- Ex-minister a man of decency, integrity, says envoy
Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The Japanese Government wednesday decorated a former Minister of National Planning and Budget, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, with the “Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star,’’ one of its highest orders, awarded in the name of His Majesty, the Emperor.
Expressing delight over the award, Udoma said that in selecting a Nigerian for the award, Japan had further extended a hand of friendship and fellowship to the government and people of Nigeria, adding that it is in that spirit he is thrilled to accept the award.
The Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Kikuta Yataka, who performed the ceremony in Abuja, on behalf of his government, said the award was only given to those who had made tremendous achievements in various fields.
“Senator Udoma’s records as a significant bridge builder between Japan and Nigeria is long standing. From 2011 to 2015, Japan had the honour to have Senator Udoma serve as Honorary Consul of Japan in Lagos.
“His activities resulted in creating and building even-closer relationship between Japanese private business leaders and their Nigerian counterparts. His outstanding role contributed to the advancement and expansion of Japanese companies’ presence and investments in Nigeria,’’ the ambassador said.
As the immediate past Minister of National Planning and Budget, the ambassador said Senator Udoma was responsible for bringing Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) into Nigeria, which in many ways is encouraging Nigerians for their development.
The Japanese envoy explained that Udoma as a minister closely engaged himself in communicating with the Japanese business circles, which resulted in investment stimulus incorporated in the Economy Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the Nigerian government, making an immense help for Japanese companies and their investments in Nigeria.
“Apart from his official high status, everyone would agree with me that he is a man of decency and integrity. I myself have heart-warming experiences to work with Senator Udoma. While serving as a minister of the Federal Republic, Senator Udoma was never hesitant to spare his busy time to give us a prompt response and attention to issues concerning Japan-Nigeria relationship,’’ he stated.
According to him, considering the numerous contribution of Udoma in strengthening relations and friendship between Japan and Nigeria, it is not a difficult task for the government of Japan and the Japanese Imperial Household to select him as one worthy of recognition by Japan.
“Thus, Senator Udoma has carved his name in history as the very first Nigerian ever to receive an Order of the Rising Sun in the name of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan.
“Therefore, Senator Udoma, your accomplishment has been duly appreciated at the highest level of Japan. I hope your excellency, now a half Nigerian and a half Japanese at heart, will continue to be an exemplary bond between our two countries,’’ the ambassador added.
The former minister, who was accompanied to the ceremony by his relatives and friends, expressed his appreciation to the Japanese emperor, as well as the government and people of Japan for the rare honour.
“I understand that the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star is one of the highest honours that the Japanese Emperor can bestow on a foreign national. I feel very privileged to have been specially selected as the first Nigerian ever to receive this award.
“I also understand that it is an award that nobody can seek, or lobby for. Indeed, the selection process was so confidentially and discreetly organised that I had absolutely no idea I was being considered and was therefore taken completely by surprise when I received a call from the Japanese Ambassador conveying this great news to me.
“And when he explained to me how exclusive this award is, I was left completely speechless. I must, once again, thank His Majesty, the Emperor, as well as the Government of Japan for bestowing this recognition on me,’’ Udoma stated.
According to him, over the years, his law firm, Udo Udoma & Bello-Osagie, has served as counsel to some Japanese companies and has given them advice and support.
The Japanese companies, he added, have been involved in the development and construction of major projects in the oil and gas industry.
For instance, he said Japanese companies were involved in the construction of projects such as the Kaduna Refinery, the Port Harcourt Refinery, Eleme Petrochemicals and the Bonny LNG project.
“I have therefore always seen a lot of mutual benefits from closer Japanese-Nigeria relationship and so I had no hesitation in accepting to serve in the honorary role of Japanese Consul in Lagos. This was done partly to fill the void that was created after the Japanese Embassy moved its offices from Lagos to Abuja.
“I resigned from the role of Japanese Honorary Consul on my appointment in 2015 as a Minister by President Muhammadu Buhari. During the period I served as the Minister of Budget and National Planning, I was able to leverage on my previous association to secure support from the Japanese Government for some of the development initiatives of the Nigerian Government,” he stated.
Udoma thanked the president for appointing him a minister, saying the appointment gave him the opportunity to serve the country at the highest level and in so doing, provided the national exposure, which has contributed to the recognition he received yesterday from the Japanese government.
Among friends and relatives who accompanied Senator Udoma to the event were his wife, Sally; Chairman/Editor-in-Chief, THISDAY and Arise News Channel, Prince Nduka Obaigbena; Mr and Mrs Hakeem Belo-Osagie; former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah; Senator Musa Bawa; Mr. Ebong Udoma; Mr. Ekpo Udoma; Ms Eno Udoma and Mr. Udeme Ufot.
Others were Prof. Okon Ansa; Mr. Udoma Inoyo; Mr. Akaniyene Ukpanah; James Akpandem and Larry Ettah.