President Muhammadu Buhari’s presence in Russia for a Russia-Africa summit which started yesterday has already started to pay off as President Vladimir Putin pledges to help in the construction of 1,400 kilometres rail track from Lagos to Calabar.
This was one of the agreements reached at the meeting held by the two leaders on the sidelines of the summit being held in Sochi, according to Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.
Apart from helping to develop Nigeria’s rail infrastructure, Putin also pledged to help advance a nuclear power plant project.
Buhari and Putin also discussed the need to concretise security and military cooperation between the two countries with the renewal of Nigeria-Russia Military Technical Agreement.
He said: “I have directed the Minister of Defence to work with the Ministry of Justice to conclude this matter within the shortest possible time.
“This military cooperation agreement is expected to give impetus to direct procurement of military hardware on a government-to-government basis at a lower cost as well as training of military personnel and modernisation of armed forces and renewal of infrastructure and equipment, which President Putin promised to undertake.’’
On protracted issue of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot-Abasi, Akwa-Ibom State, Buhari said that he had asked the Ministry of Justice, “to submit a comprehensive report on the UC Russel (the Russian owners of the plant) matter.
“I want to assure you that the aim of our reforms is to ensure such investments are concluded and actualised in a professional and painless manner.”
The presidential aide disclosed that the two Presidents also addressed partnership in education and agriculture, adding that the Russia leader said they would give additional scholarships to Nigerians. “We seek your Government’s support, especially in the areas of wheat production.
“Today, Nigeria produces less than one hundred thousand metric tons of wheat locally while our imports are projected to exceed five million tons in 2020. “We therefore need your support to bridge the deficit which will create jobs and save our foreign exchange for other important areas like security, defence and infrastructure,” Buhari said.
On this, Putin promised to promote joint efforts, given his country’s ranking as the current number one wheat producer in the world.
“We can do a lot together,” Putin added. The Russian President said Nigeria should take advantage of Russia’s potassium resources to advance President Buhari’s local fertiliser production programme.
Putin promised his country’s support for the geological prospection of Nigeria’s solid minerals and gave assurances of working with Nigeria and other African countries to secure and stop the incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as they did in securing the Somali coastal areas.
The Russian leader expressed further determination to secure Nigeria and the rest of Africa from terrorists.