Tapping from multilateral and bilateral pacts

The whole world is now like a global market especially with business, economic and social agreements among countries. ELEOJO IDACHABA in this report examines the benefits of such relationships.

No man, they say, is an island. The saying equally applies to a country especially in modern day governments when collaboration in every form is sine qua non to progress and development. 

Indeed, nations/societies need one another to forge ahead in every ramification.

This is why countries strive to establish relationships with one another either in the form of bilateral or multilateral relations with a view to tapping from the greater benefits such relationships can offer.

is not an exception as she had entered into several bilateral and multilateral relations with other countries since independence. However, attention shall be focused on such mutual relationships especially since the return of to democracy in 1999. 

-China relationship

Recently, what is today known as and China bilateral relationship clocked 50, an event that was marked with pomp and pageantry by both countries. To mark the celebration in , a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, under whose administration the deal was sealed, said he recalled with pride and joy the productive preliminary contacts and engagements from 1966 that preceded the final outcome of the ceremony that started the bilateral relations in 1971. This was after the role played towards the readmission of China into the world body, United Nations.

He said, “Not long after helped see China’s admission to the United Nations (UN) as both member of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.  That ultimately earned a welcome state visit to Beijing/China in 1974. It was a most successful visit that firmly established the bilateral relationship between our two countries.

“It included a rare visit to Chairman Mao at his home by the Nigerian delegation led by me, my wife, the foreign minister, Dr. Arikpo, the permanent secretary and Nigerian first Ambassador to China, His Excellency, Aminu Sanusi. We ended the visit signing a number of agreements, especially in agriculture, trade, and communications. “Succeeding governments expanded areas of agreement to what it is today. I am glad that I had something to do with China-Nigeria relations.”

While writing on ‘China and Nigeria: Towards a community of Shared Future’ Charles Onunaiju, a research director at the Centre for China Studies, Abuja, said, “The formal establishment of diplomatic relation in 1971 was followed almost immediately with the first bilateral economic and trade agreement by officials of both sides in 1972. And determined to diversify her global outlook and broaden its multilateral diplomacy, then Nigeria’s Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, paid a state visit to China in 1974 and was hosted by the legendary Chairman Mao Zedong.

“However, on October 25, 1971, barely 10 months after the establishment of diplomatic relations, Nigeria along with other 75 nations across the world voted at the 26th Session of the United Nations General Assembly for the restoration of the lawful right of China to the foremost global body that Beijing has not only helped to found in 1945 but was the first signatory to its charter.

“Despite a lacuna of 11 years without diplomatic relation, after Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the two countries started on a good start soon after formally establishing diplomatic relations on February 10, 1971, with Nigeria’s active participation in returning China to the United Nations.”

Chairman Mao was reported to have enthusiastically said during one of those state visits that, “It was our African brothers that carried us into the United Nations.”

According to Onunaiju, “The political foundation of solidarity and mutual respect for each other enabled the contemporary robust engagement that has delivered tangible and practical results with prospects to advance it to more comprehensive cooperation. 

“Nigeria’s economic policy flagship, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which focused mainly on revitalising critical infrastructures as fundamental to sustainable and inclusive economic development has received huge impetus and complementarities boosted by China’s support in the construction of key infrastructure projects. 

“The gap and financial bottleneck that would considerably impede the construction of these key infrastructure projects were filled by China’s concessional loans. These projects are in the strategic sectors of transport, power, airports, and sea ports.”

He noted further that Nigeria and China have historic responsibilities in the respective regions and the world at large and the complementarities and convergence in their respective national outlook and shared views on global governance issues put them in the joint driving seat to advance the building of a community of shared future for humanity.

“Nigeria as the fulcrum of the African continental free trade Area (AfCTA) can actually be the investment magnet of Chinese enterprises who would seek overseas manufacturing hubs with relatively low cost, with additional advantage to give Nigeria strategic access to China’s huge market.”

Nigeria/South bi-National Commission

What is today seen by many as a thriving/successful relationship between Nigeria and South despite the xenophobia at certain times actually started in 1999. This was the genesis of the arrival of many South African businesses in Nigeria and vice versa.

Tracing the origin of the bilateral relations between Nigeria and South , the annual country book, 1st October published on the stable of Daily Times of Nigeria in 2010 said, “The two countries had established a historic bi-National Commission (BNC) in April 1999 during a meeting in Pretoria where Nigerian’s minister of state for agriculture and rural development, Chief Chris Agbobu represented Nigeria while Mr. Rirk Du Toit stood in for South . Agbobu seized the opportunity to express the need to showcase Nigerian’s agricultural investment opportunities and urged South Africans to ease the problem associated with its visa in order to enhance movement of people among the two countries.

