Opinion

President Tinubu, Amir of Qatar’s pact to secure the future

President Tinubu, Amir of Qatar’s pact to secure the future

By Oche Echeija Egwa

The national dailies on Monday in Doha, Qatar, were awash with photos of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s visit, meetings with His Highness, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, at the Presidential Palace, Amir Diwan, and the business community. The headlines were profound and generous on the president’s two-day visit.

The Gulf Times led with “Qatar, Nigeria to Expand Relations” with a rider- “Qatar, Nigeria Set Sights on Multi-field Economic Ties”, describing the visit as strategic and consequential in building partnerships across sectors. Another newspaper, The Peninsular, headlined the visit thus: “Qatar, Nigeria Sign Several Agreements”, while the Gulf Times Business led with a caption: “Qatar-Nigeria Business Forum Seeks Enhanced Co-operation in Commerce, Investment and Industry Sectors.”

The gulf newspapers harped on the implications of the invitation by His Highness, Sheikh Al Thani, the robust relations between both countries, and the sense of urgency that marked the state visit, highlighting the inauguration of the Qatar, Nigeria Business Forum by President Tinubu, and Qatar’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Hamad Bin Qassim al-Thani, comprising ministers, Chamber of Commerce representatives, business associations, investors, and representatives of leading companies.

President Tinubu’s tripod meetings at the Amir Diwan were also significant, starting out with a bilateral to discuss key areas of mutual interests, with the Amir, his ministers and advisers; a closed-door meeting between the two leaders and signing of seven multi-sectoral Agreements and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)on education, labor, tourism, trade, mining, agriculture and sports.

The seven agreements signed were: Cooperation Agreement in the Field of Education; Regulation of Employment of Workers with the Government of Qatar; Establishment of a Joint Business Council (JBC) between the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA); in addition to a Cooperation Agreement in the Field of Youths and Sports. The other agreements included Cooperation in the Field of Tourism and Business Events, and a Memorandum of Understanding Combating Illicit Trade in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

The signing ceremony was facilitated by the Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, Chief Ajuri Ngelale, and the Qatari Director of Media Affairs Department, Jassim Saad Al-Romaihi. 

The documents were signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, and relevant officials in the Government of the State of Qatar, Buthaina bint Ali Al Jabr Al Nuaimi, Minister of Education and Higher Education; Dr. Ahmad Hassen Al-Hammadi, Secretary-General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Sheikh Khalifa Bin Jassim Al Thani, Chairman of Qatar Chamber of Commerce & Industry (QCCI), and Abdullah bin Khalaf bin Hattab Al Kaabi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior (MOI).

Nigerian ministers who were present at the bilateral meetings and signing ceremony were Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun; Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Dele Alake; Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate; Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite; and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Gas), Mr. Ekperipe Ekpo. 

Also present was the Special Adviser to the President on Energy, Mrs. Olu Verheijen, and Nigeria’s Charge d’ Affairs in Qatar, Rabiu Suleiman.  

From the Qatari side, the bilateral meeting was attended by Chief of the Amir Diwan, Sheikh Saoud bin Abdul-rahaman al-Thani, Advisor on National Security, Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Misnad, Minister of Finance, Ali bin Ahmed al- Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, Dr Hanan Mohammed Al-Kuwari, Minister of State for Energy Affairs, Eng. Saad bin Sherida al-Kaabi, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Shiekh Mohammed bin Hammad bin Qassim al- Thani, and a number of other top officials.

Before the signing of agreements, President Tinubu, who was received by the Amir in an elaborate military ceremony, assured his host of Nigeria’s preparedness to welcome investors into the country and honor all agreements entered. He said the ongoing reforms favour innovation, return on investments, and multiculturalism.

“Our greatest strength is our people. Our strength lies in the capacity of Nigerian youths. They have energy, talent, and self-belief. They are quality partners for Qatari industry. They are educated and reliable, and they are proactively seeking to add value wherever they are. A few people cannot give a bad name to the many. Nigerian youths are ready to be unleashed for the mutual benefit of both nations,” he said.

