The class and calibre of dignitaries that trooped to the Russian Embassy, located at the Central Business District, Abuja, on 12 June, 2017, to celebrate the 2017 Russian National Day, was a strong indication of the triumph of a ‘golden relations’ between Russia and Nigeria, which formally began on 23 November, 1960. OMONU YAX-NELSON writes.
Russians at home and in diaspora, on every 12 June, takes time off work, to celebrate their country’s national day (The National Holiday of the Russian Federation). The day has been celebrated annually, since 1992. It commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of State
Sovereignty of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) on June 12, 1990.
For the Russian diplomatic mission in Nigeria, the 2017, Russia national day was unique in many respects. The event which took place at the Russian Embassy in Abuja, had in attendance, creame de la creame of the diplomatic community in Nigeria, the top business
executive from both Russia and Nigeria, military Attaches’ etc.
Not only that, quests in attendance were treated to sumptuous meal with polemic blend of ‘jazz live band’, the gathering took a unique point, when the Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E. Nikolay Udovichenko seized the occasion, to reaffirm his country’s commitment to the Nigeria-Russian; social and economic ties.
“Nigeria is one of our greatest trading partners and we have had a strong relationship in the last years but hope to strengthen it and do a lot more together in the future.
“We would continue to support Nigeria in achieving economic and social development by helping Nigeria utilise its resources in more effective ways.”
He also said that Russia would continue its educational programme to Nigerian students on scholarship basis.
“We are glad that we can celebrate our national day in a country that has been very supportive.
“The Russian government has offered many Nigerians scholarships to study in Russia and we extend our gratitude to those who have studied in Russia for always being supportive and cooperative.
“I also want to thank my fellow Russians for their hard work and support in the diplomatic mission here in Nigeria,’’ Udovichenko said.
Also Speaking to newsmen, the Dean of Diplomatic Corp and High Commissioner to Nigeria, Salaheddine Ibrahima, told journalists at the event, that it was nice to have countries come together to support other countries celebrate their growth.
“It is nice to see that we are supportive of each other and that we see the need to celebrate our countries as a way to improve our relationships.
“We are happy for Russia and wish them much more growth and success in the years ahead,’’ he said.
Russian and Nigeria maintains a Binational Commission and, it is a platform for both countries to sit down, draw up agreements and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on how to conduct businesses and investment in each other’s country.
So far, both countries had held three meetings of the Joint Commission, the last was held in November, 2016. The Commission has seen Russia-Nigeria two-way trade hitting over 400 million dollars at the close of 2016.
In demonstration of rosy relationship between the two countries, the Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, Co-Chairman of the Intergovernmental Russian-Nigerian Joint Commission on economic, scientific and technical cooperation, Mr. Alexander Tkachev paid a
working visit to Nigeria, on 9-11 November, 2016.
During his stay in Nigeria, Mr. Alexander Tkachev held meetings with the Vice-President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, top officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ECOWAS Commission as well as prominent Nigerian businessmen. In the course of the meetings
they discussed issues of bilateral trade and investment cooperation, including increasing supplies of Russian agricultural production to Nigeria and ECOWAS region. Special attention was drawn to the measures for providing resumption of aluminum production at the Alscon plant owned by the Russian company «Rusal».
On November 11, 4th session of the Intergovernmental Russian-Nigerian Joint Commission on economic, scientific and technical cooperation was held with participation of Mr. Alexander Tkachev. The parties discussed key spheres of bilateral cooperation, including agriculture,
industry, power sector, military-technical cooperation, mining and solid minerals.
Following the outcomes of the session, the parties signed bilateral protocol, which reflects specific measures for stimulating economic partnership between Russia and Nigeria. In particular, the Russian side expressed its readiness to participate in the efforts to revive
Ajaokuta steel plant, to increase supplies of food products and stimulate agric production in Nigeria, to establish assembling centers to produce agric and transport-related machinery.
