Nigeria’s relations with France within the last year have been anchored on renewed zeal for the advancement of the existing strategic partnership between the countries. In this connection, the then French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, led a high-powered team of French officials and about ten top leaders of businesses to Nigeria from 11th-12th November, 2011. During the visit, Mr. Juppe also held consultations with the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga A. Ashiru on a wide range of subjects relating to bilateral and international issues of common interest to France and Nigeria. France has emerged as Nigeria’s second largest trading partner with a trade volume in the region of 5.5 billion per annum whereas Nigeria is France’s largest export destination in Africa. Nigeria hosted a session of the Franco-Nigeria Forum for Dialogue during the visit, on the platform of which those subjects were discussed.
In order to underscore the robust economic interaction between France and Nigeria, the former was the venue of the Honorary International Investors Council (HIIC) meeting which was held in Paris from 23-25 November, 2011 with President Goodluck Jonathan, accompanied by the First Lady, in attendance.
President Jonathan was received by the then President Nicolas Sarkozy during the working visit, a testimony to the excellent relations between the two countries which have assumed the status of a Strategic Partnership.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala signed the Agreement for the US$100 million loan granted by the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) to the Lagos State Government for the Lagos Megacity project on the margins of the HIIC meeting.
France and Nigeria have continued to extend mutual support and cooperation to each other the search for peace and promotion of democracy in West Africa. Measures identified included collaboration to stem the inflow of small arm and light weapons (SALWS) into the sub-region and strengthening Nigeria’s commitment to the promotion of harmonious economic development and integration of the sub-region.
The two countries have harmonized strategies and actions in other areas where both countries have abiding interest such as African Development Bank, West African Development Bank, ECOWAS, African Union and the UN Security Council.
The two countries also worked diligently on the convergence of the positions on developments in both Cote d’Ivoire and Libya. They have played crucial roles in enthroning and consolidating democracy in the two countries. Currently, they are working together to promote genuine national reconciliation and development in Cote d’Ivoire. Both countries also collaboration in rendering diplomatic support to the National Transportation Council (NTC). As part of efforts to consolidate the gains of the revolution, Nigeria and France interceded with authorities of the “new Libya” to embrace friendly governments with a view to restoring peace, reconciliation and national unity, democracy and respect for human rights of both Libyan and other nationals.
In the past year Franco-Nigeria relations witnessed common understanding and harmonization of interests on matters of security of the Gulf of Guinea. Consequently, France provided training support programme and maritime security assistance for the region, in the spirit of the MoU on Defence Cooperation and Maritime Security signed by both countries in May 2009.
In the field of bilateral economic cooperation, investment and trade promotion, France remained Nigeria’s major partner with many French companies actively pursuing opportunities in the Nigeria economy.