Buhari signs $328 DEAL with China, secures support on Mambilla Project

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday secured the support of the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, for the building of the 3,050 megawatts Mambila hydroelectric power project.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement from Beijing, China, where Buhari met with Jinping on Wednesday on the sidelines of the China-Africa Cooperation summit.

The two countries also signed agreement on the sum of $328m for the Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase II (NICTIB II) project.

The concessional loan agreement between Galaxy Backbone Limited and Huawei Technologies Limited (HUAWEI) was signed by Nigeria’s Minister of Finance Kemi Adesoun and Wang Xiaotoa, Director-General, International Development Agency, in the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari and President Xi Jinping of China.

Buhari noted that the Mambilla project remained a key priority to Nigeria even as he sought the support of the Chinese government for four airport terminals as well as the Abuja light rail project.

His statement read, “In the past 24 months, the Chinese government has provided humanitarian aid to our conflict-affected areas, scholarship to Nigerian youths, military training and security support to our personnel and agricultural modernisation training.

“Mr President, as we celebrate these successes, I would like to once again solicit your support for the Mambilla hydropower project, which remains a key priority for my government. Our hope is to fund the project with concessionary loans from China as an alternative funding arrangement will adversely impact the project’s viability.

‘‘We have been informed that our submission on this project is undergoing assessment by the relevant Chinese agencies. We hope with your kind intervention, this assessment will be expedited. Your Excellency, Mambilla is Nigeria’s equivalent of the three gorges dam. My wish is that you join me for the groundbreaking ceremony of this project in the not too distant future.

‘‘The inclusion of this project in the FOCAC Action Plan 2019 to 2021 will go a long way in supporting our efforts to rehabilitate and resettle the conflict-impacted North East region.

‘‘I was very pleased to hear about the positive experiences these hard working and law abiding citizens are having in their host communities. I also had the pleasure of meeting young Chinese students learning three Nigerian languages.

‘‘We must continue to support such exchange programmes to enhance our people-to-people contacts as easy movement of citizens of both countries would complement the currency swap agreements recently signed by the central banks of both countries.

‘‘Since our last meeting two years ago, Nigeria has relaxed its visa requirements to Chinese citizens. Today, I am pleased to inform Your Excellency that Chinese citizens receive Nigerian visas in less than 48 hours.

‘‘Another measure that will improve our trade volumes will be to introduce import duty waivers on Nigeria’s commodity exports to China. Today, our commodities such as sesame seeds, hibiscus and cassava amongst others attract import duty in China.”

In his remarks, President Xi, who commended Nigeria’s fight against terrorism and the progress that has been made so far, promised China’s support in capacity building and intelligence sharing.

He also pledged 50 million Chinese Yuan support to Nigeria’s military, noting that ‘‘Buhari is as decisive in dealing with terrorism as China.’’

President Xi said China would import more agricultural products from Nigeria and expressed gratitude to President Buhari on Nigeria’s interest to participate in the forthcoming Chinese Import Fair.

‘‘The relationship between Nigeria and China is as best as ever, especially given the deepening mutual trust. China will continue to stand with Nigeria.

‘‘We understand how critical the Mambilla project is to your country and we will take a serious look at it and ensure that it succeeds because of its social and economic benefits.’’

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