President Recep Tayyeb Erdogan hosted Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria for a fairly long one-on-one meeting in Ankara, the Turkish capital on Thursday before the bilateral meeting that involved their ministers and members of their delegations.
This was President Buhari’s first visit to Turkey since his election in 2015, but the second meeting with President Erdogan who as Prime Minister visited Abuja in March, last year.
Though the meeting of the group, Development Eight, simply “D 8” in Istanbul was what President Buhari set out to attend, he spent an earlier 24 hours in the capital, Ankara, to round off the technical meetings of delegates from both governments in what can be summed as a compressed State Visit.
President Buhari’s overarching objective during this visit for both occasions was to focus on issues of security and anti-terrorism; agricultural cooperation; trade cooperation; education and health; transport and connectivity; energy sector cooperation and increased private sector participation.
Expectations on major concrete deliverables out of the trip had been loudly suggested by our officials, even before the meetings began and from the early outcomes we got, there is every reason for that excitement. The visit has achieved quite a lot on the stated objectives.
The meetings have also helped to enhance momentum in ties between Nigeria and the rest of the “G 8” members and the establishment of a positive working relationship especially between Presidents Buhari and Erdogan. This is an added bonus.
Here are some takeaways from the bilateral meetings between Nigerian and the Turkish government leaders:
Security, partnerships on transnational crimes
The two governments agreed to support each other in the fight against terrorism, human trafficking, drugs trafficking and arms trafficking.
Turkey specifically mentioned the menace of the Fethullah organization “FETO” which they accused of terrorism and involvement in the abortive coup plot last year which the Turkish population gallantly resisted.
There are more than 1,000 Turkish citizens in Nigeria, many of them accused of belonging to this organization and for which reason, their passports have been declared invalid by their country.
Nigeria has her own problems with the Boko Haram terrorist organization which claims ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS and (possibly) Daesh, (two international terrorist organizations which Turkey is up against) in the fight of which we get support from Turkey and we desire more.
Both countries also have issues with domestic terror organizations for which they need each other’s help.
There is, equally, the burning issue of the smuggling of illicit arms allegedly from Turkey, which their authorities effectively debunked but nonetheless agreed to enter into agreement with Nigeria that their ports, harbors, airports and territories will not ever again be used as transit points for such trafficking originating from other lands.
On the issues of the suspected terrorists of Turkish origin in Nigeria, President Erdogan received the the best assurances from our leader that Nigeria will not allow any person or organization to use her territory for any subversive activities.
President BUHARI used every given opportunity to denounce the failed coup attempt. The Turkish citizens who have sought and already obtained assistance from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNCHR since they became stateless persons have been warned not to engage in any political activities while they are in Nigeria.
Turkish authorities for their part gave all assurances that no subversive activities against Nigeria will be permitted of their citizens or on their territory.
Nigeria and Turkey also discussed the possibility of working together on the challenges brought about by Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs and refugees in the Northeast, especially that Turkey has the experience in handling about five million refugees in her territory.
On the specific issue of arms smuggling, our team which included the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau(Rtd) and the Comptroller-General of the Customs, Colonel Hamid Ali reached conclusions with the Turkish authorities on how to avert future occurrence and to that effect, a negotiated agreement is to be signed by both sides after vetting by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice as a requirement of our own administration.
Industry, Trade, Investment and Transportation
The primary objective of the visit by the President was to seek ways to increase the size of trade and investment between both countries had in many ways been realized.
After the various meetings, the delegations agreed that there are basic complementarities between both countries which should result in more trade and investment relations between them.
▪ Turkey serves as a hub and intersection for transport, trade, religion and cultures.
▪ Nigeria as a large domestic market and is considered as the access to a West African market (which together is twice its size).
The volume of trade between both countries fluctuates severely (from Turkey’s perspective) and does not seem to follow a pattern. For instance, there has been swings of 40 percent trade surplus in a year to a trade deficit of 30 percent the next year.
In addition, the level of trade generally between “D-8” Member States is also low. The proportion of trade between member states is only about 7 percent, while the European Union (EU) has about 65 per cent trade relations between member states. It was agreed by them all to boost the amount of trade between the “D 8” member states.
To achieve this, certain concrete steps aimed at increasing the volume of trade and investment between Nigeria, Turkey and the “D 8” were outlined and these included:
The setting up of a technical committee to analyze the trade relations between both countries, with a view to increasing the volume. This committee will come up with a roadmap with timelines for defining and measuring key goals.
Presently, there are Forty-Eight (48) Turkish companies operating in Nigeria, with investment of about $USD600m, whereas Ethiopia, a smaller economy, has investments of over $USD3,000m from Turkey. Our government is determined to understand why Nigeria with stronger innate complementarities with Turkey, is not attracting similar or larger investment.
Some of the agreements that both countries agreed that will potentially advance these objectives include a treaty against double taxation, investment promotion and protection agreement, banking regulation, and preferential trade agreement.
Nigeria also gave commitments to make further efforts to diversify the economy and make the environment attractive for investment.
Some of these measures include diversifying the economy from relying primarily on Oil & Gas, to developing other areas of comparative advantage; enhancement of initiatives and programs currently being implemented including the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP); creating the enabling for business and investment; industrialization programs; extensive build-out of hard infrastructure (including roads, rails, power, etc.) and focus on deepening trade relations with strategic partners (including Turkey).
The team from Nigeria also brought home lessons from Turkey, which included
using their Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model for the funding of infrastructure requirements. For instance, the Turkish Government has just completed a $USD26 BN BOT arrangement with a consortium to build and expand the Istanbul airport into the largest in the world.
The BOT arrangement does not cost the government anything, as the private sector partner fully funds the financing.
The Turkish Government recommended the BOT arrangement for Nigeria, especially as government funding takes exceedingly long time and is fraught with a lot of bottlenecks and bureaucracy.
In regards to this specific sector, Turkey made a demand for increased slots of air transportation for their airline, the Turkish Airline and in addition made a case for a Turkish Company seriously interested in bidding for the concession of the Abuja Airport. They were informed that the airport concession process in Nigeria is ongoing and Turkish Investors are welcome to participate