By Solomon Elusoji in Beijing
Nigeria’s delegation at the 2018 Summit of the Forum on China and Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which starts today (Monday) in Beijing, is to seek more loans and capital investment from China, according to two federal ministers who spoke to THISDAY yesterday.
Last Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari left for China along with several key members of his administration, including his wife, Aisha, who is scheduled to participate in a Spouses’ Programme on China-Africa at the Great Hall of the People, on the theme: ‘Joining Hands for a Future of AIDS.’
Also accompanying the president are: Ministers Geoffrey Onyeama (Foreign Affairs), Rotimi Amaechi (Transport), Babatunde Fashola (Power, Works and Housing), Muhammad Bello (FCT), Okechukwu Enelamah (Industry, Trade and Investment), Udoma Udo Udoma (Budget and National Planning), Suleiman Adamu (Water Resources); Ibe Kachikwu (State, Petroleum Resources), and Hadi Sirika (State, Aviation).
“We have made some loan applications over the years,” Udoma told THISDAY at the sidelines of a FOCAC Ministerial Meeting yesterday, adding: “and we are here to ensure that they all go through.”
The budget minister noted that the focus of the loans was on infrastructure development for rail, roads and power and dismissed any fears that they might be a burden to the country’s finances or compromise national sovereignty.
“We don’t have any concerns about these loans; they are all long term,” he added.
He was also quick to add that the Nigerian delegation, was also focused on seeking capital investment from China during the Forum.
“It is not just about the loans, we are also looking for investment to attract private investment into the country,” Udoma said.
Corroborating Udoma’s claims, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, pointed out that FOCAC’s objectives were not in contrast to Nigeria’s economic growth and recovery plan.
According to him, with low-interest Chinese loans, the country will be able to invest in strategic, long-term infrastructure projects which will create jobs and boost the country’s economic profile.
When asked about the significance of the high-powered delegation that travelled to Beijing and whether that means the country was shifting its foreign policy priority from West to East, Onyeama noted that the country’s objectives were focused on attracting capital for infrastructure and economic development.
“When it comes to investment, no country is more important than the other,” he added.
The Nigerian delegation arrived in Beijing on Saturday and swung into action.
On Saturday, the presidency announced that the country was set to receive a $325 million loan from China’s Exim Bank to improve the country’s telecoms infrastructure.
After the FOCAC Summit, President Buhari will hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang to discuss infrastructure financing for strategic projects in Nigeria and the upgrading of Nigeria-China relations.
According to a statement from the presidency, the president will also assess the progress made so far in Chinese interventions in Nigeria’s key priority infrastructure projects, particularly on-going projects in the railway and power sectors.