CHOGM reinforced Nigeria, Australia partnership

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CHOGM 2011

CHOGM 2011

Senator Danladi Sankara is Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Water Resources. He was one of the delegates at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Perth, Australia recently. In this interview with Kolade Adeyemi he speaks on the benefits of the conference to the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan

You were on the entourage of President Goodluck Jonathan to the just concluded Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM in Australia as a delegate of Nigeria. What was the experience like?

It was a very exciting and rewarding experience. As you are aware, the CHOGM was held at Perth, Australia from Sunday 23rd October to Monday 31st October 2011. At the Assembly of Heads of Government of Commonwealth nations, a lot of issues were discussed at various levels, especially topical issues of global, regional and state dimensions. The Nigerian delegation under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan made very significant impact on all aspects of the conference. President Jonathan made very good use of the opportunity offered by the Commonwealth conference to re-affirm and consolidate the existing bilateral economic co-operation between Nigeria and Australia; while at the same time, new mutually beneficial economic agreements were ratified between the two countries. Remember that before this 2011 Commonwealth Meeting, Nigeria has been Australia’s 2nd largest trading partner in Africa. This status and the visible economic gains recorded over the years between the two nations informed the renewed commitment to widen the scope of bilateral co-operation resulting in the fresh trade and economic agreements.

What are the specific details of the new trade and economic co-operation between Nigeria and Australia?

The main focus of the gains of the meeting was the historic event of Wednesday 27th October 2011 when President Goodluck Jonathan and Her Excellency Julia Gillard heading the Australian delegation jointly ratified the establishment of Australia–Nigeria Trade and Investment Council. The council is mandated by the new agreement to identify and develop new business opportunities between the two countries. President Jonathan and the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard jointly noted that Nigeria is a strongly growing emerging market and is Australia’s second largest trading partner on the continent of Africa. So far, six Australian mining companies are already active in Nigeria, in addition to the Macquarie Bank which is already operating in the country. Most importantly, the joint council will focused initially on collaboration between Nigeria and Australia in the critical economic sectors of energy, mining, agriculture and financial services. And with the private sector backing, the council will establish functional secretariats in Perth, Australia and Lagos-Nigeria. Solid minerals, oil and gas and agricultural development were the key issues and sectors President Jonathan focused mostly in his various interactions with Australia business and economic communities. These are the key areas he is determined to make impact, and he extended invitation to experts and investors to come to Nigeria to explore the vast potential resources available. Dr. Jonathan was very passionate about his desire to involve Australian investors also in areas of infrastructural development, particularly the agricultural sector. He affirmed at the various fora that Nigeria has abundant agricultural land which the federal government is very ready to collaborate with Australia to explore in order to achieve the nation’s quest for food security.

What are the other areas that Nigeria and Australia made significant progress in bilateral co-operation during the Commonwealth meeting?

Yes, there were other equally important issues that the two leaders made visible progress on at the meeting. For example, at a Global Polio Eradication Initiative held as part of the Commonwealth meeting, President Jonathan made a pledge that Nigeria would spend about N9billion, that is about $60 million towards the complete eradication of Polio in Nigeria within 24 months. This issue was a re-affirmation of the earlier pledge the President made to the visiting Mr. Bill Gates in Abuja shortly before the Commonwealth meeting. Also, the Australian Prime Minister and the new Chairperson of the Commonwealth, Ms. Julia Gilliard who presided over the event pledged that her government would also provide another sum of $50 million to the global Polio Eradication effort, in the same manner as the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameroon announced that Britain would give additional £40 million towards polio eradication. From my explanation, you will appreciate the great success recorded by Nigeria under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan at the just-concluded Commonwealth meeting. The position taken by Dr. Jonathan in rallying world leaders and governments at the meeting to contribute to the eradication of polio has paid off. This is even more evident when you consider the fact that Nigeria is a focal point in polio cases over the years. The efforts of Mr. President at the Commonwealth have certainly given the nation the leverage to wipe out the disease completely from Nigeria.

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