The Swiss national day which held on 1st of August this month at the Ambassador’s residence in Abuja, was combined with a farewell ceremony for the outgoing Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E Eric Mayoraz. In this interview he reminisces about Nigeria and discloses what he would miss the most. BUKOLA OGUNSINA, BLESSING BATURE were there for LEADERSHIP.
What has your experience been like in Nigeria?
I came here three years ago. This was just after the election of 2015. My experience first was to get used to and know the new government of the Buhari administration. And then as I mentioned in my speech tonight, we had several challenges, several important issues to deal with the government.
First of all, for example, the return of the Abacha loot in Switzerland was blocked by the Attorney General of Geneva. We had to negotiate for the repatriation of these funds. We have many good functions in migration partnership.
We have opened some department for humanitarian aid in the north east. We are also working with the parties in the conflict in the north east to try to mitigate the conflict. And we contributed to free some hostages like Chibok girls, Dapchi girls.
So we have had several important issues, also in the economic field, important visits. So, I am very glad to see that after three years we were very busy and we got very concrete achievements of bilateral relation with Nigeria.
What are milestones achieved?
Mainly Nigeria is exporting oil to Switzerland. It is one of the main provider, the first provider of oil to Switzerland. And then we have here alot of Swiss companies more than forty. Even during some difficult times of the economic prices the new Swiss companies, the important ones came to Nigeria.
This is because I think they believe in the future and the potential of the Nigerian markets. That is why we opened in 2015, a new general consulate, economic consulate in Lagos. We have made it the Swiss/Nigeria business consul for Swiss and Nigerian companies, like Chamber of Commerce.
So, we had also in March this Year, the visit of the minister of economy with a very important delegation of parliamentarians of local government people, of journalists and business men. And the CEO of different companies. We have very big companies here that are known like Nestle Nigeria plc.
Every Nigerian knows the Maggi cube, or Milo or Nestle water, they are feeding a lot of Nigerians. We have other companies, pharmaceutical, new technologies, you know Punch maybe? Its also a Swiss group. Its behind this media here in Nigeria. So you see this is a very diverse and open scope of economic relationship. So you see this is a very diverse scope of economic relationship.
Apart from oil what other areas are you hoping that Nigeria/Swiss relations can diversify?
Our Swiss investors are in the agricultural field. I know there are some Swiss/Nigeria joint ventures in Jos, in Kaduna, trying to develop the potato, Irish potato culture. Not only the culture, but transforming, making potato chips, making frozen potato. So you have different. You have Lafarge plc Nigeria cement factory.
So you have different, its not only oil. But oil is mainly what we import from Nigeria. You know the swiss company here, they produce mainly for the Nigerian market. Because with almost 200 million people, you have enough clients and consumers inside Nigeria, for Swiss company products produced in Nigeria.
How many swiss companies are here in Nigeria?
I think about 45. You have the multinationals as I mentioned, but you have also small and medium entreprise, even sometimes some individuals that are here for a long time. So its very diverse.
Do you have a favourite Nigerian dish that you will miss?
I like moi moi, depending with what, with meat with chicken sometimes with shrimps.
What advice do you have for the incoming Ambassador?
I think I will tell him its a very interesting country. You never get bored in Nigeria. You have to be patient. You have to be open minded. But again for me what I will miss is the Nigerian people. Because I like the way they behave and go about their lives, again sometimes in a difficult environment.
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