President Muhammadu Buhari and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have agreed to put Nigeria-Russia relations on a fast track and pursue the completion of key projects initiated by both countries. Top among the projects to benefit from the arrangement are the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Plant and some refineries.
They reached the deal yesterday in Sochi, Russia.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said in a statement last night that at a bilateral meeting held on sidelines of ongoing Russia-Africa Summit, the two leaders agreed to start new infrastructural projects and expand trade and investment, security and military cooperation.
Shehu said that Nigeria and Russia would work together to improve efficiency of Nigeria’s oil sector, which is the backbone of the economy, in a way that would see to rehabilitation of epileptic oil refineries through the establishment of framework for a joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Russia-based leading oil company, Lukoil.
Both NNPC and Lukoil will also work towards prospecting for oil in deep offshore.
The two counntries also agreed to revive and solidify the venture between the NNPC and Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom, for the development of Nigeria’s enormous gas potential and infrastructure.
The issue of uncompleted and abandoned Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill was presented by President Buhari. His request for the return of Russia, on a government-to-government relationship for completion and commissioning of the plant, was accepted by President Putin, Shehu said.
Earlier yesterday, the minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, held a fruitful discussion with his Russian counterpart on the Ajaokuta complex.
The Russia government further agreed to support the development of Nigeria’s rail infrastructure by constructing 1,400 kilometres track from Lagos to the South-South city of Calabar.
There was also discussion on the advancement of ongoing project for the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Nigeria.
According to President Putin, the next step in the implementation of the project should be the commencement of construction of a power plant.
On security and military cooperation, one that existed for 59 years of Nigeria’s Independence, President Buhari agreed to renew Nigeria-Russia Military Technical Agreement that lapsed within a short time, saying: “I have directed the minister of defence to work with the Ministry of Justice to conclude this matter within the shortest possible time.”
The military cooperation agreement is expected to give impetus to further cooperation in direct procurement of military hardware on a government-to-government basis at a lower cost as well as training of military personnel and modernisation of the armed forces and renewal of infrastructure and equipment which President Putin promised to undertake.
On the protracted issue of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot-Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, President Buhari said that he had asked the Ministry of Justice “to submit a comprehensive report on the UC Russel (the Russian owners of the plant) matter…I want to assure you that the aim of our reforms is to ensure such investments are concluded and actualised in a professional and painless manner.”
The two presidents also addressed partnership in education and agriculture with Putin saying that his country would give more scholarships to Nigerians.
Buhari said: “We seek your government’s support especially in the areas of wheat production. Today, Nigeria produces less than 100,000 metric tonnes of wheat locally while our imports are projected to exceed five million tons in 2020.
“We, therefore, need your support to bridge the deficit which will create jobs and save our foreign exchange for other important areas such as security, defence and infrastructure,” Buhari added.
On this, President Putin promised to promote joint efforts, given his country’s ranking as the current number one wheat producer in the world.
“We can do a lot together,” Putin stated.
The Russian president urged Nigeria to take advantage of Russia’s potassium resources to advance Buhari’s local fertiliser production programme. He promised his country’s support for the geological prospecting of Nigeria’s solid minerals and gave assurances of working with Nigeria and other African countries to secure and stop piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as they did in securing the Somali coastal areas.
President Putin expressed his determination to secure Nigeria and the rest of Africa from terrorists. He told President Buhari that 2,000 ex-ISIS terrorists joined Boko Haram last year.
In conclusion, President Buhari said: “To move forward, may I suggest that our countries organise the fifth Joint Commission meeting to review and ratify all the agreements (about 40) contained in the Intergovernmental Nigeria-Russia Joint Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Protocol of November 11, 2016.”
President Putin agreed to the proposal.
Both leaders emphasised the need for reform of the United Nations Security Council with Buhari seeking Russia’s support for Nigeria’s aspiration for a permanent membership of the council.
Nigerian stock market opens with N119 billion loss
Nigerian equities market resumed trading on Monday with a loss of 0.91 per cent as a result of profit taking in some blue chips.
Speficially, the All-Share Index which opened the week at 25,182.67 lost 228.35 points or 0.91 per cent to close at 24,954.32.
Accordingly, Month-to-Date and Year-to-Date losses increased to -1.2 per cent and -7.0 per cent, respectively.
