Iran and Nigeria in a new diplomatic era – Amb Alibak
Of Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Nigeria Mohammed Alibak said Iran and Nigeria are in a new diplomatic era. Alibak, who spoke to him in Abuja, said relations between Iran and Nigeria have existed for 47 years and continue in various political, economic, cultural and scientific fields.
Among other problems, added the Iranian envoy in recent years, the volume of relations between Iran and Nigeria has increased.
What is the extent of bilateral relations between Iran and Nigeria?
As you know, Iran-Nigeria relations are on the verge of 47 years. Iran and Nigeria are two important and influential countries in their respective sub-regions, West Asia and West Africa. These relations take place in various political, economic, cultural and scientific fields, and especially in recent years the volume of these relations has increased.
The two countries have very strong capacities of mutual cooperation, and in order to improve and update the relations, consultations with the Nigerian authorities have continued and we are working to expand these relations by establishing various channels of dialogue between the authorities, both online and through physical contact, depending on the prevalence of Corona Virus.
How do you describe the existing relations between the two countries?
Politically, the two countries have good relations bilaterally and with multilateral organizations such as OPEC, D8, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Gas Exporting Countries Form. (GECF), and the two countries also support each other’s candidates for international seats.
Bilateral political relations are also evolving. We see Nigeria as the gateway to West Africa. After the new government took office in Iran, President Muhammadu Buhari was the first president in Africa to congratulate the election of a new president in Iran. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Zubairu Dada also took part in the investiture as Special Envoy of the President and he met our new President and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign Minister HE Geoffrey Onyeama had a bilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Also on the occasion of Nigeria’s national day, October 1, Iranian President Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi sent a congratulatory message to his counterpart. And the Iranian Foreign Minister did the same and sent a congratulatory message to HE Geoffrey Onyeama.
What are the similarities between Iranian and Nigerian cultures?
Iran and Nigeria have long historical and cultural similarities. The two countries have religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity. Although Muslims and the Persian language are the dominant religions and dialects in Iran, other religions also have their representatives in various centers, including the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and participate in major decisions in the country. We have good agreements between the two countries in the field of culture, and we hope that with their implementation, exchanges of cultural products, including films and serials, will take place between the two countries.
How many Iranians are in Nigeria? Where are they largely concentrated? What are they getting involved in?
Unfortunately, few Iranians are present in Nigeria and a few are involved in trade.
What is the current volume of trade between Iran and Nigeria? Is he in favor of Iran or Nigeria?
We believe Nigeria is the largest market in Africa and Iran is one of the largest markets in the Middle East and a gateway to the markets in the Central Asian region.
Nigeria mainly exports agricultural products such as sesame seeds, cashews and hibiscus to Iran, and in return Iran exports to Nigeria a variety of products such as auto parts, tires. motorcycle, ceramic tiles, paints, bitumen and petrochemicals. Fortunately, trade relations between the two countries have grown in recent years and the two sides plan to increase the trade volume to more than $ 500 million in the short term.
On the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly in New York, United States, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, met his Nigerian counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama and Onyeama called for intensification of trade relations between Nigeria and Iran. What efforts are you making to achieve this goal?
As I said before, there is great potential for developing trade and economic cooperation between Iran and Nigeria. The 40-year experience of oppressive US sanctions against Iran has prompted my country to rely on its internal capacities and the potential of Iranian youth on the path to development.
You might be interested to know that Iran produces over a million cars a year, some of which are exported to other countries including the West African region. In the field of electricity, Iran generates more than 80,000 megawatts; international statistics show that Iranian nanotechnology is among the top five countries in the world. We have a lot of experience in the oil and gas industry and we are ready to share these experiences with friendly countries like Nigeria.
In view of these capabilities, we at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Abuja are trying to lay the foundation for greater familiarity and cooperation between the private and public sectors of Iran and Nigeria.
During the bilateral meeting, the Iranian foreign minister unveiled his intention to establish a direct sea route from Iran to Nigeria, plans by Iranian company Mahan Airlines to establish a direct flight route from Tehran to Lagos and the creation of a joint economic commission in Tehran. When will these laudable initiatives begin?
In the absence of a direct maritime line between the two countries, Iranian and Nigerian traders have no other means than to use the ports of third countries to transport their goods. In this way, the transportation costs and delivery times are higher, and as a result, the price and attractiveness of the goods increases. Therefore, given the special importance of trade with Nigeria, Iran intends to establish a direct shipping line between the ports of the two countries.
On the other hand, the cultural commonalities between the two countries and the many tourism opportunities, including health and religious tourism in Iran and the interest of Iranians in getting acquainted with Nigeria’s many cultural attractions, has spurred l ‘Iran to try to provide the necessary platform for more communication between the two countries, introducing the idea of establishing a direct flight between Tehran and Lagos. Regarding the Joint Commission, I would like to inform you that so far five rounds of the Joint Commission have taken place between the two countries and according to the emphasis put by the esteemed Foreign Ministers, both sides are trying to hold the sixth round of Joint Commission before the end of this year in Tehran.
Apart from commercial activities, in what areas do the two countries plan to deepen their cooperation?
As I said before, there are many areas to expand the economic cooperation between the two countries, and the embassy is trying to establish cooperation between the two sides in various fields such as cooperation in energy sectors. , oil and gas, agricultural machinery and equipment, pharmaceuticals as well as the provision of technical and engineering services and the development of science and technology parks.