By Daniel Idonor, in France
AFTER a 48-hour high-level international politics and diplomacy at the Acropolis Congress Centre in Nice, France, the 25th France-Africa Summit, which was attended by no fewer than 57 heads of government, did not end yesterday until the French government sealed fresh business deal with her Nigerian counterpart.
This is as trade, commerce and economic-related activities between the two countries deepened with a noticeable growth due to increasing closer cooperation by the governments.
The Nigerian Ambassador to France, Ambassador Gordon Bristol, yesterday said that trade and economic ties between the two nations have risen to over $450 billion in the recent past.
The envoy, who told Vanguard at the newly-acquired temporary Nigeriaâ€™s Mission in the Nice Cote dâ€™Azur, added that there were no fewer than 16,000 Nigerian residents in France, comparable to other member-countries of the European Union, EU.
President Nicholas Sarkozy, who endorsed the increased participation by his country in the Nigerian economy, also assured President Goodluck Jonathan that he will be in Nigeria by next year, as part of the re-energised international cooperation with the country.
President Sarkozy and President Jonathan, who led their respective countries to the summit which began Monday, met at different times, to reach an agreement on what can be interpreted to mean a renewed co-operation between the countries, especially on socio-economic and political issues.
As a result, Jonathan did not leave France yesterday until he got â€œa firm pledge from President Sarkozy to increase support for Nigeria through the French Development Agency and the French Export Credit Agency.
President Jonathan had asked President Sarkozy to prevail on the French Export Credit Agency to open up more credit lines to Nigerian companies doing business with France, stressing that this had become necessary in view of the rising volume of business between the countries.
Sarkozy also promised additional French Direct Investment in Nigeria, especially in the area of power generation which Jonathan had identified as being very vital to Nigeriaâ€™s development.
The French leader seized the opportunity of the talks to congratulate President Jonathan on his recent assumption of office. He said he looked forward to visiting Nigeria next year.
To reach this stage, top officials of both countries had, in the last four days, been holding strategic meeting at different levels which culminated into the firm commitment from the host nation.
Those on President Jonathanâ€™s delegation to the talks include the Governors of Enugu and Benue States, Mr Surllivan Chime and Hon. Gabriele Suswan respectively who confided in Vanguard that, indeed it was a fruitful outing for Nigeria at the summit, as â€œwe are leaving here with a clear direction on what to do, towards the physical manifestation of the gains from the talksâ€.
Others are the key Ministers such as Dr Shamssudeen Usman, (National Planning), Diezani Allison Madueke (Petroleum Resources), Odien Ajumogobia (Foreign Affairs) among other high ranking Nigerian businessmen.
Sambo Renews Pledges for improved Power Supply
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Nigeria Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo, and yesterday reaffirmed the Federal Governmentâ€™s commitment to improve electricity generation and other infrastructural facilities in the country.
Speaking when he received members of the House of Representatives from Kaduna state who were in the State House on a congratulatory visit to him on his elevation to the office of Nigeriaâ€™s Vice President, Arch. M. N. Sambo said that the administration is sincere about improving the power sector and providing the enabling environment for infrastructural development in the country.
He also re-assured the members that the Federal Government was committed to the implementation of its amnesty programme and providing sustainable peace in the Niger Delta as well as the dredging of the River Niger.
The Vice President highlighted other areas critical to the administration to include project monitoring and evaluation and revitalization of railway system in the country.
He urged the members of the House of Representatives to continue to support the 7-point Agenda of government in order to provide democracy dividends to Nigerians.Â He noted with delight his â€œdetermination to further build on the good relationship existing between the executive and the legislatureâ€.
He called on the members to also come up with valuable advice to continue to foster this cordial relationship as, according to him, he â€œrelies on the members as his first constituency to achieve this and to move the country forwardâ€.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Hon. Isa M. Ashiru, said that they were in the State House to congratulate the Vice President and to pledge their support. He also pledged their continuous prayers and encouragement for President Goodluck Jonathan and the administration to succeed.
â€œIt is necessary at this time to encourage and give full support to the VP and President Jonathan to succeed and pray that God should see them through in steering the ship of Stateâ€, he said.