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Monday, 01 October 2012 15:48

Russia: Forging a New Level of Partnership with Nigeria

AmbPolyakovBy Kehinde Aig-Imoru in Lagos

NIGERIA, September 30, 2012 (Buziness Africa) - Over four years, the official visit of Dmitry Medvedev to Nigeria is still viewed as a significant mark in the turning point in diplomatic relations, highlighting diverse opportunities and economic cooperation, and a bringing a new level of partnership between Nigeria and Russia. Just before his departure, the Russian ambassador to Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr Alexander Polyakov, spoke in an interview with the Buziness Africa's regional representative for West Africa, Kehinde Aig-Imoru, about the relations and the need to attract private and public investors to Nigeria as well as some existing challenges.

BA: In a few words, please tell our readers about your country's foreign policy with Nigeria?

Polyakov: Nigeria is regarded as a strategic partner on the African continent, we simply take into consideration the fact that Nigeria is the most populated country in the so called sub-Saharan region and it plays an outstanding role in maintaining peace and democratic unity particularly in the west African subregion and on the continent as a whole. Nigeria is the most contributor to the peace process on the African continent. The necessity of strengthening political dialogue, economic and humanitarian cooperation between our two countries on all existing levels were adequately addressed. We, on our part, are to ensure a follow up, to the principal basic agreements signed at last bilateral summit.


BA: What are your priorities since arrival to the diplomatic post?
Polyakov: From the very beginning, my main tasks are to organize and to assist in the successful holding of the first ever bilateral summit meeting in the history of Russia-Nigeria relations which happened in June 2009. It was really a great political event and a great success in our assesment because we managed to sign not less than six agreements and to achieve basic accord on very important political, economic issues and humanitarian issues. At the time, I was also instructed to promote our bilateral relations in every possible area. I had the honour to resume the work on our intergovernmental joint commission on economic, scientific and technical cooperation which coincided with the visit of the honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Madueke to Moscow in March and other important visits of other state agencies including the visits of the Ministers of Justice and Science and Technology.


BA: Where have both countries reached in implementing agreements that were signed?
An example is the important agreement with the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) to be rectified by the parliament and by the two countries and I am happy to state that the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, has started the process of rectification. As soon as we have this very important agreement rectified, it will be a very much improved legal environment for Russian investors in Nigeria. They already built up the structures for the joint ventures, they accepted a plan of the shortlist of the most prospective projects and they are working very hard in Abuja on making those projects operational.


By the way, another important agreement is the intergovernmental agreement on the calculation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. We received a letter of the NLP headed by Professor Langba that the esteemed Nigerian side has completed the formation of its part of the joint committee or joint working group necessary for implementation of the agreement and is working on the proposals on how to develop our cooperation on this sensitive and important area.


We are just making our first steps in this area, but we are very optimistic because if our plans come through, it would mean investments of up to $2.5 billion within a very few years and this will be investment not so much in the oil and gas extraction (mining) in the so called mainstream infrastructure including building pipelines, the creation or modernization of electricity, electrical power generation in different areas of the country and, last but not the least, the Russian assistance in geological exploration and investigation of oil and gas resources especially north of Nigeria. We would like to be represented in, if not all sectors, but the basic sectors of the Nigerian economy.


I have already mentioned existing investments, the Aluminum Smelting Plant in Akwa Ibom State, despite all the difficulties that remain operational and building up its strategy of achieving its full capacity in a rather short time. We would like to possibly try our means and methods in some limited areas in one of the central state in Nigeria, if it is a success, then we spread our activities to all the Nigerian states.


BA: What are views about Russia opening up its market to Nigerian products?

Polyakov: Russian market is already open to Nigerian products. We do not only provide the status of the most favorable nation to your country on an unilateral basis, which means, at least, 25% decrease in the level in the fees paid by the exporters but we provide some special not on a bilateral basis but on a unilateral basis. Though we regard Nigeria as a developing African country, it is viewed as one of the most favorable states in their trade transactions with Russia. So, Nigerian exporters can supply almost everything, though we have some technical provision which is sometimes very important, and of course, procedures are not easy. These I believe are the main obstacles for Nigerian exporters and not trade barriers mounted by the Russian side.


BA: What has accounted for the low level of African trade compared to the Asian counterparts despite the huge opportunites that exist in Russia?

Polyakov: Russian market is a huge one with great opportunities. It is the biggest in terms of territory so if you cannot succeed say in Moscow or St. Petersburg; you can succeed somewhere else maybe in the Far East. The Asian partners do not concentrate their efforts much in the central region of our country but in Siberia, in the Far East where they have practically no competitors. Russia is becoming a competitive country. For Nigeria, the problem is of a different character. Though, our economies are not complementary, we meet on the platform of OPEC, - the forum of gas exporting countries. At the same time, it is difficult to export oil or gas to each other's country. It is very clear that Nigeria has lost its leading position in the Russian market, a position it occupied in the sixties and seventies. Finally, the deeper we go into investment cooperation, the more advantages both countries will have. (BA)



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