President Muhammadu Buhari’s four-day visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia came to an end on Saturday.
The President participated in the Future Investment Initiative, which was christened “Davos in the Desert.”
Apart from attending the summit, which had a debating format for global leaders, investors and innovators to compare notes and share ideas, President Buhari held extensive talks with the Kingdom’s rulers, King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his son, the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, MBS.
The Presidents meetings with the two prominent rulers marked an important upswing in relations between Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
As part of his engagements at the FII, President Buhari joined Presidents Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya in a plenary session to discuss the topic: ‘‘What’s Next for Africa? How will Investment and Trade Transform the Continent into the Next Great Economic Success Story?’’.
In his arguments, President Buhari said the vigorous implementation of key reforms by his administration in oil and gas, farming and agriculture as well as the country’s vast human resources, made mostly of “young men, women and able-bodied persons” and the country’s rich land and mineral resources eminently positions her for substantial capital inflows. He said the economy holds great promise of win-win for investors.
The President highlighted some key achievements of his administration and expressed a strong determination to use agriculture and ICT as vehicles to attain the target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next ten years.
On the sidelines of the conference, President Buhari held strategic meetings with the leadership of Saudi Oil and Gas group, the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and Public Investment Fund, PIF. On the directive of the King, who had a meeting with the Nigerian leader to discuss friendly and strategic relations between both countries, the world’s largest oil operating company, ARAMCO came to ask the President and his team a simple question: “What can we do for you?’’
In response, President Buhari requested ARAMCO to visit Nigeria and carry out a diagnostic assessment of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation’s, NNPC, refineries, pipelines and other infrastructure. He wanted ARAMCO to deploy its technical expertise “to improve the efficiency of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.” The company’s Chairman, Yassir Al-Rumayyan, who doubles as the head of the PIF, expressed the company’s determination to promote business investment through the use of modern technology across the energy sector in Nigeria. For those who know, the head of the Saudi PIF has the capacity to invest five billion dollars in a country within a month.
The President instructed the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo and GMD of NNPC, Mele Kyari to work with the Saudi Arabian investment company to expedite action on modalities for collaboration and actualization of the aspirations of the leaders.
Another meeting of great significance, which was almost missed due to scheduling difficulties, but eventually took place because of strong interest on both sides was between the United States team to the FII and President Buhari. The American Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who was accompanied by Brent Macintosh, Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs and Marshall Billingslea, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the United States Treasury Department, were on their way to the airport but they had explored an opportunity to meet with President Buhari no matter how short. They turned back to meet with the President when a space was found in his schedule, albeit late evening.
At an hour when most members of his delegation had retired to their accommodations after a long day of meetings, President Buhari hosted the U S team, with the Minister of State, Petroleum and GMD of NNPC.
Mnuchin briefed President Buhari on ongoing efforts to return looted funds including the USD 300million (N108 billion) traced to former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha. The Treasury Secretary also raised possibility of the U S investing in Nigeria under the new United States International Development Finance Corporation, USIDFC, which provides $60 billion for investments in developing nations.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which had last month announced its interest to invest USD 100 billion in India, revealed that it had so far invested 40 billion dollars in India, 10 billion dollars in Pakistan and 20 billion dollars in Indonesia. According to Prince Mohammed Ibn Salman: “We are willing to do the same in Nigeria, given the favourable business environment.” President Buhari gave an instant and firm commitment for the partnership.