The Ambassador of Ireland to Nigeria, His Excellency, Sean Hoy has described Ireland Nigeria relationship as cordial and prosperous.
Ambassador Sean who disclosed his country’s strong commitment to ensuring a most cordial bi-national relationship with Nigeria also expressed the need for Nigeria to look further within for increased economic growth.
In this session with Victoria Ojeme, Victor Gotevbe and Vera Anyagafu, Ambassador Sean opened up on areas his country has been assisting the government of Nigeria, the country’s coordination with European Union to ensuring that Nigeria puts an end to terrorists attacks and many other issues of concern.
Your Excellency, you came to Nigeria at a time Nigeria is experiencing the height of terrorists’ attacks. What has Ireland done to assist Nigeria in its fight against terrorism?
When it comes to these bigger issues, Ireland is very much an active member of the European Union and the European Union has been and continued to be a strong partner with Nigeria in that regard.
If all the European Union countries try to break down into different levels of assistance, especially on a very difficult issue like terrorism, Ireland would have a very fragmented approach which will not be in the interest of the Nigerian government.
What you don’t need is a little bit of support. What Nigeria needs is coordinated support and Ireland coordinates very closely through the European Union.
Ireland is very actively involved in trying to understand the terrorist threats here in Nigeria. It does not stop at just the terrorist threats, but the implications also. I travelled to Yola, and that was the closest I could get to the north east, last November, and I visited some of our citizens who are doing some construction works there. I also visited some of them in missionaries, who are helping in Nigeria for a very long time, and the American university, including the state government and the security forces and I was left with the impression that there is really a huge humanitarian situation that is not getting the attention that it needs to get in Nigeria.
People are trying to cope, but the way they are surviving the situation is somehow unimaginable.
About 90 per cent of the displaced people in Yola are living in houses of other Nigerians. Although I have worked in many other parts of Africa and worked in refugee camps, I think Nigerian people should be very proud that they are helping each other in this way.
In a sense, I think they are masking their sufferings and this makes it a little more difficult for the Nigerian government and the international community to respond the way they should.
However, my government is actively looking at this, and we have given a large contribution to the region to support Nigerian refugees in Cameroon and Niger.
This is done through the international organisations and we do need to monitor the situation here in Nigeria with the view to giving support, for fact that no one benefits from terrorism or violence.
What is the state of relationship between Nigeria and Ireland at present?
Relationship between Nigeria and Ireland is very positive and Nigeria is our oldest partners in Africa.
Ireland established its embassy in Nigeria in 1961, and it was the first embassy Ireland established on the continent of Africa.
This goes to show that our relationship is very special and rooted.
I will also like to add that just before I assumed office here in 2014, Nigeria was designated as country of special priority for our export market and we need to drive that new relationship to increasing our trade and economic relations
What is the volume of trade between Nigeria and Ireland
It is progressive and in 2014 Irish’s export to Nigeria was about 339 million euro from 323 million euro the year before and that includes the food products partly related to the Guinness factory in Lagos.
As you know, Guinness is an Irish company right in the center of Dublin so there is still a direct relation between Guinness Ireland and Guinness Nigeria.
We also export a lot of dairy products to Nigeria and we hope to significantly increase that as well as some fish and food flavoring.
Our imports from Nigeria are almost totally petroleum products and this cannot be described as relationship between the two governments, but between traders from both countries.
What areas are you intending improving on both countries relationships?
When we look at relationship we have to look at the change in dynamics.
Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa, and it has the biggest population, which is half the population of United States of America. Ireland is looking at the potentials short term and medium term because you also have a large population of young people who have a lot of interest in modern technology.
And in terms of basic commodities, we are interested in exporting more dairy products in Nigeria and many other countries across the globe. Interestingly, we already have one Irish company, by name ‘GLANBIA’ and they are investors in Nutricima, Nigeria. This company deals on dairy based products that are sold throughout the country.
On our part, we send the white gold which is milk and we buy the black gold which is Crude from Nigeria. We are also very interested in the financial services in Nigeria especially around Lagos, just as Nigerian banking sectors bring in technology and security that allows external investors to have increased confidence in the financial services.
In other words, we are working in a number of ways in traditional exports of materials that we produce and it is quite exciting.
How encouraging is foreign trade investment in the last 3 years?
It is not always easy to calculate that because when you have found the right investment into Nigeria it could be by a number of companies merged together. For example, in GLANBIA, where we are working with some other Nigerian partners, it does always come up as FDI from Ireland alone and some of the Irish companies maybe Head-Quartering the operations in the Middle-east and then investing in Nigeria. The issue does not often come up in our trade unions, but certainly, Ambassador Ketabe in Dublin is very interested in getting more fund raised investment from Ireland into Nigeria and we are working in good partnership and Ambassador Ketabe and I are committedly representing Ireland and Nigeria.
So we co-ordinate closely, and try to look at those opportunities and the challenges to a progressive partnership for both countries to thrive. This is in addition to potentials that will attract long term investments to both countries.
What lesson can Nigeria learn from Ireland in terms of industrialisation?
Ireland is very successful at attracting foreign direct investment into the country and this is as a result of good strategic banking by our government. Although, it took a long time, the first thing we did was to market our image, expressing why one should place Ireland over another country.
Interestingly, Ireland is the only English speaking country in the whole Euro zone and this is vital to investors.
And because it a small country, it is reasonably easy to establish a business for fact that our government has cut down the rigorous terms of business registration.
You can register your business/company online, which made it possible for ICT companies like Apple, Google, eBay and linkedin to have their European headquarters in Dublin.
What is the volume of oil import from Nigeria by Ireland?
I can only provide the value, which is about 210 million euro in 2013 and slightly above 284 million euro in 2014 and these could be purchased from a company.
In other words, we are not buying it from the Nigerian government and it is important that you are aware of that, although, the Nigerian government is getting revenue from that purchase.