From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Nigerian High Commissioner to the Commonwealth of Australia, Amb-assador Anderson Madubike, has said Nigeria will not only partner with Australia in the area of economic development, but also in peacekeeping operations, world peace and other areas.
In this interview with Daily Sun, the immediate past Consul-General of Nigeria in Shanghai, China, also said issues such as insecurity were common in every country, and “there is no need to over-emphasise our own challenges.”
Madubike, however, said, if necessary, Australia could help in combatting security challenges through support in arms supply or training to maintain peace in Nigeria.
How much did you boost trade relations between Nigeria and China as Consul-General of Nigeria in Shanghai?
I was the fourth Consul-General of Nigeria in Shanghai, China. Shanghai is one of the strategic cities in China. I was there from August 2017 to May 2021. During my tenure, it is on record that I was the first Nigerian Consul-General to organise a trade delegation from Nigeria to Shanghai and other Chinese cities and investment conferences on two occasions in Shanghai. The essence of the trade delegations and conferences was that, when I arrived in China, I realized that there were many business opportunities and many business people and organisations in Nigeria were oblivious of the opportunities and how to tap into them. Therefore, we organized these programmes and invited many investors and other relevant Nigerian organisations to participate. The conferences, therefore, created linkages between Nigerian and Chinese businesses and unlocked many other opportunities to Nigerian and Chinese citizens.
Being a country that is the focal point of Nigerian traders, how best do you think Nigeria can deepen trade relations with China?
Let me start by saying that learning is a continuous process. I am also advising my colleague, the current Consul-General in Shanghai, to consolidate on what we did during my tenure. All these trade delegations and investment conferences are very important keys to unlocking many opportunities. They should organise these conferences from one state to the other and, from there, more enlightenment would be generated about the opportunities in China and create exposure for the Nigerian market and its capabilities. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, most of these have not been taking place. But as soon as these issues are resolved, that is the way to go to create awareness for the good of both countries. As you may be aware, at the mission in Shanghai, there is a booklet on Nigeria’s investment opportunities, but the trade delegations and conferences will promote these opportunities more.
Like China, how can Nigeria move away from being a country that depends more on imported goods to an industrialised nation?
As we are aware, the Federal Government has come out with a defined process for the diversification of the Nigerian economy away from oil. All these efforts need to be sustained to ensure that Nigeria’s industrialisation pathway is maintained. As ambassadors, part of our mandate is to lead and preach towards the diversification of Nigeria’s economy through investments in other areas. We can tailor our conferences or advertisements to other opportunities in the Nigerian economy rather that oil, especially in agriculture and solid minerals. This is because having all your eggs in one basket does not help the country. Government is giving a lot of incentives and tax breaks to companies who are investing in other sectors of the economy. These are conscious efforts to wean the economy away from oil. You should be aware that Nigeria has a lot of material resources and we need to increase our efforts to these other sectors for the good of the country.
During your presentation of letters of credence in June 2021, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Honourable David Hurley, expressed delight at the state of the cordial relations between Australia and Nigeria. What were the key components of the diplomatic ties that excited Hurley?
Yes, the Governor-General was excited that our trade relations were mainly on mining and our diplomatic relations were not yet developed to a level that we should be proud. I will, therefore, be working very hard to strengthen our partnership and increase our trade relations. We are working very hard to develop it along other lines in our cooperation, like in the education field, agriculture, mining, technology and tourism. On my resumption of duty, I realised that many Australians didn’t really know much about Nigeria and its potential. The mission is, therefore, planning an investment conference in June 2022, which will bring many stakeholders from Nigeria and Australia together to discuss the opportunities and how to partner and develop these aforementioned sectors. A lot of people have the idea that Africa is far or Australia is far. That is not true. With today’s technological advancements, there is no country that is far. Let me also reiterate that COVID-19 has taught all of us that we need to work together for the enhancement and progress of the world.
The promotion of peace and stability in the African region, West Africa in particular, by the Federal Government, including trade, reverberated during that encounter. Are there plans between Australia and Nigeria to collaborate in these areas?
Yes, we are not restricting our relations with Australia to one area. Even before now, we have collaborated at United Nations Peacekeeping Missions. The Australian military is top-notch and we have a lot to learn from them in terms of training, support in materials and other assistance. Though we have a lot of experience in peacekeeping, we intend to work with Australia not just in economic development, but also in peacekeeping operations, world peace, etcetera. We are not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that we achieve our objectives in all spheres, including military cooperation.
Nigeria is bedevilled with insecurity and, without security, nothing can thrive in any nation. Is Australia ready to partner with Nigeria in eliminating terrorism, banditry and kidnapping from the country?
Well, these things are common in every country. All countries are facing their own specific security challenges. Therefore, there is no need to over-emphasise our own challenges. You will agree with me that the Federal Government is doing its utmost to resolve these issues, especially in the North Central and the North East. Still, if there is that need, Australia could partner Nigeria in combatting these matters through support in arms supply or training to maintain peace in Nigeria.
In 2020, during the Nigeria-Australia Investment Forum in Melbourne, Australia, Nigeria and Australia concluded plans to collaborate to improve the information and communications technology, housing, agriculture, works and health sectors in Nigeria. This was further reinforced during the third Nigeria-Australia Senior Officials’ Talks, which took place in Abuja. Has the agreement gone into full force?
The agreements are going into full force and we will continue to sustain the tempo. As a matter of fact, there is another Senior Officials’ Talk this year in Abuja, which should have taken place last year, but for the challenges of COVID-19. We will get the press involved, as we are introducing other areas of collaboration and consolidating on the ones we already signed. At the end of the day, these are in the overall interest of humanity and making the world a better place.
What is the volume of trade between Nigeria and Australia?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the accurate statistics of the volume of trade between Nigeria and Australia because most of the trade is still through independent sources. I am aware that the volume is not yet substantial, but we are working in that area to increase the volume, especially in the formal sectors, so that the statistics are easily recorded.
I have also realised, since my arrival, that the Pacific nations don’t really know much about Nigeria and what it stands for and the potential opportunities due to its tremendous human and material resources. I will be working hard in these areas so that we can come together for both our benefit. Distance shouldn’t be a barrier to trade. Nigeria has so much to offer to these countries.
Australia has comparative advantage in the mining sector. How does the Nigerian High Commission in Australia plan to tap into the Australian experience for Nigeria?
No doubt, Australia has comparative advantage. Every year, there is always the Africa Down Under Conference, which is solely on mining. Of course, the conference the high commission is planning in June is also on mining, but we are also focusing on other areas like agriculture, education, tourism and technology.