Buhari pledges stronger Nigeria-Russia ties as Amaechi seals railway deal

President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged that the existing ties between Nigeria and Russia would be strengthened for mutuality in a humane, inclusive and diversified environment.

He spoke yesterday during the second plenary of the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi where more than 40 leaders are participating, urging that the “initial warmth and harmony enjoyed with the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) after Nigeria’s independence in 1960 should be revitalised so that the citizens of both countries can benefit from the socio-cultural, educational, technological and trade exchange.”

The summit is being co-chaired by President Vladimir Putin of Russia and African Union Chairman/President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Buhari stated: “Nigeria’s relations with Russia just like the rest of Africa began during the Soviet era when diplomatic ties were first established in 1960. That relationship covered areas such as education, healthcare, solid minerals development and military assistance especially during Nigeria’s civil war.

“More recently, our partnership has extended to the oil and gas sector as well as military and technical assistance in support of our fight against the Boko Haram insurgency. At this point, I would once again like to thank President Putin for his support, especially in the area of security.

“It is my hope that through this forum, Russia and Africa will revitalise their time-tested relationship by exploring new opportunities for the collective benefit of our people.”

He recalled that the collapse of the USSR in 1991 affected relations between Russia and African nations, admitting that the former Soviet Union had been a key partner of Africa.

President Buhari said the mutually beneficial relationship must go beyond trade and business to address challenges like counter-terrorism, poverty eradication, human and drug trafficking, illicit financial flows, climate change and migration.

“Our continent is rich in human and natural resources but is lagging behind in capital and technology. This is why we see increased conflicts, migration and instability that is also impacting many nations outside Africa,” he submitted.

However, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Joint Stock Company Russian Railway for modernisation, infrastructure development and rehabilitation of existing rail projects nationwide.

The pact was entered with the chairman of the railway firm, Oleg Belozerov, and the CEO of Transmash, a private rolling stock manufacturing holding, Kirill Lipa on the sidelines of the summit holding in the European nation.

The Federal Government had commissioned the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) to establish a railway manufacturing plant in Kajola, Ogun State to ensure the sustainable growth of the sector.