X-RAYING THE NEW NIGERIA/PORTUGESE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP BY GRACE AMAEGBE-KOINYAN

Nigeria, a regional power in Africa and a middle power in international affairs with an estimated population of 200 million people is known as Africa’s most populous country and the 7th most populous in the world.

Since independence, the country’s foreign policy has been characterised by a focus on Africa as a regional power and by attachment to several fundamental principles: capability to exercise hegemonic influence in the region: peaceful settlement of disputes; non-alignment and non-intentional interference in the internal affairs of other nations; and regional economic cooperation and development.

In carrying out these principles, Nigeria signs in, in the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations.

Thus, it is no surprise Nigeria has continued to do well by fostering better bilateral relationships with nations of the earth.
Of a truth Nigeria’s goal is not only to ensure and maintain peace and security within its territory, but to build and improve her bilateral and multilateral agreement with other nations within the region and beyond.

This is further seen through providing sanity and solidity across various institutions both in the country and at the domain of the partnering countries.

Nonetheless, President Muhammadu Buhari’s meeting with his Portuguese counterpart, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as part of his three-day visit to Portugal seems to be a welcome development. The meeting among many other reasons seeks to see Nigeria and the European country sign at least 10 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding along areas such as travel, diplomacy training, sports, culture and digital economy.

46 years after the establishment of diplomatic relations, both Nigeria and Portugal expressed determination to take relations to a whole new level with concrete deliverables, emphasizing the need for stronger ties. Both leaders at a joint news conference told Journalists after meetings between delegations that in spite of the existing cordial relations between the two countries, there was a need for greater collaboration. The collaboration today has as many as ten agreements and Memoranda of Understanding.

Among the agreements and MoUs reached include, ‘‘The Establishment of an Atlantic Research Centre, Air travel, Political Consultations, Diplomatic Training, Cultural Cooperation, Investment Promotion, Chambers of Commerce Cooperation, Women and Child Development, Youth and Sports Development and Digital Economy Cooperation. According to them, the world is at a crossroads and many countries are faced with existential challenges with climate change, food insecurity, conflict, health, and energy among others.

President Buhari emphasized that Portugal as an influential country and partner will play an important role in helping to pull the world back from the brink. Nigeria’ President thanked the Portuguese leader for the role his government played during his tenure as President of the European Union, in securing EU and International Monetary Union financial support for Africa.

With these deals, Nigeria considers Portugal as a valued and reliable friend and partner with both countries sharing the same democratic values and outlook to increase and broaden cooperation in various fields at the bilateral and multilateral levels.
Furthermore, the renewed partnership has also shown that there will be a Nigeria-Portugal Business and Investment Forum with the participation of over 80 representatives from Nigerian public and private sector companies, agencies and organizations.

Moreso, the establishment of a Joint Commission, which is one of the main priorities of the visit, would further promote the full realization of the objectives of bilateral relations, achieving concrete, specific and viable projects and programmes for the benefit of citizens of the two countries.

Suffice to say, Portugal imports about 60 percent of its gas from Nigeria which makes it second-largest market in Europe and as such there is still more that can be achieved between the two countries, especially with the current Russia-Ukraine war which has disrupted steady gas supplies to Europe.

Interestingly, Nigeria wants to see trade diversified to non-oil products such as agriculture, power projects, renewable energy and pharmaceuticals and the MoU will see to it that this is achieved.

Of a truth, reviving the Bilateral Air Services Agreement will boost economic activities and movement of people between the two countries.

Therefore, it is only necessary that Nigeria as one of the most attractive destinations for investment in Africa, work towards prioritizing building a business-friendly environment.