Last week, theNigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar as part of his efforts to resolve the current global oil crisis. President Buhari, who has been nicknamed “Gulliver” because of his frequent foreign travels since he became Nigeria’s president, is said to be seeking interventions from both the Saudi and Qatari government. He also strengthened bi-lateral relations between Nigeria and the two states by signing some key deals. Buhari was accompanied by Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, NNPC Boss and Minister of state for petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and the Nigeria’s Minister of state for Aviation, Hadi Sirika. He was also accompanied by the state governors for Zamfara, Borno, Osun, Katsina and Ogun states. This drew the ire of Nigerians, with many claiming it was a waste of the country’s resources to travel with so many governors.
Here are some of the highlights of Buhari’s visit to the Gulf States:
The fall in global oil prices has affected revenues in oil producing countries all over the world. With analysts predicting that oil prices won’t rise that much anytime soon, OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) member countries have come together to look for ways to salvage the situation. Saudi Arabia and Russia, two of OPEC’s biggest countries, met two weeks ago, agreeing to freeze oil production levels in their two countries after January. That move resulted in a slight increase in oil prices. There are also rumblings that these two countries could stop oil production for the main time, to allow lesser influential OPEC members to sell their oil products. Nigeria, Africa’s highest producer of oil, depends on it for 70 percent of its revenue. It is also one of the lesser influential countries. Buhari met with Saudi’s king to discuss on how the oil production in OPEC members could really favour Nigeria, seeing that Saudi was an influential member. It remains to be seen if Saudi would listen to the demands of president Buhari.
Strengthening of the aviation sector?
Nigeria also signed deals with the Qatari government to increase flights between Qatar and Nigeria. The agreement will see more direct flights between the major cities of both countries, on the basis of “reciprocity”. This new agreement would also strengthen trade and tourism between both countries, important especially now that Nigeria is trying to place emphasis on export. However, the only hindrance to this deal is the state of most of Nigeria’s airport. Nigerian airports are some of the worst, with an international body proclaiming the Port Harcourt international airport the worst in the World last year. Perhaps this deal would spur Nigeria to re-structure its aviation sector.
Encourage investment in Nigeria
With Qatar being the richest country in the world, it is common sense that Nigeria would encourage direct investment from Qatari businessmen in Nigeria’s economy. Nigeria and Qatar’s finance ministers signed bi-lateral deals between them, on behalf of their countries, for the avoidance of double-taxation and the prevention of tax-evasion by Qatari businesses in Nigeria. Buhari had earlier met with Saudi businessmen on his visit to Saudi Arabia, with the topic of investments in Nigeria on his mind, reminiscent of what he has been doing on all his travels since last year. If Buhari’s stance on Nigeria’s economy is relatively unknown, according to some Nigerians, one thing is sure: he is keen to see foreign investment in Nigeria.
Buhari declared that Nigeria would not be joining Saudi’s Islam coalition to fight terrorism. Saudi Arabia considered a number of countries last year as part of its newly formed coalition to fight terrorism and Nigeria was included in the list. Buhari’s decision was hailed as a good move by some sections of Nigeria’s media. However, in Qatar, Buhari proclaimed his support for two state resolution to the Isreal-Palestine conflict and this means he supports Palestine’s right to stand as its own nation, with Jerusalem as its capital. “I want to assure you that we will stand side by side with you, until our brothers and sisters in Palestine achieve their desired objectives,” Buhari said.