Russia-Nigeria political and economic relation which dates back to, immediately after Nigeria’s independence, specifically, 25 November 1960, was also recently given a boost, when Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, held diplomatic talks with his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov,
during an official working visit to Moscow on May 29 to May 31. Lavrov held talks with Onyeama and his delegation on May 30.
The foreign ministers discussed issues pertaining to the steady development of bilateral ties in political, trade, economic and humanitarian areas.
They concentrated on prospects of cooperation in the nuclear industry, hydrocarbon processing, infrastructure projects and exports of Russian industrial products to Nigeria.
The ministers further held an in-depth exchange of views on international and regional issues, focusing on countering terrorism and extremism, settling crises in Africa, primarily in the Sahara and the Sahel, and fighting pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.
After the closed meeting, Lavrov told a media conference that the meeting noted a strong potential for cooperation in areas such as hydrocarbon production.
Others are processing, nuclear power industry and agriculture, and further expressed mutual interest in continued military-technical and military cooperation and training civilian specialists and law enforcement officers for Nigeria at Russian universities.
At the joint media conference, Onyeama took time to commended Russia for educating over 10,000 Nigerian students, confirming that in 2017 alone, 110 Nigerians benefited under the Russian scholarship programme.
The minister also confirmed to the media that Russian government has promised to supply Nigeria with military hardware and helicopters to assist Nigeria in its fight against the Boko Haram sect.
The deal, which Mr Onyeama said was already in the pipeline, is part of the efforts aimed at deepening co-operation between Russia and Nigeria.
Russia, the minister said, commended Nigeria’s exemplary role in ensuring peace and stability in Africa and the rest of the world.
“Of course terrorism is an area we also want to co-operate with Russia, it’s a global challenge. They also face terror challenges and we look forward to stepping up our co-operation with Russia in the fight against terrorism.
“They have agreed to deliver some military equipment, some helicopters. They are very much in the pipeline,” Onyeama said.
He stressed that “Russia has shown great solidarity with us, and we really look forward to a vibrant and very dynamic relationship between our two countries”.
“We face a lot of conflict in Africa and also our country Nigeria, and we are looking to Russia for co-operation.
“Russia is showing great solidarity with us in confronting some of our security challenges in the area of terrorism, which has now become a global challenge.
“And we appreciate very much the importance of working together and sharing intelligence and we are delighted that Russia is on the same page with us,” he added.
The minister stressed that a strong Russia was a good thing for the world, explaining that a strong Russia will give the world balance.
“You might likely have balance, because if you have one country that is totally dominant, it might not always necessarily make for a balanced approach towards issues.
“We believe in multilateralism. We believe that the big issues of the day, global issues, should be addressed on a multilateral framework.
“That is the framework of the United Nations. And you are more likely to have that when you have different poles of strength and influence.
“If you have a unipolar world, you are also most likely to have a process that does not really have to have the consensus of many other countries,” he said.
Onyeama also stressed that Russia should engage with Africa, given the European country’s achievements in all human endeavours.
“We believe that such a great country that has achieved wonderful things in all sectors, should engage with Africa,” he noted.
Speaking on the gains of his visit to Russia, Onyeama said: “Russia is ready to engage more with Nigeria and engage more with Africa in the areas of priority to us and that is security and the economy and this is a very good thing.
“We are trying to diversify our economy and diversification is not just in strengthening various sectors, but also in engaging with every partner and Russia has unique value that they can add to our economic relations in the area of oil and gas, power, agriculture and also
science and technology.
“These are areas they are particularly strong in and could help in our industrialisation drive.
“And for Africa too, in peace keeping and their role in the United Nations, as one of the key five permanent members of the Security Council, they will have influence in the resources the United Nations will make available for peacekeeping in Africa.
“Most of the peacekeeping duties undertaken by United Nations are in Africa and we will certainly need the support of Russia, as we know that there is a call by the other key four members on the Security Council to reduce the amount of money available for peacekeeping in Africa.
“So we look for Russia’s support in terms of the reform of the United Nations and also to support Africa in the UN, as a permanent member of the Security Council,” he added.