President Muhammadu Buhari extracted from Russian President Vladimir Putin during his recent visit to Russia are delivered, the trip will probably count as the most constructive he ever undertook during his four and a half years as President of Nigeria.
The trip to Sochi for the Russia-Africa Summit had caused no initial excitement in Nigeria because African leaders including Buhari had attended many such summits with various world powers and little came out of most of them, except empty promises.
Russia, too, does not loom large on the African psyche these days, unlike in the days of the old Soviet Union when it was the major contributor to liberation struggles and the major bulwark against Western imperialist designs in Africa. In recent decades, Russian firms were involved in some major projects in Nigeria such as Ajaokuta Steel and Aluminum Smelter in Ikot Abasi, which unfortunately became the poster boys of uncompleted projects in this country.
State House, summarized the agreements reached at a bilateral meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the Sochi Summit indicate that it was very productive and far reaching decisions were made on key projects and issues. A major deal was struck, for example, for the Russians to return and complete the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill in Kogi State. This project, which the Soviets started building more than 40 years ago, is the biggest and most embarrassing uncompleted project in Nigeria. It has since passed through many hands but is now back in the hands of the original contractors.
Other vital agreements reached in Sochi include Russian involvement in the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s comatose oil refineries through a joint venture between Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation [NNPC] and the Russianfirm Lukoil.NNPC and Lukoil are also to work together towards prospecting for deep offshore oil in Nigeria’s waters. In addition, the Russian gas giant Gazprom is to return to Nigeria and get involved in the development of gas fields and associated infrastructure. Also very significant is a deal for the
Russiansto construct the 1,400 kilometreLagos to Calabar coastal rail line.
Yet another agreement called for the advancement of an ongoing project for the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Nigeria. President Putin said the next step in the project’s implementation should be the commencement of construction of a power plant. Then also, President Buhari agreed to renew the Nigeria-Russia Military Technical Agreement, which will enhance the direct procurement of military hardware on a government-to-government basis at a lower cost. Putin then pledged to train Nigerian military personnel and modernize our military equipment and infrastructure.In fact, it was reported at the weekend that the Russians handed over to Nigeria 12 MiG-35 attack helicopters, badly needed by the Air Force in the on-going war against Boko Haram and ISWAP.
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Also very heart-warming was the two leaders’ discussion of Aluminum Smelter Company at Ikot-Abasi, Akwa-Ibom State, another very embarrassing national waste. Buhari said he had asked the Ministry of Justice “to submit a comprehensive report on the UC Russel [the Russian owners of the plant] matter.” There were more discussions on partnership in education and agriculture, including a Russian promise to give additional scholarships to Nigerian students, as well as cooperation in wheat production.Putin said Russia is currently the world’s largest wheat producer. There was also a Russian pledge to help withgeological prospection of Nigeria’s solid minerals, its help to secure the Gulf of Guinea from piracy, as well as Russian help to fight terrorists.
On the whole, President Buhari returned from Russia with a very exciting basket of goodies. The challenge now is to proceed quickly and deliver on all these agreements, which will help this country a great deal in all security, industrial, transport and scientific areas.
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