Preparations are in top gear by the Nigerian government and the business community to receive the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his high-level delegation, on a reciprocal visit during which to probably complete some pending mutual and bilateral agreements between the two countries and some of their business concerns.
Nigeria is Turkey’s top trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa with a trading volume of $754 million in 2020, which is expected to rise to more than $1 billion.
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The trip is significant as Turkey is hosting two important events in Istanbul: a two-day Turkey-Africa 3rd Economy and Business Summit on Oct 21, and a two-day Turkey-Africa 3rd Partnership Summit on Dec. 17.
Erdogan will also attend the Turkey-Nigeria Business Forum.
It is expected that the fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey will also be discussed during the Turkish president’s visit.
This will include a request to transfer FETO schools that continue to operate in several parts of Nigeria to the Turkish Maarif Foundation.
Although Nigeria’s relations with Turkey started in August 1962 with the opening of the Turkish Embassy in the country, the commercial relations between Turkey and Nigeria began to blossom with a trade agreement signed in Lagos, in 1982.
The deal allowed Turkey to import cacao, kola nut, rubber, zinc, crude oil, coal, palm nut, and tinstone while it enabled Nigeria to purchase construction material, electronic goods, and agricultural tools from Turkey.
Both countries are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Developing Eight (D-8) and they maintain close cooperation in international organizations.
The last 10 years have seen very serious moves by both countries to strengthen bilateral relations.
Former Turkish President Abdullah Gül participated in the D-8 summit and paid an official bilateral visit to Nigeria in July 2010. This was the first visit at the level of the president from Turkey to Nigeria.
Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, accompanied by 10 ministers, five state governors and other high-level executives visited Turkey in February 2011.
A former Nigerian foreign minister, Aminu Bashir Wali, addressed the 7th Ambassadors’ Conference, had a meeting with Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, minister of Foreign Affairs, and was received by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey within the framework of the visit he paid to Turkey on January 8, 2015.
President Erdoğan paid an official visit to Nigeria on March 1-3, 2016, accompanied by the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Energy and Natural Resources, Economy, Environment and Urban Planning, and that of Defence.
During the visit, the Turkey-Nigeria Business Forum was organized.
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari paid an official visit to Turkey on October 19, 2017. He was also accompanied by the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Defence, Education, Industry, Trade and Investment as well as the National Security Adviser.
President Buhari also visited the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and met with the then Speaker, Mr. İsmail Kahraman. President Buhari later attended the Ninth D-8 Summit in Istanbul on October 20, 2017.
Commercial and economic relations between the two countries have also been improving rapidly. In 2019, the bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Nigeria was 725,654 million US dollars.
Why this visit is important
Dr. Abdulqadir Sulaiman Muhammad of the Department of Islamic Studies, University of Abuja also said: “Both countries also have issues with domestic terror organizations for which they need each other’s help.”
Both governments had previously agreed to support each other in the fight against terrorism, human trafficking, drugs trafficking, and arms trafficking.
Nigeria and Turkey would further explore the possibility of working together on the challenges brought about by internally displaced persons and refugees in the North East, especially given that Turkey has the experience of handling about five million refugees on her territory, Muhammad further explained.
Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, a former minister of Defence and Attorney General of the Federation emphasized how best to advance co-operation between the two countries.
Speaking on what a Turkish-Nigerian strategic partnership should look like, he said Turkey was a major defense items producer, a major shipbuilding country, and an all-around growing industrial power.
He said Nigeria, on the other hand, required massive amounts of infrastructure development in road and rail transport, power generation, transmission and distribution, health and education.
He said Nigeria also needed technological assistance, skills development, and investments in developing its oil and gas sector, particularly in the petroleum refining and gas liquefaction value chain.
Kayode said: “The Nigerian Armed Forces requires access to modern weapons systems, especially those relevant to the new war, asymmetric warfare, counter-insurgency campaigns, trans-border banditry and tactical support for internal security forces.
“These can be purchased from Turkey for immediate and strategic supplies when needed to build a strategic relationship.
“A Turkish-Nigerian Strategic Partnership should see both countries leveraging on each other’s strengths to fortify their own vulnerabilities and preserve their independence of action,” he said.
Prospect for the Nigerian-Turkish business community
There is the need to give more life to the Turkey-Nigeria Business Forum which was organized to pave way for both countries’ private sector entrepreneurs to transact business and enable Turkish corporations to invest in Nigeria.
The last Turkey-Nigeria Business Council meeting held January 13 and 14, 2020, was organized by the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK), a leading business organisation in Turkey.
The Turkish minister of Trade, Ruhsar Pekcan, in an address at that meeting described Nigeria as one of its largest trading partners in the African continent.
The minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, said the forum has a future full of possibilities in the areas of agriculture, mining, oil and gas, textile, manufacturing, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and special economic zones development.
The business council after their last meeting was lobbying for trade agreements, in particular a free trade treaty, an agreement on reciprocal encouragement and protection of investments, which has been signed but not yet ratified, and a treaty for the avoidance of double taxation.
According to the data of the Turkish Statistical Institute, the volume of bilateral trade between the two countries, except for oil and gas, totaled nearly $500 million in 2018. While the sale of Turkish goods to Nigeria totaled $340 million, Turkey’s imports from the country were recorded at $160 million.
The economic relations between the two countries gained significant momentum in 1999 when Turkey began to purchase liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Nigeria.
In 2018, Nigerian crude oil also started to sell in Turkey. The bilateral trade volume in 2019 was calculated at $2.3 billion.
Oil and LNG account for 90% of Turkish imports from Nigeria while oilseed, fruits, sesame, charcoal and cocoa make up other Nigerian goods Turkey purchases. In 2018, Turkey became the top sesame purchaser from Nigeria
Steel products, furniture goods, construction materials, and food products are among the items Turkey exports to Nigeria.
More than 40 Turkish firms operate in Nigeria. These firms employ more than 500 Turkish citizens and over 2,500 Nigerians. Turkish companies also organize commercial fairs in different regions of the country, particularly in Lagos.
Turkish firm Ak-Ay Elektrik provides electricity for three million Nigerians through five infrastructure projects to supply transformer substations. The company began its first project in the Giant of African in 2001.
Fast-moving consumer goods manufacturer (FMCG) Hayat Holding has been producing hygiene products in its $100 million facilities located in Ogun State since 2017 and employs more than 400 people.
Turkish Airlines has seven direct flights per week to Lagos and Abuja. Turkish Airlines also has cargo flights to Lagos and Kano thrice a week.