By FEMI ADESINA, Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity).
President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday concluded a successful Official Visit to the Netherlands, meeting with Nigerian Embassy staff, before departing for home.
At a meeting with the embassy staff and their families, the President thanked them for being worthy ambassadors.
While in the Netherlands, on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, President Buhari had delivered the keynote address at the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, where he canvassed support for ICC with jurisdiction over serious cases of corruption and illicit financial flows by state actors.
The President used the occasion of his speech at the Solemn Hearing to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute of the ICC, to assure the international community of a free, fair and peaceful 2019 general elections in Nigeria.
The President also assured that under his watch the tragic incidents that characterized the 2011 general elections, necessitating preliminary investigations by the ICC, will not happen again in Nigeria.
President Buhari, accompanied by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State; Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State,the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Baru, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman and other top government officials, toured the Port of Rotterdam and the Shell Refinery Pernis, Hoogvliet, a borough of Rotterdam, Netherlands.
He also met with Shell CEO and discussions focused on investments in deep water and gas projects in Nigeria.
At the Binnenhof on Monday, July 17, 2018, the President had met with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and the two leaders restated their commitment to growing trade partnership between Nigeria and the Netherlands.
During the talks, Rutte described Nigeria as the Netherlands’ most important trading partner, noting that in the field of modern agriculture there are opportunities for Dutch companies and knowledge institutes.
The two leaders also discussed issues related to the fight against insurgency in the North East, climate change, particularly the shrinkage of Lake Chad, economic cooperation, the fight against corruption and a range of other issues of mutual interest.
President Buhari welcomed the interest of the Dutch Prime Minister on Lake Chad and commitment to establish a technical committee to work with the Nigerian side on the best approach to address the issue of the receding Lake.
In pursuit of one of the cardinal themes of his administration, President Buhari also met with over 20 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of Dutch-owned companies. The President assured them of a secure Nigeria, where their investments would be safe, and yield handsome returns.
“Stability was the first thing in our campaigns. You have to secure a country first, before you can efficiently manage it. Before businesses can thrive, security is paramount. That is why we lay so much emphasis on securing the country.
“After security, our next emphasis is reviving the economy, and then, fighting corruption,” the President said.
He commended the many Dutch-owned companies operating in Nigeria for dealing fairly, noting that with many of them, “the relationship dates back more than two generations, and it is now almost a blood relationship rather than commercial.”
In the course of his three-day Official Visit, the President on Monday, July 16, 2018, met with members of Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO), the Netherlands Chapter.
He lauded them for their professional and intellectual achievements and contributions to the development of their motherland.
“I am pleased with the quality of people I am seeing. You are high quality people. Congratulations on your personal achievements,” he said.
Among those who met President Buhari were Julius Nnamdi Nwankpa, Chairman NIDO, Dr Mustapha Gidado, a specialist in tuberculosis, having oversight over management of the disease in 22 countries, Lola Visser Mabogunje, a performance monitoring expert, Dr Peter Ngene, a research scientist and Assistant Professor at Utrecht University, Engineer Cornelius Obot, a software expert, and Toyin Loyo, an artist and culture enthusiast of international repute.
On the sidelines of the President’s visit, the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama and his Dutch Counterpart, Stef Blok signed a Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral consultations at Schedeldoekshaven, The Hague.
The MOU aims to promote and facilitate relations between Nigeria and the Netherlands, in the key thematic areas of security, trade, investment, agriculture, political dialogue and education.
With the signing of the MOU, Nigeria and Netherlands have agreed to deepen and expand bilateral cooperation in these areas; and senior officials from both countries will meet at least once every year to assess the progress on mutual benefits.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh led a presidential delegation on a visit to Greenhouse Horticulture in Bleiswijk, one of the experimental greenhouses of Wageningen University and Research (WUR), the Netherlands.
Some of the Dutch most advanced greenhouses are in Bleiswijk and operated by WUR widely regarded as the world’s top agricultural research institution.
The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of food, second only to the United States.
Other members of the Presidential delegation that visited the Research center are Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, the Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar and the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd).
In the course of the visit, the Nigerian delegation interacted with Nigerian postgraduate students studying in WUR. Out of 5,900 MSc students studying at Wageningen University, 106 are from Africa of which 9 are from Nigeria. Wageningen University has 13 Nigerian Ph.D. candidates, out of 2,200 candidates, 300 of them from Africa.