Relations Between Nigeria, Liberia Waxing Stronger- Amb Odidigbo

His Excellency, Godfrey A.E Odudigbo,

His Excellency, Godfrey A.E Odudigbo, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Republic of Liberia has expressed happiness about the good relationship between Nigeria and his host country that is waxing stronger by the years. He said this during interview with TheNEWS in Monrovia, the capital of the country recently.

He went down memory lane, saying the bilateral relations between Nigeria and Liberia started in 1960 with establishment of Diplomatic Missions in each other’s Capital. The relationship has, according to him, been cordial and with mutual respect. “Nigeria and Liberia have over the years shared common values in terms of principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Both countries are adherent members of the UN and other international organizations, cooperating to promote international peace and security, as well as a just world order. Nigeria attaches great importance to its relations with the Republic of Liberia, which remains a valued friend and strategic partner to Nigeria.”

The Ambassador said he is fortunate to have received within my one-year headship of his Mission as a substantive Ambassador the immediate former President of Nigeria, H. E. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR; the current Vice President of Nigeria, H.E. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON and President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, respectively. “For me those visits represent the most important milestones in my Diplomatic Service as some of my colleagues may not be able to receive any highly placed Nigerians throughout their duty tours as Ambassadors, not due to any fault of theirs but for time and chance. To God be all the glory.”

H.E Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was invited and attended the 175th Independence Anniversary of the Republic of Liberia, held on 26th July, 2022. He was accompanied by H.E Geoffrey Onyeama, Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, Ambassador Abdullahi Omaki, Senior Special Adviser to Mr. President on Foreign Affairs and International Relations, amongst others;

H.E Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, led a high-powered delegation to attend Liberia’s Bicentennial Anniversary, held on 14th February, 2022. The Vice President was accompanied by H.E. Zubairu Dada, Honourable Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Dr. (AMB) Adeyemi Dipeolu, Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, amongst others;

H.E. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, visited Liberia on 2nd of April, 2022 to attend the State funeral ceremony of Professor Amos Claudius Sawyer, former President of the Interim Government of National Unity in Liberia;

H.E. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had earlier visited Monrovia, Liberia on 13th March, 2022 AS A Special Guest to the First Extraordinary Session of the Fifth ECOWAS Parliament, during which he urged the parliamentarians to seek to protect democracy in West Africa by making laws that would guarantee the independence of the electoral management bodies, safeguard the rule of law and protect constitutional term limits of elected officials within the ECOWAS region;

All of these visits, according to him, were facilitated by the Embassy “under my stewardship as the Nigeria’s Principal Representative to the Republic of Liberia, during which critical issues bordering on how to expand the scope of Nigeria-Liberia bilateral relations were discussed.”

On the bilateral side, Ambassador Odidigbo narrated that H.E Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah visited Nigeria on 13th December, 2022 during which he met with his Nigerian counterpart, H.E Geoffrey Onyeama on a wide array of issues on Bilateral Relations between our two countries; Chief of Defence Staff of Liberia Armed Forces, Major General, Prince C. Johnson III, also visited Nigeria last month to attend the graduation ceremony of the Nigeria Defense Academy, Kaduna State as three Liberians Officers were also among the Academy’s 2022 graduating set

Also, the inaugural session of Nigeria -Liberia Joint Commission meeting was held in Abuja, Nigeria, between 14 and 15 July, 2014. The session, as the Ambassador explained, laid the basis for an enhanced socio-economic interaction between the two countries, as well as gave a fillip for the promotion of regional security and development. Liberia is expected to host the next session of the Joint Commission. Several correspondences from the Embassy to host HMFA to consider kick-starting preparations for the convocation of the next session of the Joint Commission, earlier scheduled to hold in the 1st Quarter of this are pending on the side of the host authority.

“I wish to state here that the Embassy is ready to receive necessary drafts MOU’s from the Liberian side for onward transmission to Nigeria for consideration and further necessary action, before returning same to host government for possible signing during the Joint Commission to be held in Monrovia on dates mutually agreed to by both countries,” Odidigbo said.

During the Joint Commission, he explained further that there are so many areas of comparative advantages which experts from both sides will look into. They include: Agriculture, Health, Military Cooperation, Information Sharing, TAC, and Mutual Legal Assistance/Exchange of Prisoners etc. Most of the agreements signed between our two countries in 2014 during the last JMC in Abuja are now moribund and need to be kick-started.

Other areas areas of cooperation, as he revealed further was on the post-civil war period in Liberia which has seen the country gradually stabilizing, transiting through the Interim Government of Professor Amos Sawyer, the democratically elected Government of H. E. Ellen Johnson and the current President George Manneh Weah taking the country deeper on the part of democracy and development. “The three branches the Liberian government; Executive, the Legislature and Judiciary, have been able to establish a significant degree of autonomy and working towards concretizing a more durable and sustainable democratic culture in the country. The government has also strengthened its Electoral Commission and indeed the entire electoral processes, as witnessed by the recent By-elections in the Lofa County, which was generally declared peaceful, free, fair and credible. In fact, the election was won by an Independent candidate, indicating popular participation. Since my arrival in the country, the Nigerian Embassy in Monrovia under me had been actively participating in the election monitoring exercises along with other members of the diplomatic community.”

The Nigerian Diplomatic Mission in Liberia, as the Ambassadoe put it, also participated in the peace process prior to and monitored actual casting of votes during the House of Representatives By-Elections of 16 November 2021 by serving as election observers in Nimba, Bong and Bomi Counties.