The President expressed confidence in the partnership with Qatar, which started with the establishment of Embassies in 2013, and exchange of visits by leaders of both countries, in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari, and 2019 by the Amir of Qatar. 

“We have seen clearly the rapid pace and thorough quality of Qatar’s development process. It is impossible not to be moved by what you have accomplished. The leadership in the country has proven its mettle, and we are here to gain deeper insight. There is nowhere in the world where you will find return on investment at the level of what you will see in Nigeria,” he added.

The President told his host that a massive market of over 200 million skilled Nigerians, always industrious and ready to work, awaits investors, noting that the country was also reeling from short-term turbulence, with a sound economic team working hard to ameliorate.

Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani said Qatar was open to President Tinubu’s investment push, recalling that he traveled to Nigeria in 2019 owing to his belief that Nigeria was an important and strategic ally on its own and within the context of its role in regional affairs.

“I have no doubt about the great capacity of the Nigerian people. Everywhere in the world, they are known for their brilliance and hard work. We only need to ensure that this is happening inside of Nigeria rather than outside.

“The investments we have made around the world have been very fruitful. This is because we take our time and study opportunities before we invest the commonwealth of our people. It is not my money. The money we invest belongs to the future generations of Qatar,” the Amir of Qatar stated.

The leader of the gulf state, which successfully hosted the world’s largest crowd pulling sports event, FIFA World Cup, 2022, said he was really encouraged by   President Tinubu’s actions and passion to create new opportunities. 

“We are very open to this, and follow-up is everything at this point. The will is there for both of us, but we must follow up. I will send a team of officials to Nigeria after Ramadan, and we will advance discussions on what some of the actionable investment opportunities are,” the Qatari leader said.

President Tinubu named the Minister of Finance and  Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Edun, as the team leader of the government team that will interface with Qatari authorities in investment identification and implementation.

Furthermore, during the bilateral deliberations, President Tinubu enabled a brief presentation to the Amir by the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Alake, who spoke in detail about the high-grade of several minerals, including lithium, immediately derivable across the country with an emphasis on imminent opportunities for local mineral processing and value-additive industry in the sector.

After the engagements at the Amir Diwan, the President proceeded to the Qatar-Nigeria Business Forum. Qatari Minister of Commerce, Sheikh Mohamed, noted that President Tinubu’s participation in the forum shows the quality of relationship between the two countries, and efforts to further improve cooperation across various sectors, with investments, strategic cooperation, and cultural ties. 

At the forum, the Chairman of the Qatar Chamber, Shiekh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani, noted that trade volume between Qatar and Nigeria grew by 12 per cent in 2023, affirming that the volume will increase with more participation by the private sectors of both countries.  

At the business forum, President Tinubu assured investors of a safe haven for funds, return on Investments, adding that the economic and financial reforms have repositioned the economy for safe investments. He told investors that ongoing reforms were deliberately structured to open up the economy for investments, with the streamlining of taxes and bureaucracy, and leveraging of technology to guarantee safe and easy repatriation of funds.

“My responsibility in Qatar is to tell you that Nigerians are your friends and we are open for business, with honest partnerships,” he assured the gathering of businessmen in Qatar, and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).  

Accompanied by the Governors of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, Kaduna State, Sen. Uba Sani, Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, the President said the Nigerian business group, at the meeting, would provide partnership and guidance into some of the viable sectors, like oil/gas, solid minerals, energy, telecoms and agriculture.

“The reform in Nigeria is still ongoing. Forget what you heard in the past that was negative. Whatever problems or obstacles of the past will not have any bearing on the country. We have men and women of integrity. Nigeria is now ready for business,” he added. 

President Tinubu left Doha a happier man; having ticked all the boxes on economic diplomacy, with an assurance from the Amir of Qatar that after the Ramadan, a delegation of businessmen and top government officials will visit Nigeria, and start activating the Agreements and MOUs. 

“One hour of my presence here with you is not as critical as the continuity. A country remains an artificial entity, unless it has good people to drive it,” the President said, at the closing of meetings with investors. 

Oche Echeija Egwa is an Assistant Director, Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity.

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