Former Director General of the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA), Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, on Thursday said Nigeria loses approximately $7 billion annually as a result of poor bilateral relations with the Israeli government.
He explained that Nigeria’s relation with the Jewish nation was categorised into political, economy and religion and it has suffered severely due to the non-committal posturing of Nigeria.
Akinterinwa stated this at a one-day symposium geared towards promoting partnership on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) between the two nations.
He argued that Nigeria-Israeli diplomatic relations remained lopsided, with only the religious angle flourishing, adding that a more robust diplomatic relations could have yielded more positive results in both the political and economic fronts, such as grants, low interest loans and knowledge exchange to support Nigeria.
The symposium was organised by the Citizens Centre for International Relations Research (RICC) and the Israeli Embassy with the theme: ‘Nigeria-Israeli Relations: Focus on SMEs, Agriculture and Solid Minerals.’
Akinterinwa said: “At least on a yearly basis, we are losing nothing less than $7 billion on an annual basis. It cannot be less because first, there is what we call grants in international relations.
“It is given to you. You do not need to pay back, then there are loans, which they give you with long term moratorium on it. You will pay back but the interest is low.”
Akinterinwa contended that “within the bilateral framework of both nations,entrepreneurial development should be a major priority for job
creation and economic development.
“The religious dynamics of the partnership appeared stronger than others, adding that Israel was always willing to partake in economic development of Nigeria,” he observed.
Akinterinwa harped on the need for Nigeria to review her relationship
with Israel, saying that, “we have not been taking good advantage of many opportunities taking place in Israel,” he stated.
Minister of State for Industry Trade and Investment, Hajia Aisha Abubakar, stated the federal government will continue to put in place initiatives to promote Mirco, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) especially among unemployed youths.
Abubarkar, represented by the ministry’s Director of Industrial Development, Engr. O. Awobukunmi listed the N220 billion MSME fund, Cassava and Rice Development Fund, Creative Industry Development Fund, Solid Minerals Development Funds among others.
Director of RICC, Dr. Cletus Akwaya, in his opening remarks observed that the need to create a platform that will address the gaps between the Nigeria and Israel has become imperative given the current challenges facing the two nations.
Akwaya called for more concerted efforts between the nations to foster a more reliable and sustainable diplomatic relations.