Efforts are on going to secure suitable dates for a Visit of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Liberia, Right Honourable Bhofal Chambers to the Nigerian National Assembly for meetings with the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives as a way of boosting Legislative exchanges between the two countries. We are hoping to seal it before the end of this year.

In the area of military cooperation, the Ambassador explained that Nigeria had granted five slots to Liberia for Short Service Courses in 2021 at the Nigeria Defense Academy (NDA) to the Armed Forces of Liberia, two gratis, while three on payment basis.

There is a coordination going on and that there are discussions with the Nigerian military delegation of the ECOWAS Advisory Training Team (EATT) in Liberia with the view to facilitating the procurement of needed military hardware by Liberian military authorities from key Nigerian Defence manufacturing and other companies such as DICON, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company and Proforce.

Since the exit of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in 30th March 2018, the ECOWAS Advisory Training Team (EATT) had been established to provide the growing Liberian Armed Forces with the needed training and advisory capacity, in a sustained manner, to fulfil its role in defending the territorial integrity of Liberia. Currently, apart from Ghana, only Nigeria maintains military officers under the EATT scheme, with Nigeria retaining the highest with six military officers and one warrant officer. It is noteworthy that recently the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) participated in its first peace keeping mission in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and later in Sudan. This impressive feat can be partly attributed to the significant role played by the ECOWAS Advisory Training Team, (EATT), led by Colonel Owoicho Ejiga and the various brilliant Nigerian military officers that have served in it and who are under my direct interface.

Another areas of cooperation is the Technical Aide Corps (TACs). So far, Nigeria has sponsored over 500 TAC volunteers to Liberia to assist in the areas of Education, Health and Agriculture etc, however, the last trenched of the volunteer’s deployment is been delayed due to the inability of the Liberian side to fulfill its own part of the obligation. It is pertinent to state here that, all processes have been concluded from the Nigerian side, DTAC forwarded CVs of prospective volunteers comprising of teachers and medical professionals for the consideration of the appropriate authorities of Liberia for selection since 2018, and we are still awaiting a response on that matter.

On the econonmic fron, Nigerian corporate entities, according to the Ambassador, maintain a significant presence in the Liberian economy. For instance, Ecobank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), Global Bank Ltd, and Mutual Benefits Assurance Company are notable Nigerian-owned companies already dominating Liberia’s banking and insurance sectors. “I am pleased to inform that City Trust Savings and Loans Ltd. joined this list when it opened its Liberian offices with Headquarters in Sinkor, Monrovia on 27th September, 2021, which I also participated in.”

He added: “A 43-Man Delegation of Nigerian Business Executives from all walks of life, including real estate professionals, agriculturists, operators in hospitality industry, and those in entertainment industry such as music and sports, led by Engr. Dallaji Nuhu, Founder and CEO of the African Children Talent Discovery Foundation (ACTDF) was in Monrovia, Liberia on a three day visit in October, 2021 to explore partnership and possible investment avenues in their areas of specialization and other areas. During the visit, the Team leader commissioned the first Noah Basketball Court, under construction at the playground of the J. J. Roberts Methodist High School and promised to improve the school environment. Through ACTDF, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Jewel Star Fish Foundation for cooperation in tackling and assisting Liberia in dealing with African Women and girl-child issues in the future.”

“After the visit to my office by the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) new Country Director for Liberia, Mr. Benedict Sorie Kanu, I hosted a meeting in January 2022 in my Residence for him to meet with all Managing Directors of the Nigerian commercial banks for the purpose of granting them access to the regional bank’s credit facilities. At the meeting, Mr. Kanu promised to link the banks’ Chief Executives with the Commercial Department of the D’Ivoire on a virtual meeting, to talk with them on how they could benefit from the Bank’s private sector lending to commercial banks in the specific areas of their respective interests.

“The Embassy received in February 2022, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Biostadt Group of Companies, Dr. Emmanuel Ajayi, a clergyman cum industrialist, whose organization is mainly into medical engineering and in partnership with Siemens Healthcare, a German manufacturer of direct imaging equipment. He informed that the company is trying to explore business opportunities within the Liberian medical space. After interactions with some of the stakeholders in the health sector of Liberia, he stated to me that he observed that there are no CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging equipment in Liberia, and confirmed that it is one of the areas of investment they would be looking into adding value to the economy of the country and promised to be back in Liberia soon in respect of that.

“I had a meeting on 21st March, 2022 with Mr. U.S. Sachdeva, CEO of Jeety Group of Companies, Liberia and former Consul-General of India to Liberia and actually facilitated issuance of visa for him to travel to Nigeria for a business meeting with potential Nigerian stakeholders.

“ The meeting deliberated on areas of possible cooperation between Nigeria and the Jeety company in manufacturing of tyres in Liberia and Nigeria serving as a major market.

“ As an ambassador, I was among the Heads of Mission so far to have honoured the invitation from the host’s Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to make presentations on reforms within the financial sector of their respective countries for the purpose of sharing national experiences with high officials of the Ministry. Through this, the Ministry aims to obtain comparisons and analyses from different countries to enable it adopt the best practices tailored towards Liberia’s specific needs for recommendation to the Government of Liberia. On the lecture I presented on 29 June 2022, on the title “ The Significance of Reform: A look at Some of the Major Reforms in the Financial Sector of the Nigerian Economy”, I focused discussions on three of the major reforms carried out within Nigeria’s financial sector namely; the Bank Recapitalization of 2005; Treasury Single Account (TSA); and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). I showed to the senior management of the Ministry, the aims and objectives of each reform, benefits derivable to Nigeria since adoption and respective challenges to implementation of the reforms in Nigeria.”

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