By Akpandem James, Special Adviser (Media & Communication) to the Minister of Budget and National Planning
Nigeria and India have a lot to benefit from each other through development cooperation, the Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, told the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr AbhayThakur, who visited him in Abuja on Thursday.
The Minister said that there are lots of potentials in Nigeria that India could tap while Nigeria has a lot to learn from India’s successes in the areas of technology, particularly rail and power, as well as human capital development.
He explained that the Buhari Administration is focused on bridging the infrastructure gap in the country, particularly transportation and power infrastructure; and is very desirous of creating avenues to lift majority of Nigerians out of poverty through agriculture and other empowerment programmes.
President Buhari, he said, has a vision and dream of connecting every city and town in Nigeria with standard gauge rail lines; and Nigeria would stand to benefit from India’s experience as well as assistance in achieving the goal in the rail sector. “This is an area we will like to collaborate with you to see how we can tap from India’s experience,” he said.
Like India, Nigeria has been working hard to bring down its poverty levels, which is why government is putting a lot of resources in the area of empowering poor and vulnerable persons and lifting them out of poverty. N500 billion is annually provided for in the national budget for social intervention programmes which are targeted at empowering the people so that they can be useful to themselves and the society. He emphasised that under the Social Intervention Programme (SIP), “we are not just giving the people fish, we are also teaching people how to fish.|”
Senator Udoma said although India is one of Nigeria’s largest trading partners, especially in crude oil, he would want the Asian country to buy more of Nigeria’s oil and also develop interest in the country’s gas sector.
He assured the High Commissioner that the tempo of economic activities in the country will not slow down due to the forthcoming general elections as “the President is not looking at the next election, but looking at the next generation with the purpose of taking Nigeria to the next level”.
The High Commissioner, Mr Thakur, who resumed work in Nigeria last month said India was willing to strengthen its development cooperation with Nigeria and would be glad if Nigeria can take advantage of some of the assistance programmes the Indian Government has made available to the African continent.
He pointed out that although the leaders of the two countries had some dreams about development cooperation in some critical areas, some of those dreams are yet to be transformed into real projects on the ground.
Mr Thakur said India would like to collaborate further with Nigeria in the rail and power sectors as well as any other areas of interest to Nigeria.