Interview of H.E. Russian Ambassador to Nigeria: Russia eager for resumption
Daily Trust: Russia and Nigeria have enjoyed cordial bilateral ties, do you think there is something more to add?
Mr Nikolay Udovichenko: Russia and Nigeria are reliable partners with a long history of mutually beneficial and equitable cooperation. The Russian Federation has always been supporting Nigeria in its development into a strong, independent and prosperous country. In these relations, we focus on far-reaching projects, including training of Nigerian specialists in our universities. We believe it is vital for steady progress and dynamic development of Nigeria. Our cooperation in all fields is lasting and trustworthy, meaning that no one pretends to impose its interests, visions or opinions upon another. At the same time, stable bonds between our countries were established and maintained over the decades due to the commonly shared human values.
As for economics, both countries remain key markets to their respective regions and the potentials of their interaction are still underused. Russia is willing to share its experience on Nigerian ground, particularly in such vital sectors as oil refining, power supply, infrastructure, high-tech and so on. Investors are interested in major infrastructure projects with long payback periods, rather than looking for short-term profits here in Nigeria.
DT: How do you rate Nigeria-Russia bilateral trade?
Udovichenko: The bilateral trade volume of 2016 totaled about $0.5 billion. Unlike shrinking Nigerian foreign trade volumes with its other partners, this figure remains stable with positive tendency to grow. Meanwhile, we should bear in mind that there is no oil and gas share in it. Backbone of the bilateral trade is made of technologies and agric commodities. Russian major companies like Gazprom and Lukoil are ready to cooperate with Nigerian peers on mutually beneficial terms. Nigeria can attract Russian long-term investments and technologies to foster innovative upgrade in key economic sectors and boost infrastructure as well as enhance demand for high-skill employment. In this regard, cooperation of Gazprom and NNPC in domestic gas market development may bring Nigeria tremendous benefits.
The issues of bilateral economic ties were raised during the regular session of the Russian-Nigerian Bi-national Commission which took place in November last year in Abuja. The parties have reached agreements in various sectors, affording basis for particular business projects.
DT: Would you say you are satisfied with the bilateral ties?
Udovichenko: Stability and mutual understanding on fundamental levels distinguish Russia-Nigeria relations. At the same time, every ambassador wants to scale up cooperation between his host and home countries. Therefore, we are working here to bring Nigerian and Russian businesses together to inform Russian newcomers about opportunities and challenges of Nigerian entrepreneurial culture.
We are looking forward to the resumption of the ALSCON aluminum smelter company, participation of the Russian company “TyazhPromExport” in resuscitation of Ajaokuta steel plant, emerging bilateral agric projects, evolving in line with the Nigerian policy of industrial diversification, advancement of nuclear cooperation under the Nuclear Science and Technology Center in Abuja and many other promising enterprises.
Noteworthy in this light are educational ties. Russia provides Nigerian youth learning opportunities in national universities. This year we have granted more than 100 scholarships to brilliant Nigerian aspirants who want to study in our country. The scholarships are available to everyone interested in getting themselves on competitive basis. Short-term trainings and seminars in Russian professional schools and universities are also available to Nigerian specialists who look for global competitiveness and profound expertise.
Another conspicuous event under our close attention is the XIX World Festival of Youth and Students that will take place in the city of the winter Olympic Games in 2014, Sochi (South Russia), in October this year. We keep in touch with federal officials on this matter and welcome the Nigerian delegation to this event.
DT: Which areas of cooperation do you plan to improve?
Udovichenko: The most promising feature of bilateral economic cooperation consists in the fact that Russian and Nigerian interests reside in the same sphere. However, despite steady growth in trade volume, the potentials of this cooperation remain heavily underexploited. Over the years, Russia has contributed to the development of several infrastructure projects in Nigeria in such fields like power supply, agricultural, etc. I believe the most promising fields are agribusiness and high-tech sectors like space research or nuclear engineering. Russian companies looking for new markets or already functioning in Nigeria would be ready to share their knowledge, technologies and results.
DT: Russia has supported Nigeria on terrorism, and this has resulted in agreements on military cooperation. How far have we gone with that?
Udovichenko: Russia is a strong advocate of the world policy based on international law, specifically on the tenets of inner and outer national sovereignty and indispensable respect thereof by all international actors. Terrorism is one of the forces eroding it and jeopardizing international security. As of today, Syria is the main domain of global terrorism. Therefore, Russia focuses on all the necessary measures to prevent Syria from scenarios that we have seen in Libya and Iraq. It is not an exaggeration when I say that developments in Syria will affect largely the future, not only the Middle East but also the African continent as well as the world in general. That is why Russia has engaged in the fight against terrorism in order to secure political dialogue on Syria. Unfortunately, this notion, frankly speaking, has not become a prevailing one.
As for Russia-Nigeria cooperation in this aspect, we fully support the federal government in its fight against Boko Haram. Russia makes a fair contribution and renders assistance to Nigeria in military-technical spheres. For instance, I can refer you to the comments of the Nigerian military on the purchase of Russian military transport helicopters. These are reliable and time-proven machines, well known to Nigerian pilots. We are open to further dialogue and hope to drive cooperation in this field to a higher level upon conclusion of the said agreements.
DT: How would you want to be remembered after your tour of duty here?
Udovichenko: The most important thing is to build new areas of cooperation and improve the existing ties to a satisfactory level. At the same time, we pay a lot of attention to making contributions to solve education problems by giving scholarships to Nigerian students. This year, the slot has increased to more than 100. It is very important for us to improve economic cooperation that will be mutually beneficial to both countries.