By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed the support of the Italian government to help recover and repatriate illegally deposited Nigerian assets in foreign countries.
According to a statement made available to newsmen yesterday by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, the President spoke when he received a delegation from the Italian Parliament led by Senator Vito Petrocelli, Chairman Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs at State House.
The Italian Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Stefano Pontesilli, who accompanied the delegation, while conveying the message of the Italian Government had told the Nigerian leader: ‘‘We are willing to cooperate with your administration 100 per cent on illicit assets repatriation.’’
Responding, Buhari commended the Italian government for demonstrating ‘‘open-mindedness’’ and willingness to cooperate with Nigeria on the issue of repatriation of stolen funds.
While acknowledging the good wishes of the Italian government in the aftermath of the February 23 presidential election, Buhari told the delegation that his second term in office would consolidate on the progress recorded in the last four years in the country.
He also used the occasion to remind developed countries to do the needful on reviving Lake Chad.
‘‘Lake Chad is now 10 per cent of what it used to be. At least 30 million people around it benefit from fishing, farming and animal husbandry.
‘‘The drying up of Lake Chad has forced some people to defy the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean in their bid to get to Europe,’’ he said.
The President thanked the Italian government for its policy of accommodating displaced persons, particularly African refugees.
He also appreciated the Italian delegation for emphasizing the cordial relationship between Nigeria and Italy and the need to establish a ‘‘bilateral committee on friendship’’ that would identify areas of cooperation and work collectively.
Earlier, Senator Petrocelli had told President Buhari that the delegation, which included Senator Tony Chike Iwobi, Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, a Nigerian and first African to be elected into the Italian Parliament, was in the country to attend to the June 12 Democracy Day celebrations.
He also congratulated the Nigerian leader on his re-election.
The President and the delegation which also included Italian investors discussed a range of bilateral and global issues including migration, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), infrastructure development, anti-corruption and the need to strengthen inter-parliamentary relationship between Nigeria and Italy.