By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday arrived Hague, Netherlands ahead of his scheduled appearance at the International Criminal Court (ICC) where he is expected to deliver the keynote address at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the ICC Rome Statute.
According to a statement made available to newsmen a by his Spokesman, Femi Adesina, the President’s aircraft arrived Rotterdam-The Hague Airport from Abuja at about 7: 23 p.m (Nigerian time) and was welcomed by Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, President of the ICC, Vice President of the Court, Marc Perrin de Brichambut, Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, Mr Oji Ngofa, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Mr Robert Petri, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Nigeria.
Also on hand to receive the President and his delegation were Lt.Col Veenhuijzen, Aide-De-Camp to His Majesty the King of the Netherlands and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
Prior to the President’s arrival, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina had announced that while in the Hague, Buhari will speak at the Solemn Hearing to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the ICC Rome Statute.
The President will also meet with the ICC Prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda.
He is the only Head of State invited to the ICC’s 20th anniversary and senior Nigeria officials see it as a positive recognition and appreciation of Nigeria’s support to the ideals and objectives of the Court.
The Rome Statute was adopted on July 17, 1998, but the ICC wasn’t officially established until July 1, 2002, with a mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Nigeria signed the Rome Statute on June 1, 2000, and ratified it on Sept. 27, 2001, becoming the 39th State. At present, 123 countries are States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Shortly before the President’s arrival in the Hague, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Netherlands told journalists that whilst there have been some criticism of the Court, Buhari believes that its work was vital to preventing impunity worldwide and ensuring accountability for perpetrators of the most serious crimes.
‘‘Nigeria has always been a strong pillar of support to the ICC especially in Africa, in the last 20 years, and this visit shows that this support is recognised and appreciated.
‘‘Whilst there have been some criticism of the Court, President Buhari believes that its work is vital to preventing impunity worldwide, and ensuring accountability for perpetrators of the most serious crimes.
‘‘I am certain that this visit will reassure the ICC that Nigeria remains a strong advocate of the ideals of the Rome Statute,’’ the Ambassador said.
The envoy said the President’s visit will be an opportunity to show Nigeria’s appreciation for the honour done to the country by electing a Nigerian as President of the Court.
‘‘The President of the Court, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji is a distinguished Nigerian jurist.
‘‘His election as President by his peers in March 2018 indicates that his cerebral and leadership traits have not gone unnoticed,’’ he said.
While in the Netherlands, President Buhari is also scheduled to meet with Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte and their discussions will focus on migration, peace and security, humanitarian issues, economic cooperation, among others, according to Nigerian officials.