The bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and Pakistan began some five decades ago and the diplomatic ties have continued to go from strength to strength most notably, in the area of military cooperation, trade relations, cultural exchange and education. Both the countries share many commonalities and also face similar challenges.
The brotherly countries can help each other through sharing of expertise. There is a lot of trade potential between the two countries that can be utilized for the benefit of the people of Pakistan and Nigeria. Pakistan can provide cooperation in various sectors including health, infrastructure, education and human resource management.
Bilateral trade volume between Nigeria and Pakistan went higher above $500 million in 2015 however, both the countries are desirous of increasing the tune of bilateral trade over $1 billion as potential for achieving this target exists on both the sides because of available mineral resources, agricultural products and the population. In other words, there are markets for the products being produced by the two countries.
Some two years back in 2017, Maj Gen (Rtd) Ashimiyu Adebayo Olaniyi, arrived here in Islamabad as High Commissioner of Nigeria. Since then he has been pursuing the agenda of bringing both the countries further closer actively and energetically.
Born in January, 1958 at Ona-Ora Local Government Area of Oyo State, Nigeria, he grew up in a village called Kupalo- Jago. After getting his secondary education at the Nigerian Military School, Zaria from 1977, he proceeded to Nigerian Defence Academy as officer cadet of 23rd Regular combatant course in 1978. Then he was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Engineers in 1980 in the rank of Second Lieutenant. In January 2014, he voluntarily retired from the Nigerian Army on the rank of Major General.
Soon after taking charge of his office here in Islamabad as High Commissioner, prioritized the operationalization of the Memoranda of Understanding that have been signed while ensuring that other areas of bilateral trade relations such as oil and gas, mining, small and medium enterprise (SME), agriculture, manufacturing and textile are brought to the front burner.
Nigeria and Pakistan have many things in common; culture, population and even the economies of both countries are virtually the same. The process of diversification and rejuvenating the economies are alike, which means that in the South Asia, Pakistan is the best partner to trade with Nigeria in Africa continent.
To achieve his agenda and priorities, he actively managed to hold interactions with the key figures in the concerned sectors and quarters. In January last year, High Commissioner Ashimiyu Adebayo Olaniyi interacted with then Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and discussed matters related to the promotion of bilateral ties especially in the fields of trade, economics, defence and others.
In December 2017, High Commissioner to Pakistan urged all the Nigerian nationals in Pakistan to strictly respect the social, cultural and Islamic laws of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and join hands with Nigeria High Commission Pakistan for promoting the good image of Federal Republic of Nigeria in Pakistan. In a meeting at his residence with Nigerian Community here, he said that under the leadership of His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, President of Federal Republic of Nigeria efforts would be made to give a quantum jump to economic and trade relations as well as to translate the goals of Economic Diplomacy and South-South Cooperation with Pakistan.
He said that Pakistan has great potential in Agriculture sector and diplomatic efforts will be made in liaison with Nigerian Business Community in Pakistan to benefit from the Agricultural experiences of Pakistan for the benefit of the Nigerian Agricultural Scientists. Talking about his Agenda in Pakistan, he said that he would be visiting all the Chambers of Pakistan in Punjab, KPK, Sindh and Baluchistan Provinces including Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and visiting pharmaceutical factories, textile units and tractor factories across Pakistan besides launching feasibility study to promote SME projects between Nigeria and Pakistan.
According to PM House, Prime Minister stated that Pakistan can provide cooperation in various sectors including health, infrastructure, education and human resource management. There is a lot of trade potential between the two countries that can be utilized for the benefit of the people of Pakistan and Nigeria, added the Prime Minister. In this context, he emphasized the need for regularly holding the Pakistan – Nigeria Joint Ministerial Commission meetings. The Nigerian High Commissioner thanked the Prime Minister for the warm welcome and expressed his strong commitment to further expanding bilateral relations.
Afterwards he visited Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry and interacted with traders with an objective to higher the bilateral trade volume. On this occasion High Commissioner said that Pakistan and Nigeria enjoyed almost same economic conditions and businessmen of the two countries must collaborate in their relevant fields to exploit the untapped potential. He compared various factors of the two countries including population, size of economies, purchasing power and GDP etc.
He said that in terms of foreign reserves, the two countries have strengthened themselves considerably during the last few years. Nigeria is blessed with oil & gas, minerals resources, agriculture products etc. He urged Pakistani exporters to strengthen bilateral trade relations for benefit of people of two countries.
He also highlighted the incentives offered by the Nigerian government to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and stated that tax holidays has been awarded while the payment of tax is easier as taxpayers could file tax returns at the nearest Federal Inland Revenue Services office through electronic payment. He said that investors are free to bring foreign currency to Nigeria through issuance of certificate of capital importation.
Afterwards, he visited Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce with an aim to strengthen the trade and investments relations between the various Pakistani Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Nigeria Chambers of Commerce and Industries.
According to him, the development of strong cooperation between the small and medium enterprise (SMEs) of the two countries, SMEs are the bodies which drive the economy of any nation and at the same time provide job opportunities for the teeming youths of any country. In other words, it empowers the youths to be self-sufficient thus allowing for the economic growth.
The relationship between Nigeria and Pakistan in terms of Defence Cooperation has remained excellent over the years, unlike the bilateral trade relation which needs some improvement. In order to improve the trade relation, there must be regular exchange of information about the resources; be it mineral, agriculture, oil and gas, textile, manufacturing etc. that are available in the two countries.
In this regard, there must be constant holding of Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) between the two countries at governmental levels. The business men of both countries must interact through their various Chambers of Commerce and Industries. In terms of balance of trade, between the two countries, as at today, the balance is tilted in favour of Pakistan, but there is no problem about this present situation, as this could be adjusted to make the two countries to be at par.
Any business delegation wishing to visit Nigeria is assured of speedy issuance of visa within 48 hours of submission of relevant documents. Also, any Pakistani business man who wishes to invest in Nigerian economy through registration of company can do so online and within 72 hours such company will be registered through Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
In January last year, High Commissioner Ashimiyu Adebayo Olaniyi held a meeting with and National Security Adviser Lt-Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua where both the sides to enhance bilateral relations and defence cooperation and stability in South Asia and Africa. Olaniyi said that Nigeria attached great importance to its relations with Pakistan. He expressed keen desire to boost bilateral relations with Pakistan through mutual cooperation in multiple areas including defence, counter-terrorism, trade and social sector development.
They agreed to keep up the momentum of improvement in the relations and increase the frequency of high-level exchanges. The high commissioner conveyed the desire of his government to start comprehensive counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan including the exchange of actionable intelligence and tracking of terror financing. Janjua expressed the willingness and commitment of Pakistan to expand cooperation with Nigeria in all fields. Both sides agreed to work together at all levels to promote cordial and cooperative bilateral relations.