Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity) GARBA SHEHU points out the gains of President Muhammadu Buhari’s four-day trip to Turkey.
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 and 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 organisations 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
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 percent 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 $USD600mm, 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; industrialisation 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 $26 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.
Education and Health Matters
Nigeria and Turkey reached very important agreements on matters concerning education and health. These are key areas in which Turkey has made a lot of progress.
There are existing Turkish investments in these areas in Nigeria and it is on record that a number of countries in the world, including some in Africa have shut down schools and hospitals on the request of their home government following allegations that they are owned and operated by this organization accused of terrorism.
The smart thing the owners of some of these businesses did is that they transferred part or full ownership to Nigerian citizens at the onset of the crisis.
The Nigerian government delegation has accepted offers by the Turkish authorities to support a new group, the Maarif Organization intent on setting up of schools and specialist hospitals as new investors who are not tainted by such accusations.
It was in this regard that this new organisation, the Maarif Foundation for educational was introduced to the Nigerian delegation. A delegation from the foundation will visit Nigeria to commence the process of registration as well as following the procedures of establishing the new schools.
The two countries agreed to expand cooperation in exchange of scholars, exchange of students and exchange/sharing of ideas, skills and education technology and to improve scholarships for Nigerians to study in Turkey. They also agreed to resolve the issues relating to Nigerian students in Turkish universities that are facing exclusion due to visa challenges.
Nigeria and Turkey have equally agreed to strengthen and promote investments in health institutions and this, as promised by the President will proceed quickly, that is as soon as the details of the various agreements reached in the bilateral discussions are laid on his table.
The two countries agreed to strengthen defence and military cooperation initiated by them a few years ago.
This had already lead to the establishment of the Defence section in the Turkish Embassy, Abuja in 2013 and Nigeria’s Defence section in Ankara in 2016.
In the latest rounds of discussions, Nigeria and Turkey penned an agreement on military training.
They also agreed to collaborate towards the development of the Defence Industries Corporation, DIC in Kaduna into a Military Industrial Complex of Nigeria, which is a key agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Furthermore, two Turkish companies have have taken the giant stride to collaborate with the DIC in the production of arms and ammunition.
Of the two companies, one is establishing a rifles production line and the supply of raw materials, technical assistance and training while the second one is partnering the DIC in the conceptualization, designing, consulting, invention, manufacturing, marketing, sale, exportation and sale of military industrial products.
Ninth Summit of the “D 8”
The ninth summit, which took place in Istanbul on the 20th October also marked the 20th Anniversary of the organization.
It also witnessed the handover of the baton of its leadership from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sahid Khaqan Abbasi to President Recep Tayyep Erdogan of Turkey.
At the end of the Summit, the Heads of State and Government adopted a communique which spelt out the direction of the organization for the coming two years under Turkey.
Immediate next steps:
The Turkish Minister of Economy plans to visit Nigeria as part of the Trade Ministers of the D-8 Conference holding in Abuja between November 14 and 17, 2017.Nigeria will consider hosting the Joint Action Committee (JACO) on boosting the volume of trade and investment between Nigeria and Turkey in January 2018. This will also include a business forum with the private sector of both countries. The Turkish Ministry of Economy will send a formal notification to the Nigerian Government in the coming days.The Turkish Government will prepare a case study of the BOT model used to fund airport and other infrastructure projects to Nigeria. Specifically, the case-study on the successful build and expand Istanbul Airport project.Turkey will invite Nigeria for the Turkey-Africa Business Forum that will be taking place in Istanbul sometime in Autumn.Nigeria will work on ratifying the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) of the D-8.Nigeria and Turkey will in the coming weeks sign an agreement with Turkey against against trafficking in weapons, humans and drugs.Nigeria will raise a technical committee to advise her on how to ramp up trade and investment with Turkey as well as with other members of the “D 8.”
Taking everything concerning the trip as a whole, the two meetings, i.e the bilateral between Nigeria and Turkey and that of the “D 8” in which the country participated, it can safely be concluded that this is perhaps one of the best outings by President Muhammadu Buhari in a little over two years of his administration.
The President was accompanied on this mission by his wife, Aisha Muhammadu Buhari and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs Geoffery Onyeama, Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (Rtd), Defence, Brig-Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (Rtd), Education, Adamu Adamu and that of Industry, Trade and Investment Okechukwu Enelamah.
The rest included the National Security Adviser, Maj-General Babagana Munguno (NSA),his counterpart in the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Arab Yadam, the Comptroller-General of the Customs, Colonel Hamid Ali (Rtd) and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Turkey, Ilyas Sulaiman Paragalda.