NIGERIA-UNITED KINGDOM RELATIONS
The scope of relations between Nigeria and Britain has, for reasons of history, been diverse and intense. Within one month of the inauguration of President Jonathan’s Administration, official visitors from the United Kingdom began to arrive the country. The former British Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, was among the early callers, closely followed by the British Secretary of State for International Development, Mr. Andrew Mitchell, at the end of June 2011.
Prime Minister, David Cameron arrived Nigeria in July 2011 and held talks with President Jonathan in the course of his Working visit to Lagos. On Nigeria’s part, similar visit to the United Kingdom also took place at all levels of Government underscoring the close historic ties and bonds of friendship and partnership between the two countries.
The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, was among the first world leaders to initiate direct engagements with the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, within the first week of his assumption of Office. Thereafter, interactions continued on the margins of AU Summit in Malabo and the Commonwealth Heads of Governments meeting in Perth, Australia. These visits and exchanges have achieved the objectives of consolidating relations and opening new vistas of cooperation in diverse fields.
One notable context was in the field of development assistance which is handled by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). DFID provides Nigeria with a spectrum of aid and assistance in electoral processes as well as towards the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in country.
In the aftermath of the recent global economic crisis, Britain in collaboration with other EU member states, took measures to address the impact of the Eurozone financial crisis. Among these was the idea to implement cuts and spending review. However, due to the excellent state of relations between Nigeria and Britain, the latter has firmly committed that spending on Nigeria would rather increase than diminish.
The expectations of continued cooperation have always been high. These have been tested and reaffirmed notwithstanding inevitable occasional brushes, such as in operationalizing the bilateral air service agreement.
As a follow-up to the brief visit of the British Prime Minister in July 2011 and his discussions with Mr. President both countries have agreed to subject a number of key issues for continuous consultation by their top officials of their respective governments. These include:
- Prosperity: Creating conditions for doubling bilateral trade between Nigeria and the UK by 2014;
- Development: Assisting Nigeria efforts to achieve the MDG, including “enabling factors” such as deepening democracy and good governance;
- Security: Work together to lessen and eradicate national and international security threats, in particular from terrorism;
- International Affairs: Coordination and cooperation to achieve common international foreign policy objectives;
- Migration: Enhanced cooperation to promote the mutual benefits of legal migration and to counter –illegal migration, including issues are already the subject of a six monthly dialogue at senior official level;
- The 36 Plus One Training Programme: Creating avenues for young Nigeria diplomats under the scheme to train and interact with British diplomatic institutions and vice versa.
Other areas of notable accomplishment have been the common pursuit of regional agenda as exemplified by the British-Nigerian stance during the Ivorian and Libyan crises, and the concerted efforts in resolving the conflict in Guinea Bissau and Mali.