In what could best be described as a major milestone for Nigeria at the ongoing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Forum in Beijing, the People’s Republic of China has committed to refinancing and completing the Abuja-Kano and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway projects.
According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Stanley Nkwocha, President of Peoples Republic of China, Xi Jinping, made the pledge on Wednesday while responding to requests made by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, at a bilateral meeting with the Chinese leader in Beijing.
It would be recalled that since the launch of the projects, China was yet to release funds for the two major railway projects in Nigeria largely due to cutbacks and commitments. China had agreed to provide 85 per cent financing for the construction of the Abuja-Kano and Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri railway projects, while Nigeria which had the duty of paying the balance of 15% paid its part of the funding from inception of the projects through annual appropriations.
The crucial infrastructure, also termed a legacy project, has the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) as the contractor named to execute the project. The Chinese President, who was visibly elated to receive the Nigerian delegation led by Vice President Shettima at the Peoples Building in China, pledged increased investment in Nigeria’s power generation and digital economy.
He called for the protection of Chinese nationals working in Nigeria, saying he would, in turn, ensure that the Nigeria-China bilateral relation is stronger than before. President Jinping promised that China will enhance political support and build cooperations in all fields, just as he appreciated Nigeria’s support of one China Policy.
Pledging to further deepen practical cooperations, the Chinese leader threw his weight of support behind the Renewed Hope Manifesto of President Tinubu and his 8-point economic agenda, adding that China will support Nigeria’s exports, especially as it relate to peanuts and others, even as the China Africa talent initiative remains key in its cooperation with Nigeria.
In the area of security, President Jinping promised continued crackdown on terrorists, assuring categorically that China was committed to peace in the Sahel region, more so that its long-standing military trainings and MoUs on joint exercises remain sacrosanct.
Noting that China was committed to peace, President Jinping said, “Like President Bola Ahmed Tinubu stated recently at the last United Nations General Assembly, Africa does not need to run away. Africa holds the key to the World. We support Nigeria to play key roles in international relations and upholding allies’ commitments.
“Mr Vice President, you spoke about upscaling and further upgrading of our strategic relationship, and I totally agree with you. Nigeria is developing with big potentials. I totally agree with you. Our foreign Ambassadors can stay and work out this upgrading.”
Speaking earlier, Vice President Shettima who delivered the well-wishes of President Bola Tinubu, described the rail projects as very vital to the President and people of Nigeria, saying it remained a legacy project that would further open up the nation’s economy, create jobs and boost trade and investments across the country.
The Vice President said President Tinubu remains committed to a stronger Nigeria-China tie, adding that it was laddened with respect, non-political interference and mutual international cooperations.
“Our relationship commenced about 50 years ago, precisely in 1971 and it has been upgraded to a comprehensive partnership but we crave your indulgence, Your Excellency, to further upgrade this relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership because of the importance we attach to our relationship with China.
“When we met in South Africa at the China Plus 1 summit I was very honest and upright with you. Beyond the infrastructural support we are getting; why we love, cherish and respect China is that you treat us with respect and dignity. You don’t dictate to us who our friends are. We don’t forget our friends. China stood by us through thick and thin from the post-colonial struggles for independence in Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, the struggle for the emancipation of our people in Southern Africa; China stood shoulder to shoulder with the African continent, we thus appreciate your friendship,” VP Shettima submitted.
President Jinping had before his audience with Vice President Kashim Shettima formally declared the BRI Forum, which had numerous heads of state and top government officials open.