…As Nigeria, UK sign security, economic pact
…May wants UK/Lagos trade relations sustained
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, that he is committed to conducting credible elections in 2019.
In a bilateral meeting with the visiting Prime Minister, President Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, welcomed UK’s support at strengthening democratic institutions in the country.
The President said: “I assure you that I’m all out for free, fair and credible elections. I’m very pleased that my party is doing very well. The High Commissioner will brief you more. The recent successes in polls in Katsina, Bauchi, and Kogi have boosted our morale greatly.
‘‘Nigeria has accepted multiparty democracy and that is putting politicians on their toes, forcing them to work harder’’.
On the anti-corruption campaign, the President applauded the British support to the country, noting that the success of the fight was very important to ordinary people in the country.
“We had great opportunities and resources between 1999 and 2014, due to high oil prices. But when we came in 2015, oil prices plunged to as low as $37 per barrel.
‘‘What we have been doing since 2015 is to focus on infrastructure development, despite low earnings. Work is ongoing in roads, rail, power, and many others.”
On Brexit, President Buhari noted that it provides an opportunity to strengthen the historic ties between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
‘‘We are nervously watching the development about Brexit because we know that the relationship had been on for a long time. I assure you that I am prepared to strengthen the relationship between our two countries,’’ he added.
The President also thanked the UK government for the support on security and the fight against insurgency in the North Eastern part of Nigeria, as well as the improved trade relations between both countries.
‘‘I am very grateful to the British government under your leadership for the help in security, particularly your training team that is in our institution in Kaduna,’’ he said.
Earlier, in remarks before the bilateral meeting, the Nigerian leader underscored the need for UK support on reviving of Lake Chad, which is a means of livelihood for millions of people.
The President told the visiting Prime Minister that Europe and China were already conducting an in-depth study on recharging the Lake through inter-basin transfer from the Central African Republic.
In her remarks, the UK Prime Minister, who welcomed the assurance by the Nigerian government on credible elections in 2019, said she was pleased to be in Abuja to continue the ‘‘excellent discussions’’ she started with President Buhari in London in April, this year, particularly on security, trade, asset recovery and the fight against corruption.
‘‘Security and defence cooperation are very important steps to address Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa,’’ May said.
On asset recovery, the Prime Minister said: ‘‘We do not want to hold anything that belongs to Nigeria people, but we follow the judicial process, which can be slow.’’
The Prime Minister appealed to President Buhari to use his position as ECOWAS Chair to keep the issue of human trafficking on the front burner in the sub-region.
President Buhari and Prime Minister May witnessed the signing of two agreements: Security and Defence Partnership and Economic Development Forum Agreement.
Meanwhile, the visit came against the background of Brexit negotiations with experts speculating that PM May will seek a more robust investment opportunities for her country in African economies.
Theresa May on Wednesday after a meeting with President Buhari, proceeded to Lagos where her central message during her brief stay in Nigeria’s commercial capital focused on renewed efforts at ending human slavery and illegal migration.
The prime minister, on arrival from South Africa, was conferred with an honorary citizenship of the City of Abuja by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello.
Presenting the key to the City of Abuja to Prime Minister May, the FCT minister conveyed the goodwill and esteemed regards of the government and people of Nigeria to a delighted May.
The brief ceremony was watched by top officials of the Foreign Affairs Ministry led by the Minister of state, Foreign Affairs, Khadija Ibrahim, who received the prime minister upon arrival, on behalf of President Buhari.
Travelling aboard a British Royal Airforce Boeing 788, the prime minister’s flight touched down at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at exactly 11.51 am.
The prime minister is also scheduled to leave Nigeria for Kenya at the conclusion of her official schedule in Lagos.
Similarly, Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, on Thursday, received the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, in Lagos, affirming that the state remains a choice destination for investors from the United Kingdom.
The British Prime Minister, who arrived the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Ikeja, Lagos at about 4:30pm, was received by Governor Akinwumi , the Deputy Governor, Dr. Oluranti Adebule, the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello and the Special Adviser, Overseas Affairs and Investment, Prof Ademola Abass.
The Governor said he was delighted to welcome the British Prime Minister to Lagos, noting that the relationship between Britain and Nigeria dated back to the 19th century.
He said that much of Nigerian education, cultural and political systems was influenced by Britain, saying that there are more Nigerians living in the UK than elsewhere in the world outside Nigeria.
Governor Ambode emphasised that Lagos remained a place of choice for British investors especially given that stability in the government, the size of Lagos economy and population as well as the particular focus of his administration on the rule of law and justice sector reform.
“We just had a sort of bilateral discussion with the Prime Minister of Britain and just like what you are already aware of, she had actually visited Abuja earlier in the day to see Mr. President but again the important part of this visit to us more or less is to discuss about how investment in Lagos can be improved upon by British investors
and you would realise the fact that Lagos is the commercial capital of Nigeria and a whole lot of British investments are actually domiciled in Lagos,” he said.
All of these, the Governor said, have not only enhanced the ease of doing business in Lagos but also ensured a greater protection of people and investment in the state.
He also said that it would be of particular importance to Lagos State if British investors could explore the various opportunities that exist in the state in the areas of energy, technology, export finance, infrastructure and the creative industry.
“So, we spoke about how we can improve the investment climate in Lagos and then the other parts of what Lagos has been doing to attract investors.
You know we have been doing a lot in judicial sector reforms and security sector reforms and the Prime Minister was pleased with the progress that we are making in Lagos and ready to compliment our efforts by opening up export credit facility and development finance to some of the things that we are doing in Lagos State.
The Governor expressed optimism in the strengthening of the relationship between Britain and Lagos and avowed that his administration would do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.
“We spoke about things relating to technology, infrastructure and also the creative industry.
The relationship that Lagos has had with Britain dates back years and you know Lagos in 1861 was a British Colony and so the history has been so long that we need to just reactivate that and also make sure that a whole lot of British investments come in to Lagos and she is pleased with the progress that has made.
She has gone round and she is willing to do more with us and encouraging British investors to come in to Lagos and we are happy with that,” he said.
Speaking to journalists at the airport, the British Prime Minister noted that she was happy to be in Nigeria and Lagos in particular to see the thriving business community.
“I have had a fantastic visit to Nigeria and we have outstanding relationship between UK and Nigeria but there is much more that we can do in the future. I enjoyed being able to come to Abuja and also to Lagos to see the thriving business community here.
“We want to see increased trade between Nigeria and UK; increased investment; bringing jobs here to Nigeria, jobs in the UK being good for both countries and I have had an excellent time here and I am very pleased to being able to be here and thank you Governor (Ambode),” the British PM said.
She pointed out the important role that a stable government in Lagos plays in giving extra confidence of investors in the state.
The Head of the British Government also disclosed the availability of export credit finance to the tune of £750million as well as a considerable development finance, which Lagos State could look towards.
She spoke about the role that British could play in the development of the technology industry in Lagos given the particular capability of the UK in that area.
In that regard, the PM disclosed that she brought as part of her delegation, an expert in Fintech to explore the opportunity in this area that Lagos could benefit from.
The British Prime Minister also noted the special strength of the London City as a financial hub that could be of considerable importance for Lagos State, just as she emphasised sustainability and growth in Britain/Lagos relationship.
May also expressed the desire of the British government to assist Lagos in the development of her creative industry and alluded to the fact that the jacket she was wearing when she met with Ambode was actually made in Nigeria.