Sen. Shehu Sani has advised the Federal Government to explore ways of leveraging on the country’s huge agriculture potentials to ensure mutually beneficial relations with China.
Sani gave the advice on Tuesday at a seminar organised by the Centre for China Studies in Abuja with the theme “The Development and Achievements of China in 70 years and Opportunities for Nigeria/China Cooperation in the New Era.”
Shehu Sani said Nigeria should take a cue from how China was able to feed its over one billion population as well as lifting over 800 million of its citizens out of poverty.
“We can see China playing three roles in our economy presently. China is eminently the largest importer of our crude oil with the discovery of oil in the US.
“Secondly they give the highest loan with the lowest interest and that has been impacting on our infrastructure development.
“Thirdly we can see the growing trade relationship that exists between the two countries. In all, what matters most is how China can with its experience and progress, help and support Nigeria to rise from where it is.
“The relationship should not be a creditor, debtor relationship but ensuring that they help us to develop our industry,” he said.
Shehu Sani said there were lots of discussions around debt diplomacy, adding that the concern had been whether or not the debt was a threat to the economy.
“The question is, is debt a stimulus or an incentive for our economic improvement and future?
“Discussions like this will offer a way forward but most importantly is this, that the mutual relationship that exists between Africa, Nigeria and China, is something that needs to be reinforced by conversation,” he said.
Mr Du Sheng, Director of Political Science, Embassy of China, said some benefits in the relationship between Nigeria and China was assisting Nigeria to leverage available technology to develop its agriculture.
“China is ready to help Nigeria build its infrastructure. It is our hope to bring agricultural technology to Nigeria.
“It is also your dream to share our experience with Nigeria not only to become the food basket of the world but also a world factory next to China.
“The magic in China being food sufficient is that we have the right leadership, and the people work with a common goal. We use our technology to satisfy the huge needs of the people.”
Prof. Nazifi Darma, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship Studies, said there were key issues to look at in Nigeria and China relations to ensure sustainable development.
“The first is that the Chinese have the self discipline to institutionalise development plan that has succeeded in lifting 800 million of its people out of absolute poverty in the last forty years.
“In Nigeria, we had the culture of the development plan and since the national development plan that was abandoned in 1985, we have not had any consistency culture of the development plan. I think this is one of the most important lessons we need to learn. The issue of agricultural production.”
Darma, who is also a lecturer at the University of Abuja, said: “there is also the issue of infrastructure financing and how we need to go about it. Contracting debt from China continuously for infrastructure is not sustainable.
Prof. Usman Mohammed, Dean, Faculty of International Relations and Diplomacy, Nile University, said Nigeria should learn from how China attain food sufficiency in spite of its population.
He said: “What I want the Nigerian Government to do is to study how China feeds itself. How was China able to close its borders and able to produce to feed its population.
“This is very important because food security is about two components. Affordability and availability. If the food is available but people cannot afford it, there will be insecurity.
“We should look for how China would help us with technology to improve agriculture. We do not want them to give us the technology but how to develop it to help our economy.”