RIYADH: Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have maintained a fruitful mechanism of bilateral consultations and coordination between them since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1961, according to Nigerian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Yahaya Lawal.
Speaking at Nigeria’s 63rd independence day anniversary function in Riyadh, the envoy on Monday said: “Last week we joined Saudi brothers and sisters in commemorating their 93rd National Day. We wish them further progress in their remarkable journey toward a prosperous future. Our heartfelt appreciation goes to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for sustained endeavours in consolidating and advancing the age-long historical and cordial relations binding our two brotherly countries.”
After independence on Oct. 1, 1960, Nigeria established formal diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia in 1961.
“I am happy to inform you that for the past six decades, our bilateral cooperation, which was initially Hajj-centric, has witnessed diversification to cover a number of mutually beneficial areas. I am pleased to note that a large number of our compatriots and professionals, including valued Nigerian football players, are actively working and contributing silently to the strengthening of these relations in various fields. This is expected to receive an additional boost when more than a dozen agreements and MoUs currently under negotiation within the framework of the Nigeria-Saudi Joint Commission are concluded,” the envoy said.
“It is our firm belief that these agreements, when finalized and implemented, would contribute in unlocking the existing huge potentials in the relationship and elevate our cooperation to a strategic level,” Lawal said.
“As members of several international organizations such as the UN, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the International Energy Forum, the G77, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Islamic Development Bank, the Digital Cooperation Organization and the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, our two nations have effectively used these and other platforms for close interaction and coordination,” he said.
“We share similar aspirations as members of OPEC+ for a stable oil market. We also subscribe to the promotion of South-South cooperation for enhancing trade, investment and sustainable economic development.”
Nigeria, like the Kingdom under its “Vision 2030,” was diversifying its economy away from oil dependence by focussing on agriculture, mining, the digital economy and tourism to promote sustainable development, he said.
“Our country is also cleansing and liberalizing the business environment to attract more domestic and Foreign Direct Investments. We have introduced in this regard a number of programs, which include a new National Digital Economic Policy and Strategy, the establishment of Special Agro Industrial Processing Zones, the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Programme and the Petroleum Industry Act, which seeks to transform and open up the oil and gas sector,” he said.
“Our country has also put in place sufficient incentives to attract Foreign Direct Investments. These include a tax holiday for up to five years on agriculture and solid minerals, easy company registration within 24 hours, pioneer status incentives of up to three years, easy repatriation of profits, easy access to credit facility, low import duties, and equal treatment of local and foreign companies,” he said.
The envoy also thanked Saudi Arabia for sending a ministerial delegation to Abuja to participate in the investiture ceremony of the new cabinet. The delegation held fruitful bilateral talks with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu.
The president reaffirmed Nigeria’s full backing for the Kingdom to host Expo 2030 in Riyadh and wished it success at the election coming up in December in Paris.
As regional leaders, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia share similar visions for peace in their respective environment.
“In this regard, we thank the Kingdom for its peace endeavours in Sudan. We are also thankful for the annual scholarship awards to Nigerians to study in Saudi universities, and wish to acknowledge with gratitude the numerous humanitarian interventions in Nigeria by the Kingdom through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center,” he said.
He also commended the Kingdom for its initiative to host the Saudi-Africa and Arab-Africa summits in Riyadh and for its faith in the continent.
“It is our hope that the upcoming historic fora would lay the foundation for a new era of partnership between the Kingdom and Africa, especially with the coming into force of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. The World Bank estimates that the AfCFTA will increase Africa’s income by $450 billion by 2035 and raise intra-African exports by more than 81 percent.”
This single market trade agreement will enable the African economy to reach the 29 trillion dollar mark by 2050, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
The function was attended by Riyadh Deputy Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz.