By Soni Daniel
Abuja—Nigeria, yesterday, tabled a catalogue of key projects considered as critical to the change agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to the Chinese Government and pleaded with the Asian industrial leader to assist with funds to carry them through.
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who led the Nigerian delegation to China, said the meeting was a follow-up to the one earlier undertaken by Buhari to that country all in a bid to underscore the seriousness which the country attaches to the matter.
Senator Udoma, who was in China to attend the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, FOCAC, met with the management of the Chinese EXIM Bank in Beijing, China, which is expected to finance major projects in Nigeria at low interest rates compared to what similar financial institutions are offering Nigeria.
He said this will lead to the implementation of the various projects discussed during the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to China.
President Buhari during a State visit in April this year reached various agreements with the Chinese government on development assistance particularly the funding of some critical infrastructure in the country. The visit by the President further bolstered Nigeria’s participation in the 10 critical areas under the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, FOCAC.
At the meeting with the Vice President of EXIM Bank of China, Yuan Xingyong, at the bank’s headquarters in Beijing, Senator Udoma said that Nigeria would appreciate the financial assistance from the Bank to enable it execute some of the basic infrastructure projects that will drive growth, develop the economy of Nigeria and increase business partnership with its global business allies.
Udoma said: “Our relationship with China is very important to us, which was why our President led a big delegation on a State visit to China in April this year. We are quite impressed with the infrastructural development in China and believe that China has a lot to teach us in Nigeria; particularly we will like the support of China in the area of infrastructure development.”
The Minister said he believes quite strongly that the rapid development of Nigeria will enable the country be a better business partner with China as the volume of business and investments will grow bigger and better.
“We have a list of some projects, some of them we have started work and others about to start, which we had submitted to China for financial assistance. Some of the priority projects, the President has asked me to stress include the Nigerian railway modernization projects from Lagos to Kano – (Lagos –Ibadan) and Lagos – Kano (Kano – Kaduna) which are two parts of the same project; the coastal railway project from Calabar to Lagos, the Mambilla Hydro-electric project and the Niger Delta East West road project.
“These projects are estimated to be completed in three years. Other projects which the Government are interested in developing include power transmission projects, Greater Abuja Water project, Abuja Mass Transit project, Galaxy Backbone project, NTA Digitalization, expansion of Abuja Keffi road, and the dualization of the Akwanga – Keffi road”, he said.
Senator Udoma also mentioned other projects the Nigerian Government was considering such as the Presidential Initiative for the Rehabilitation of the North East and the Export Processing Zones that the Nigerian Ministry of Investments, Trade and Industry was seeking to develop to attract companies wishing to locate in Nigeria to manufacture principally for exports.
“In the case of the Export Processing Zones, we are looking at investors to come and invest in them and Chinese companies might be interested in coming to invest; and if the bank can assist us in identifying and introducing them, we will really appreciate it.”
The Minister stressed that the priority projects, particularly the railways, will help the rapid development of Nigeria and expand its economy thereby increasing capacity of the country to repay the loans.
He reiterated Nigerian government’s commitment to diversifying its economy. “Nigerians, like the Chinese, are hardworking people and I believe with the right infrastructure in place they will work harder and the country will make wealth and become a better partner to China.
“Like China, we have the population, which is the largest in Africa. Its GDP is the highest in Africa south of the Sahara; and we are geographically well positioned for Chinese investors. From Nigeria you can get to anywhere in Africa in four or five hours. We are very well located for any Chinese business in Africa.”
Responding, Mr. Xingyong said the Bank enjoys a very sound relationship with Nigeria. “Nigeria is important to the Bank because the two have been doing good business together and the country has a good record of repayment. The bank is willing to deepen the bilateral cooperation with the country and extend financial support for development purposes” he said.
He agreed that the priority projects will largely accelerate Nigeria’s economic growth.
“We appreciate the idea of the EPZ. By establishing EPZs it will create the enabling environment for enterprises and provide revenue for Chinese business investments in Africa. Such EPZ will become a vehicle for international cooperation between China and Nigeria, and transfer of industrial capacity between the two countries.”
Xingyong said Chinese companies can partner EXIM Bank and look for investments in the EPZ. He pledged to continue to work with Nigeria in the development of some of Nigeria’s priority projects.