are arrested at the Murtala Muhammed (International) Airport trying to export or import drugs into the country. And to underline the seriousness with which the government views this problem, a former chief of the drug agency was yesterday sentenced to 20 years in jail for aiding and abetting drug traffickers. The government thinks that this will send a message to government officials that it won’t tolerate government officials using government agencies and money to provide security and protect drug barons in the country,” he says.
Non-partisan election commission
Before leaving for the G8 summit, President Jonathan took unexpected action and removed some members of INEC, the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“In a surprise, the president has dropped several people he has appointed as members,” he says, “Two of them are very influential….very senior members of the ruling (PDP) party.”
Pro-democracy groups had complained it would be difficult to portray next year’s presidential elections as free and fair, if senior ruling party members played a major role in the poll.
“The president listened,” says Offor, “And he has promised to drop anyone who has any political affiliations, be it in the opposition or ruling People’s Democratic Party.”
President Jonathan said he intends to have a non-partisan INEC in place before next year’s elections.
In recent months, U.S. officials said one of their major concerns in Nigeria was reform of INEC to prevent the controversy and alleged irregularities surrounding the election of Umaru Yar’Adua as president in 2007. Yar’Adua died in May, leading the way for Goodluck Jonathan to assume the presidency.