Charity Simon, Abuja
Nigeria and the People’s Republic of China, Monday, signed a bilateral agreement worth more than eight million RMB Yuan for feasibility studies on the second phase of the Abuja Solar Powered Traffic Control Signal, Agricultural Demonstration Centre and the 2016 Bilateral Training Programmes.
The agreement signed at the sixth session of the Economic, Trade and Technical Cooperation Joint Commission meeting in Abuja, is a prelude to Chinese government’s full involvement in the projects once they are certified feasible.
The project will be funded through gratis assistance as part of the 2012 Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement between the two governments.
Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, signed on behalf of the Nigerian Government while China’s Vice Minister of Commerce, Mr Qian Keming, signed on behalf of the People’s Republic of China.
According to the agreement, RMB Yuan 6000,000.00 is allocated for training programmes; the Agricultural Centre is allocated RMB Yuan 1,000,000.00, while the Sola project study has RMB Yuan 1,200,000.00.
Recalling that the Bilateral Economic Cooperation between the two countries dates back to 1971, Senator Udoma said the development which led to the First Economic, Trade and Technical Cooperation Joint Session in 2001, saw the eventual signing of the agreements for the establishment of the Nigerian Trade office in China and China’s Investment Development and Trade Promotion in Nigeria.
He noted that since the last Joint Commission Session which held in Beijing, China, in 2009, the relationship between the two countries has further deepened with increased trade, investments and technical activities which raised the volume of trade from $6.37 billion in 2009 to US$14.94 billion in 2015.
Udoma pointed out that a landmark development that has impacted positively on the relationship between the two countries was the sixth Ministerial Conference of the Forum of China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) which held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015 during which ten critical areas of cooperation were identified.
The visit to China by President Muhammadu Buhari early this year, he added, further bolstered Nigeria’s participation in the 10 focal areas which involves Industrialization, Agricultural Modernization, Infrastructure Development, Financial Cooperation, Green Development, Trade and Investment Facilitation, Poverty Reduction, Public Health, Cultural and people-to-People Exchange and Peace and Security.
The Minister told the Chinese delegation that the Nigerian Government is currently working to finalize a shortlist of projects that would be discussed at the FOCAC Coordination meeting scheduled for Beijing later in the year; and therefore solicited China’s assistance for the completion of the Abuja Light Rail project and the Greater Abuja Water Works project which have already been presented for funding by way of concessionary loan.
While appreciating the Chinese government’s efforts in supporting the fight against terrorism and raising funds for the Lake Chad basin Commission among others, Udoma drew attention to the imbalance in trade relations between the two countries and emphasized the need to bridge the gap for the sustainability of the cooperation framework.
He also called on the Chinese Government to reduce the high tariff on agricultural exports from Nigeria which currently stands at 5%, a development he said was capable of narrowing the trade imbalance between the two countries. The imbalance averaged US$5.9 billion in the last five years.
China’s Vice Minister of Commerce, Mr Keming, said while the Chinese Government is committed to funding the feasibility study, the Nigerian Government was responsible for providing technical data which the feasibility study requires, logistics as well as designating a specialized organization to coordinate the Chinese team.
To facilitate the speedy completion of the project, Keming said the Chinese Government is dispatching a team of experts to Nigeria to look at the projects for the purpose of commencing the study.
He promised that the Chinese government will do everything possible to enhance the relationship between both countries.
The meeting was attended by Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Agriculture Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh and representatives of the Federal Capital Territory and Works, Housing and Power minsters who also witnessed the Agreement signing ceremony.