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Buhari to Ramaphosa: Let’s enhance people-to-people relations, avoid unhealthy competition

*Says a strong bond of brotherhood between Nigeria, S’Africa of great benefit to Africa

Ukpono Ukpong

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, urged stronger emphasis on people-to-people relations between South Africa and Nigeria to evolve a bond that will be of benefit to both countries and the entire African continent.

President Buhari, who stated this when he received President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, at the State House in Abuja, reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to improving a “special relationship’’ with South Africa, which will translate into gains for the continent, particularly in education, science, trade and investment, tourism and security.

At the opening of the 10th Session of Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) held in his office, President Buhari said: “Mr. President, permit me to state that some of the challenges identified during the last Bi-National Commission (BNC) have not been completely addressed. We need to ensure that our people-to-people relations are enhanced to a point where there would be no need for unhealthy competition.

“In this regard, we need improvement in educational and scientific cooperation, mines and energy resources, transport and aviation, tourism, youth exchange programmes, trade and investment and military cooperation, to mention but a few.”

President Buhari told ministers and government delegates of both countries that a strong bond of brotherhood between Nigeria and South Africa would be of great benefit to Africa as a catalyst for economic, technological, social and cultural development and as a force for peace and security on the continent.

“Let me at this point reiterate my commitment to ensure that the special relationship between our two countries is continually strengthened,’’ he added.

President Buhari said it was fulfilling that despite all the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the BNC was still holding on schedule.

“It is also gratifying to observe that this has been brought about by the dogged commitment of senior officials from our countries.

“More importantly, it is gratifying to note that despite the pandemic, our timelines for implementing some decisions of the 9th BNC have been met. Similarly, discussions are ongoing on new and important areas of cooperation between our two countries.

“I must commend the Honourable Ministers and senior officials of both our governments for their sustained effort in breathing life into the bilateral agreements between our countries. I am aware that the Senior Officials Meeting and Ministerial Meetings which preceded this Presidential BNC were successfully concluded,’’ he added.

At the end of the Summit, President Buhari expressed his delight at its successful conclusion, calling it, “heartwarming and a source of great pride that we have been able to further cement the special bond of fraternal friendship between our two countries.”

He also remarked that the agreement on Early Warning Mechanism would “improve the people-to-people relations of our two countries. Similarly, our two countries have established high level official communication channels for diplomatic consultations, trade and investment, and will, shortly, inaugurate the Nigeria – South Africa Youth Dialogue. I am confident that these vehicles of engagement and cooperation will serve our mutual interests.”

The Nigerian President commended the South African leader for initiating the Nigeria – South Africa Youth Dialogue which he (President Buhari) also endorsed.

“I hope that beyond being a vehicle for mutual learning and understanding by our youth, it would also foster the kindred spirit of humanity towards others as prescribed in the great South African traditional philosophy of Ubuntu. That would lay a solid foundation for the realization of the Africa that we want,” he said.

President Buhari appreciated President Ramaphosa and his delegation for the visit.

Meanwhile, President Buhari has described the State Visit of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa to Nigeria as successful despite the scare generated by the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

At a joint news conference with the visiting South African leader, Buhari said new Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between Nigeria and South Africa in diverse areas were signed.

He disclosed that existing MOUs were also reviewed for the progress and prosperity of citizens of both countries.

“We have now come to the end of a very successful State Visit and the 10th Session of the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission.

“Despite the scare generated by the new COVID-19 variant, we have been able to hold successful meetings, while observing strict COVID-19 protocols, through fraternal cooperation and understanding.

“I sincerely wish to thank my brother and colleague, President Cyril Ramaphosa for honouring my invitation. I equally wish to thank members of the South African delegation and the experts that worked tirelessly during the senior officials meeting.

“Today, has witnessed the signing of new Memoranda of Understanding between Nigeria and South Africa in diverse areas including youth development, women and child empowerment and political consultations; critical areas that will lead to increased people to people contact.

“Also, existing MOUs signed during previous Bi-National Commission meetings were also reviewed. These include MOUs on military cooperation, power, cooperation in the field of geology, mining, and mineral processing, oil and gas and several others.

“Today, we also jointly launched the Nigeria-South Africa Youth Dialogue, another veritable tool for interaction among our youth with the aim of creating shared values and aspiration.

“Many of our youth from Nigeria and South Africa joined us virtually during the launch,” he said.

The Nigerian president thanked Ramaphosa for initiating the Youth Dialogue, noting that continuous interaction between the youth of the two countries would further break down barriers and suspicion among them.

He added that the inauguration of the Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment, would enable the private sectors of the two largest economies in Africa to further promote economic cooperation and development.

“We appreciate that we need to do much more to achieve further integration of our two economies and take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

“Once again, I wish to thank my brother President and members of the South African delegation for their visit and their wonderful friendship, cooperation and solidarity, ” he said.

Ramaphosa thanked the leaders of Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal for expressing their dissatisfaction with the travel ban imposed on South Africa and sister neighbouring countries in the aftermath of the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant by South African scientists.

He described the imposition of the ban by some Western countries as arbitrary, discriminatory, unscientific and unproductive in the long run.

“This is a global pandemic and overcoming it requires that we collaborate and work together as a collective.

“The resulting damage of this travel ban to the economies of the countries affected will be considerable and long lasting.

“I want to use this opportunity to tell the countries that have imposed this ban to reverse their decisions whether they are the northern more developed economies or in other parts of our continent or elsewhere,” he said.

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