Ambassador Yusuf MaitamaTuggar is the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany. In this interview, he speaks on his experiences and a lot more on relations between both countries. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: What’s your experience since you became ambassador?
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Ambassador Yusuf MaitamaTuggar: It’s been a learning experience and for me. It has afforded me the opportunity to put into practice classroom theories because I’m a student of International Relations. I’m seeing it being acted out and Germany being the powerhouse of Europe, and also being a regional and global leader, it’s a very significant post and it affords me the opportunity to also try as much as possible to accomplish more on a wider scale because you’re dealing with two powerful countries on their continents – Germany and Nigeria. They are the shapers and influencers of globalization. If you bring them together. Bringing them closer provides the opportunity to unleash a lot of potentials that’s not just good for the two countries, but for the whole world.
DT: Has there been any improvement in trade relations with Germany?
Amb.Tuggar: There have been giant strides. Because for one, I can tell you that there have been significant visits. There was a visit of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel with a business delegation to Nigeria in August 2018. In the wake of that followed a lot of interests, a lot of linkages between businesses and medium and small enterprises, both Nigerian and German. In fact, even during the visit, we organized for three MoUs to be signed, one for Volkswagen and the Nigerian Automotive Design and Development Council, there was another one signed by NIRSAL and a German medium sized company which specializes in seed and grain technology. It’s a very important segment of the agricultural value chain. You have to have the right seeds to improve your yield. So, NIRSAL and Nigeria have been trying to address that issue. There was a third agreement between the African German Business Association. So all the major businesses in Germany, the global players that are doing business in Africa are part of that association including Siemens, Julius Berger, Bosch and the like. So, we facilitated the signing of an agreement between them and NASIMA. That is a very important agreement because it provides room for collaboration and dialogue between the two. There was even a fourth agreement signed outside of the visit because it took place I believe, two days before the chancellor arrived, between VoithHydro and a Nigerian company called Genesis Energy. This is one side of it. On the other side, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited Berlin in December and we had a business forum in collaboration with the African German Business Association and it was very successful. There were several bilateral meetings that took place with the likes of KFW, the German Development Bank, Siemens and what they’re trying to achieve in terms of the power sector, specifically, the distribution of electricity in Nigeria and numerous others.
DT: What major challenges is the embassy is facing ?
Amb.Tuggar: Firstly, the capacity to implement some of the ideas that we have. There are certain limitations in doing this. For one, the embassy has a certain budget and sub heads that we have to stick to. Then also, with diplomacy, there’s always a shifting ground and new issues coming up. You have to have that capacity to be able to react but I still think we’re doing very okay. The other challenge I see is the perception sometimes on the German side to have a sort of multilateral approach to Africa as opposed to bilateral. Yes, we recognize ourselves as Africans, we collaborate with African countries, but then you can’t discount Nigeria’s size in terms of population, economy and capacity. Africa is a continent of 54 countries. For some countries, the multilateral approach would work, but I think there’s a need for more emphasis on a bilateral approach with regard to Nigeria.
DT: How would you rate the conduct of Nigerians in Germany?
Amb.Tuggar: There are 9,031 illegal Nigerians in Germany with 121 in detention currently and 66 of them are in the state of Buvaria, south of Germany. This is something we’re still investigating and that’s why we worked very hard gathering the data and its one of the reforms I instituted when I got there. On arriving in Germany, I realized not enough attention was being paid to data collation and interpretation, and you cannot plan or achieve anything without first of all having the data. It could be several reasons, one of which could be because it’s a border state and an entry point into Germany. It could also be that Buvaria is more stringent. But we’re still trying to get to the bottom of these issues, and whether these Nigerians actually committed the crimes or they’re being too hard on them. But without establishing the data, we couldn’t have done that. Even the figures that were being thrown around on the number of Nigerians in detention, we always felt they were contestable because its very easy for someone to say they’re Nigerian if they’re being threatened with deportation, because they would rather be deported to Nigeria than maybe another African country.
DT: How are Nigerians seen in Germany?
Amb.Tuggar: There are two sides to that. Nigerians are perceived very positively for those who consider the likes of Emeka Udemba who is among the foremost curators of art in the world. He is highly regarded and respected. There are a lot of successful Nigerians who are doctors and engineers living and working in Germany. But then you also sadly have a lot of young Nigerians who have left these shores and gone to Germany with little or no qualifications and end up relying on their social welfare system for sustenance. Such people are perceived very negatively because Germans are very protective of what they consider to be the commonwealth. It is even okay to commit a crime against another German, but anyone who takes from the commonwealth is seen to be cheating the generality of people. You’re on the social welfare system and being paid money that is meant for German citizens. But the issue of migration is not all together a negative thing because they have an aging population and a need for qualified workers.
DT: Some time last year, Germany mentioned plans to build skills acquisition centers for training of illegal migrants before they move back to Nigeria. What role is the embassy playing in this regard?
Amb.Tuggar: We’re working with them closely. There is an office of return and reintegration that has been established by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity in Lagos, and the whole idea is for them to receive a stipend before they return, for those in the position to do so.
DT: How many Nigerians have taken part in this?
Amb.Tuggar: There’s a video that went viral just yesterday, of a lady called Joy Emovon who according to our records, happens to be one of the individuals who decided to take advantage of this return programme. She agreed to be returned voluntarily with her children and by doing so, would benefit from the International Office of Migration (IOM) stipend that they give which is anywhere between 1000 and 3000 euros. So you can see that some people take advantage of it. Sadly, in her case, the social media these days can be very unpredictable so it was construed as if she was forcibly shackled and deported to Nigeria. Based on our records, that was not the case.
DT: You came to Nigeria to execute a philanthropic project of donating mobility carts to IDPs in Borno State. Can you tell us about that?
Amb.Tuggar: It’s a project that has a German NGO headed by a Nigerian in the diaspora called Bruderhilfe Social Development Initiative (BSDI), founded by Mrs. Mary Bruder. There are a lot of Nigerians that have become role models even to Germans and they get support for the good work they are doing. Some German and American entities came up with this idea of donating mobility carts to Nigeria. We looked at it when we interacted with them, the best way to impact positively on Nigerians with the prevailing circumstances is to donate mobility carts to the IDPs who have suffered a lot. About 100 mobility carts were donated and this is just the beginning.
DT: What’s the embassy doing with Germany in terms of education?
Amb.Tuggar: We have quite a lot that we’ve been doing. Our second work plan had to do with engaging the 16 German states and approaching them individually, engaging their minsters-president (equivalent to a governor), and seeing areas of synergy both at the sub-state and the state levels. A lot of them have institutions of higher learning, science and technology, colleges, universities and research institutes that we have identified and are paring with Nigerian centers of learning. Apart from that, we have an ongoing partnership between the University of Abuja and the University of Munster with regard to the study of grade optimization and also, diaspora studies. We’re working on another initiative, trying to get TETFUND to make improvements in certain universities to make them more prepared towards collaborating with German universities. There are 1,970 Nigerian students in Germany, most of them medical students on scholarship.
DT: Is there cultural exchange between Nigeria and Germany?
Amb.Tuggar: The embassy is planning an event on the 20th of July and we want to use that opportunity to further promote collaborations. There’s the Goethe Institute here that supports a lot of cultural activities. We go a long way back with Germany. What we are pushing hard for at the moment is the idea of returning stolen artwork and artifacts to Africa. You go to a lot of public museums in Germany and you encounter Benin bronze and Ife artwork that were clearly taken illicitly. Those in private collections, we can’t agitate for them.
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