Mr Charles Onunaiju, President, Center for China Studies has urged the Federal Government to mainstream China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI or B&I) into Nigeria’s Foreign Policy.
Onunaiju gave the advice in Abuja at an event organised by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China as part of activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between both countries, on Feb. 10.
According to Onunaiju, the initiative and the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) are key drivers of the various forms of cooperation between Nigeria and China.
Commending the successful diplomatic relations in the past 50 years, Onunaiju said strategic platforms such as BRI and FOCAC should be bimproved to advance the relations in the next 50 years.
“To advance cooperation, there are key drivers like the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) where Nigeria and China are playing very important roles.
“There is also the Belt and Road Initiative, a massive connectivity project between countries, within countries, and across regions.
“Interestingly, Nigeria has signed on to this project and you can be sure that a lot of infrastructure projects in Nigeria have become far more accelerated on the basis of Nigeria’s engagement on the Belt and Road Initiative.
“What is important is for the leadership on the Nigerian side to appreciate and see the greater opportunity that is offered by the Belt and Road Initiative because it is a process that has to do with connectivity, people to people engagement, more financial integration, and a lot of exchanges.
“So within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, Nigeria has very broad prospects.
“Nigeria has signed to the Belt and Road Initiative and what is important for us is to mainstream it into our foreign policy options.
“Some countries in Africa have belt and road desks in their foreign Ministries.
“I think it time for Nigeria (to do the same thing) because the Belt and Road Initiative is the most important public good in offer.
“Over 900 billion U.S. dollars has so far been expended in the construction of Belt and Road projects.
“And if you appreciate the opportunity presented by the BRI, Nigeria needs to have a special Desk in the foreign ministry .. so that we can exchange maximally with the opportunity of the belt and road,” Onunaiju said.
Onunaiju praised China for its pivotal role in Nigeria’s infrastructural development.
Speaking earlier, Mr Li Xuda, Director, China Cultural Center, Abuja said Nigeria-China relations had brought about great achievements through exchanges and cooperation in many areas, including the educational, commercial, cultural, and social fields.
Li said it was in an effort to further strengthen such diplomatic relations, that the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Li visited Nigeria where he and President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to promote bilateral relations on all fronts.
“In recent years, China and Nigeria have been deepening their cooperation.
“Just in a decade, four China-assisted friendship schools were built and donated to Nigeria.
“So many Nigerian children are happy to study in the beautiful school.
“CGC started China-aid Agricultural Demonstration Project Center and provided training programmes on agri-technology for local technicians in June 2018.
“President Buhari was happy while taking the Abuja Rail Mass Transit on July 2018.
“China and Nigeria signed the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation within the Belt and Road Initiative in 2018, and President Buhari inspected the new terminal of the Port Harcourt International Airport on Oct. 25, 2018.
“The Lagos-Ibadan Railway tracks were laid in Nov. 2018, and President Buhari inaugurated the new terminal of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport constructed by CCECC on Dec. 20, 2018.
“So, we can see that only in a year, so many beautiful things have happened between us,” Li said.
Li said that although significant progress had been made in years past in all fields through culture and cooperation, “there is still a long way to go.”
He, therefore, called for greater cooperation toward achieving set goals. (NAN)