Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The federal government Wednesday sought the assistance of the Russian Federation to build nuclear power plants in Nigeria and modernise the country’s military arsenal. Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan Ali (rtd), who made the request at a conference in Moscow, also called for the Russia’s intervention in constructing petroleum pipelines and railways.
This is coming as the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, disclosed that the Nigerian Army would soon take delivery of military hardware recently ordered by President Mohammadu Buhari.
A team of nuclear experts from America, Britain, Norway and China along with Czech and Russian contractors recently removed highly enriched uranium from a research reactor in Kaduna State.
Nuclear non-proliferation experts had long warned that the reactor could be a target for terrorists hoping to lay their hands on nuclear material.
Presenting a paper at an International Security Conference in Moscow, the minister expressed government’s interest in the construction of a nuclear power plant, petroleum pipelines and railways and modernisation of its military arsenal in order to balance the lopsided trade ties between Russia and Nigeria.
“Nigeria wishes to create the legal and environmental conditions to accelerate Russian investment in the country, to expand trade and to achieve better balance in the trade relationship. At the moment the countries’ trade ties are lopsided in favour of Russia.
“Russia is the biggest market in Europe, while Nigeria the biggest market in Africa. The trade relations have been below expectation leaving gap for many unexploited potentials.
“Nigeria would also be interested in Russia helping it build nuclear power plants, petroleum pipelines, railways and other infrastructural development investments in oil and gas.
“Nigeria also seek your assistance with critical infrastructural development, especially the modernisation of its military arsenal”, he said.
On security, Dan-Ali said Nigeria would leverage on Russia’s experience in counterterrorism to eliminate Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP) operating in Nigeria.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria looks forward to the promotion of friendly and cordial relations that will progress to excellent socio-economic partnership and the establishment of business ties that will be beneficial to both countries.
“On the security front, Nigeria counts on Russia’s continued partnership in eliminating the Boko Haram insurgents from our sub-region. We wish to leverage on Russia’s experience in counterterrorism operations to bring this scourge to an end.
“Military and technical assistance in this respect would be highly appreciated. We remain grateful to the Russian government for the numerous Nigerians who have over the years benefited from Russian training programmes, scholarship and the recent military hardware procurement initiative”, he said.
On technology, the minister said Nigeria was desirous of closing the technological gaps in order to safeguard national security.
“The attributes of the region mostly consists of inability to keep up with the global advancement in technology. This is the dividing line between successful nations and not so successful nations. Africa is finding it extremely difficult to keep abreast of advancement in technology.
“African countries need to be current with technological advancement in order to safeguard their national security. The region and Nigeria in particular earnestly look up to Moscow for succour in this respect”, he said.
Meanwhile, Buratai said the Nigerian Army would soon take delivery of military hardware recently ordered by President Mohammadu Buhari in a bid to stem the tide of insecurity in Nigeria.
Speaking at the Chief of Army Staff Combined First Quarter Conference and Combat Arms Training Week held at the Ihejirika Hall Headquarters Infantry Corps and Center, Jaji, the Chief of Army Staff said the military platforms were due for delivery.
“An army needs logistics support to function optimally. To this effect, Mr. President has intervened promptly by authorising concerted efforts through a government to government procurement policy to obtain critical platforms needed for our operations.
“This package, which is almost due for delivery will also come with technical training content and maintenance support. Similarly, to ensure adequate logistics support for our operations in the North East, we have established a new logistic base in Monguno, procured vehicles, motorcycles, ballistic helmets, fragmentation jackets, boots, clothing and other general stores in support of our operations”, Buratai said.