BY BUKOLA OGUNSINA, CHINA
China and Nigeria presently share amiable relations that has been further strengthened through China’s infrastructural projects in Nigeria, funding, high level visits, and media exchanges among others. Nigeria’s new Ambassador to China, H.E Baba Ahmad Jidda, in this interview with BUKOLA OGUNSINA, gives more insight on the bilateral cooperation both countries enjoy.
What is your mandate as the new Nigerian Ambassador to China?
As Nigerian Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), I have what we call a station charter given to me by Mr President. A kind of schedule of duty that I am expected to accomplish while serving as Ambassador in the PRC. I am expected to take effective measures to defend and promote Nigeria’s national interest in China and to promote and project a positive image of Nigeria consistent with its size, rich cultural heritage, international status and strategic geopolitical importance in Africa. As the Ambassador here, I am going to pursue to its logical conclusion the memorandum of understanding and bilateral agreement signed by Mr President when he visited the PRC. China today is our most important partner and it has been supporting Nigeria and indeed Africa in our development stride.
How has Nigeria benefitted from its bilateral relationship with China?
You might have heard of FOCAC, that is the Forum for China and Africa cooperation, the summit of which was held in Johannesburg in 2015. China pledged the sum of 60 billion dollars to support Nigeria and other African countries in their desire to develop their infrastructure and Nigeria is a major beneficiary. Nigeria and China have been cooperating in numerous areas. For instance in agriculture we have the tripartite agreement between Nigeria, China and Food Agricultural Organization signed on 21st October 2008. Chinese agricultural experts are assigned to various states in Nigeria to assist in food production and water conservation. One of such is the development of agricultural demonstration centers and about 40 rice processing mills in the country.
What other projects has Nigeria developed with China?
We have been supported by 150 bed China aid hospital project which was completed in March 2012 at a cost of USD 12.5 million. We also benefitted from four rural primary schools constructed in Kaduna, Katsina, Ogun states and FCT which have since been handed over in February 2012. There are also the issue of over 120 public officials from various MDAs benefitting from various Chinese capacity building programmes. We also discussed and pursued the issue of preferential loans from China. The Federal Ministry of Finance and Debt Management Office negotiated and obtained preferential loans from China Export & Import Bank (EXIM), medium and long term loans have been granted to Nigeria to develop relevant projects. Two hundred million US dollars in 2006 for the construction and placement in orbit of NigComSat-1 by China Aerospace Corporation and Great Wall Corporation. There was the issue of USD 500 million in December 2010, there’s the National Security Communication System project also the issue of USD 400 million concessional loans in December 2010 for Abuja, Kaduna railway modernisation project. And also the issue of USD 500 million concessional loans in July 2012 for the construction of the Abuja light rail project etc. so there are quite a number of loan agreements.
Are there any partnerships between both countries in the area of security?
Nigeria and China have military cooperation especially in Defence Industries Cooperation of Nigeria (DICON), and special plant in Bauchi and the off shore patrol vessel for the Nigerian Navy which was commissioned by His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari.
What new ideas can you bring to the table in Nigeria’s economic partnership with China?
I am thinking of recommending construction of a rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri passing through Benue, Plateau and Bauchi States. That rail project could go through the food basket of Nigeria, that’s Benue, Plateau up to Bauchi and then Maiduguri. That will be opening up of the north to the south. It’s a rail project that I see as highly beneficial to Nigeria.
What plans does the embassy have in terms of high level visits?
I would like to vigorously pursue the possibility of a reciprocal visit of the President of China, His Excellency Xi Jinping to Nigeria. Four of Nigeria’s presidents have visited China, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and then our current President, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari. Nigeria is gravitating towards the PRC for cooperation because China is showing genuine concern for the development of African countries especially in agriculture, Solid minerals, infrastructure, power generation and oil & gas. We would be very happy if the President of the PRC will undertake an official visit to Nigeria as soon as the two governments agree. In addition to working towards a reciprocal visit to Nigeria by H.E President Xi Jinping, we shall also further consolidate on the One China Policy and the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in 2005 to concretise our friendship with the People`s Republic of China for our mutual benefit on a win-win basis. You may recall that Nigeria and China established diplomatic relations some 46 years ago, precisely on 10th February, 1971. Our friendly relations has metamorphosed to the level of establishing Bi− National Commission in the nearest future. The Bi− National Commission is expected to be led by the Vice Presidents of our two friendly countries.
How are you settling down as Ambassador?
I am settling down at jet− speed – hitting the ground running as they say. My work has been facilitated by the warm reception and unprecedented support received from the Foreign Office in China. I submitted the advanced copies of my Letters of Credence to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs less than 24 hours after my arrival which enabled me to commence my work as Ambassador Extra-ordinary and Plenipotentiary of Nigeria accredited to the People`s Republic of China. I sincerely appreciate the high regard and disposition of friendship portrayed by the Government of China to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I have now commenced implementing the contents of the Charter given to me by His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari in earnest.