“In November 2001, South African Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral JF (retd.) paid a week-long visit to Nigeria and toured some naval installations. Impressed by what he saw, he promised to identify further areas of military cooperation between the two countries especially in the form of training. His Nigerian counterpart, Vice Admiral S O Afolayan had earlier visited South Africa.

“Similarly, a four-man joint military training team from South Africa had visited Nigeria. The leader of that team, Navy Captain Brian Dunkin said they were in Nigeria to improve on their professional skills. The exchanges of visits by both countries lead to the signing of a Defence Technology Pact in March 2007.”

Based on the trade agreement between the two countries, there were wider allegations that South Africa was ‘buying’ up Nigeria because of the number of South African companies and businesses operating in Nigeria.

However, then vice president, Atiku Abubakar, under whose office the commission operates had to quickly refute the allegations even though he admitted the lopsidedness in business flow from Nigeria as against into Nigeria from South Africa.

According to 1st October,  “This necessitated the announcement of special concessions by Pretoria for Nigeria’s business men and investors in order to balance the equation. At that point, MTN, Econet (now Airtel), two South African giants were already controlling over 64% of Nigeria’s telecommunications industry.

“Other South African companies doing lucrative business in Nigeria include MultiChoice, Stanbic Bank, Protea Hotel, Fresh Products Nigeria Limited and a number of others. A South African firm also won the bid to repair and operate Adam Power Station.

“Therefore, beginning from 1994, trade between Nigeria and South Africa began to rise slowly with Nigeria exporting goods worth $165.8 million and $361.9 million in 2001 and 2002, respectively while South Africa exported goods worth $164.8 million and $272.8 million, respectively, in those years.

“Many Nigerian companies took advantage of the concession by South Africa to establish offices in that country; for example, Union Bank, Philips Consulting firm, First Bank and many advertising agencies. Within the same period, the Institute of Transport Technology in Zaria equally sealed a deal with the of Pretoria for the former to run a course in Transport Technology at post graduate level.”

Also, writing on the outcome of a business summit organised in 2006 in Johannesburg for improved relationship between Nigeria and South Africa, a public commentator, Oghogho Obayuwana, said, “South Africa with huge capital is at the moment the biggest and most developed in Africa. But any South African entrepreneur knows that the future lies in the potential that is presented by the vast Nigerian market. It is generally believed that big fruits of investments are hanging on Nigeria’s head. Total export from South Africa to Nigeria between 1999 and end of 2005 rose from $520 million to $2.9 billion while exports from Nigeria into South Africa increased from $1.2 billion to $5.6 billion over the same period.”

ECOWAS members, enhanced pacts

Analysts are of the views that Nigeria and other West African countries should take further steps towards broadening business relations, for instance, Louis Chete of the Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER) is of the opinion that agro-allied relation would be beneficial to the sub continental body, ECOWAS.

He said, “Growth corridors and regional hubs can be useful strategies for spurring economic activities and inspiring diversification. National and regional industrialisation should focus on transforming agricultural products into manufactured goods and the provision of high-technology services at competitive prices to enhance the potential for trade within the ECOWAS sub-region.

sharing, cross-border input supply and conditional incentives for exports can foster the development of local and regional chains and strengthen export competitiveness. Certain agricultural products like bananas, sweet potatoes and sugarcane could be processed, properly packaged and traded. There is also considerable potential for trade in timber, limestone and marble. Therefore, regional chains should be developed for products such as textiles and clothing.” 

Still on Nigeria-China relations

Tolu Ogunlesi wrote in the Financial Times that, “In 1990, half of all African trade was with Western Europe, while Asia accounted for only a seventh. By 2008, Asia had doubled while Western Europe had shrunk to equal it with 28 per cent. In 2009, China overtook the US as Africa’s biggest trading partner; China-Africa trade surpassed $220bn dollars in 2014 up from about $10bn at the turn of the century.

“In 2014, China was Nigeria’s biggest national trading partner, accounting for 12 per cent of Nigeria’s total trade, second only to the EU, and ahead of India, Brazil and the US.

“It’s now many years since Nigeria and China established diplomatic relations, and 10 years since they established a ‘strategic partnership,’ comprising five economic agreements signed during former president Olusegun ’s state visit. About that time, Chinese companies began to acquire oil blocks in Nigeria, offered by the Nigerian government in exchange for commitments of as much as $20 billion in infrastructure investment. Most of those oil-for-infrastructure deals fell apart shortly afterwards, suspended or cancelled by the succeeding government of Umaru Yar’Adua.

“Under the administration, the Chinese renovated the century-old railway line linking Lagos and Kano and bagged contracts to build new airport terminals in Lagos and Abuja, as well as establishing a new free trade zone in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. And in 2011 Lamido Sanusi, then the central bank governor, announced a ‘strategic’ decision to diversify 10 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange holdings into Chinese currency.”

How well these developments went were as a result of the relationships established under bilateral and multilateral relations between Nigeria and other countries not mentioned here.

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