Also, the market capitalisation shed N119 billion or 0.91 per cent to close at N13.017 trillion against N13.136 trillion posted on Thursday.
The downturn was impacted by losses recorded in medium and large capitalised stocks, amongst which are; MTN Nigeria Communications (MTNN), BUA Cement, Zenith Bank, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated and Guaranty Trust Bank.
Analysts at United Capital Plc said: “Looking ahead, we expect the market to remain volatile, as investors lock funds in cheap and fundamentally sound stocks, while taking profit on some stocks that gained last week.”
Consequently, market breadth closed negative with 16 stocks compared with 25 decliners.
Prestige Assurance led the losers’ chart in percentage terms, dropping by 10 per cent, to close at 63k, per share.
Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals followed with 9.73 per cent to close at N2.32, while AIICO Insurance shed 9.32 per cent to close at N1.07, per share.
ETI dropped 7.34 per cent to close at N5.05, while UACN Property Development dipped 6.73 per cent to close at 97k, per share.
Conversely, Fidson Healthcare and Red Star Express led the gainers’ chart in percentage terms, appreciating by 10 per cent each to close at N3.30 and N3.63 per share, respectively.
Cornerstone Insurance followed with a gain 9.80 per cent to close at 56k, per share.
Honeywell Flour Mills rose by 9.78 per cent to close at N1.01, while Unity Bank appreciated by 8.77 per cent to close at 62k, per share.
In the same vein, the total volume traded declined by 29.51 per cent with an exchange of 237.65 million shares, worth N1.61 billion, and traded in 4,808 deals.
This was in contrast with a total of 337.13 million shares valued at N3.41 billion achieved in 3,880 deals on Thursday.
Transactions in the shares of FBN Holdings topped the activity chart with 24.35 million shares worth N128.76 million.
Zenith Bank followed with 24.14 million shares valued at N392.36 million, while FCMB Group accounted for 19.47 million shares valued at N33.48 million.
Caverton Offshore traded 17.37 million shares worth N39.02 million, while United Bank for Africa transacted 14.64 million shares valued at N95.74 million.
NIMASA tasked on discrimination against Nigerian seafarers’ certificate
A Marine Engineer, Daniel Ikueyemi, on Saturday urged the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to address the issue of discrimination against the Nigerian Seafarers’ Certificate of Competence (COC).
He made the appeal on an Instagram live programme organised by Mrs Ezinne Azunnah of the MaritimeTvNews, entitled, ”Seafarers’ Certificate of Competence: Quality and Opportunities”.
The Certificate of Competency (COC) is a form of licence every mariner is granted to work on ships.
The certificate ensures that the concerned person has the sufficient knowledge and skills to sail on ocean-going vessels.
According to him, our COC is not strong enough and the issue of discrimination of the COC is a common thing for us.
He added that to ensure that the discrimination stopped, there was the need for NIMASA as the regulator to strengthen the security of the COC to standardise it and prevent it from being forged.
“Other ways to tackle the issue is to have a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with some African countries to ensure seafarers utilise their COC.
“There is a notion that 60 per cent of what is taught does not correlate.
“There is need to check this notion and also look into the curriculum that are being used in the country’s maritime academies,’’ he said.
Ikueyemi also pointed out that the feedback mechanism that existed did not capture seafarers’ experience at sea.
He urged NIMASA to have a plan from point of training to point at which seafarers were employed so that their trade would be harnessed.
Also Capt. Ola Alufa, a Marine Captain and Consultant said that the restriction of the country’s COC had not given seafarers the opportunity to be utilised globally.
According to him, Nigerian seafarers are faced with limitations as regards categorisation and that should be expunged.
Alufa suggested that Nigerian seafarers should be well-employed everywhere and be able to work in vessels.
“The limitation is the categorisation. We do not have trading vessels and we need them now.
“NIMASA has tried as regards the curriculum, experience and examination which is very tough. It is of international standard, we need to encourage our own certificate,” he said
He recommended that the Ministry of Transportation must work hand in hand with NIMASA to write to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to expunge the clause affecting seafarers.
“A lot of seafarers have not yet gone on board a ship before. They just got the certificate from schools but there is no opportunity and this still bounces back to government on the need for training vessels.
“The vessels will give seafarers the experience and certificate to be recognised worldwide,” he said. (NAN)
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