The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola yesterday bared his thought on how the series of foreign trips embarked upon by President Muhammadu Buhari will be of benefit to the nation. According to him, Buhari’s endless trips are aimed at fixing the reputation of Nigeria which was severely damaged by the immediate past government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Fashola made the disclosure in his report titled, “PMB’s Foreign Trips, My Takeaway” which he made available to the media. On why he decided to make the information public, Fashola said he sought to ensure that “every Nigerian who cares about our country will have some information about what their President is doing about the things that concern them.”
In the article, the former Lagos State Governor, disclosed the outcome and potential benefits of Buhari’s world tour, some of which he (Fashola) accompanied him.
He stated that barely two decades ago, Nigeria was ostracised from global events because of bad governance and as a result, lost the respect accorded nations like ours. This was what inspired the president to declares at a meeting in Lagos during his campaign in 2015, that if elected, “he would make us proud about our country again. Proud to be Nigerian again.”
Having won the election, Buhari, like every other Nigerian knew that there was no way his campaign promises could be brought to life by sitting down in Aso Rock hence, the need for meeting with other nations.
On the G7 meeting in Germany, the minister noted that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, as host, had invited Buhari on his inauguration to be their guest, along with some three or four other African countries.
The agenda of the meeting, he said, was global security, economy and health in the aftermath of Ebola, which was still raging in some African countries then.
Mr. Babatunde Fashola stated that apart from the personal aides of the President, other officials who accompanied Buhari on the trip were Governor Shettima of Borno State, General Abdulrahman Dambazau and himself. Since Nigeria had no ministers at the time, Buhari felt these men were the ones best suited to assist, if he needed it, on the issues of security, economy and health on the G7 agenda.
He noted that participants at the meeting highlighted the difficulty of time and the resources that it would take to develop new antibiotics and the risk to global health following the disclosure of the information that western scientists were worried about increasing resistance of strains of infections to antibiotics. The minister said:
“If we all appreciate how vulnerable we can be without effective antibiotics, especially our children, and if we remember how low life expectancy was and how poor global health was before the discovery of Penicillin after the World War, we will appreciate the seriousness of the platform to which Nigeria was invited. I was proud that our President was there.
“If the seven most powerful nations stand with you, who can stand against you? I need not say more except that I can attest that PMB has been following up on these matters, and the progress on security is visible while results in the economic front will manifest soon enough”.
Talking about the Oil and Gas Summit held in Iran, Mr. Babatunde Fashola explained that one of the reasons Nigeria benefited so much in the past from the high price of oil was that Iran, the world’s 7th largest producer of oil, was facing global sanctions from which she was due to emerge in 2016 and because Iran was soon to be selling oil, the likelihood of a further decline in oil prices that had already reduced drastically, was a threat to Nigeria’s economy if eventually oil prices reduced further. He said:
“I was witness to PMB’s persuasion to Iran to come to the market slowly instead of pushing out large volumes which will raise supply and crash prices, even though Iran also needed the cash.
“You can’t do that type of diplomacy by letter or by phone, in my view, not when the major players were all there in person”.
Having witnessed the meeting with the Prime minister of Venezuela, who was leading the South American producers to sell more and get cash even if the prices were lower, Fashola stated that “PMB’s logic was different. Hold your volumes, steady the price, and don’t let us hurt one another”.
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Finally on Iran, he said Buhari disclosed that on his visit to Iran during his days as Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister, he noticed how much gas they were flaring and now returning as President, he discovered all the flares were gone, having been harvested and piped to every home for heating, cooking etc. This prompted the president to issue a mandate saying: “If they can do it, we must do it.”
Speaking on their visit to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Babatunde Fashola said besides seeking cooperation to recover Nigeria’s stolen wealth stored in the country, PMB also addressed a renewable energy summit where they gained the knowledge about initiatives to bring solar power price down to 5 (Five) US cents per kilowatt hour, (approximately N10) as against the price of 17 (seventeen) US cents (N34) per KWh tariff in Nigeria fixed at privatization by the last Government.
The President’s mandate for Abu Dhabi summit was for the exploration of collaboration for the manufacture of solar panels in Nigeria in order to reduce the price and deploy it to the sunlit areas of Nigeria, particularly the North that is most prolific for irradiation, Fashola divulged, adding that:
We are currently working on the Energy Mix for Nigeria which is the implementation process of the energy policy that will take us there.
Hopefully we will soon be signing the first set of solar deployment agreements for Nigeria.
In this way, more solar and hydro will be used in the North, more coal and hydro in the Middle Belt, and more gas in the South; so that we take power generation closest to the most prolific source of fuel to bring down the cost and make it more affordable.
“Ask us for whatever support or partnership and we will be happy to respond.We wish to see you take your rightful place and we are happy that you are the first African president visiting China, after my visit to Africa last year to pledge a $60 billion support for the Development of the continent”. These were the words spoken to Buhari by the president of the second largest economy in the world, according to Nigeria’s minister, Babatunde Fashola.
Explaining what transpired during the recent meeting with top government officials in China, the former Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola stated that the success of President Buhari’s visit to China was as a result of his (Buhari’s) reputation which bought him favour with China’s president, Xi Jinping.
The former governor further disclosed that during the visit, 6 (Six) collaboration agreements were signed including for agriculture and food production improvement techniques, rail and power infrastructure development, for funding the Dangote group to continue to expand and create jobs at home and keeping some of our reserves in China’s currency. He added:
“This last mentioned agreement was a legitimate coup by PMB, because the intelligence was that some West African countries were going to sign before us. PMB seized the moment. Of course, he had to apologise for our previous failures on our agreement made to part-fund four airport projects in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt and the Abuja-Kaduna rail project.
“The Chinese had provided their agreed part of 85 per cent but the remaining 15 per cent Nigeria did not honour during the last administration. Some of the recent revelations about financial scandals estimated at $2.1bn in the Office of the National Security Adviser alone during the last administration suggest how impactful such funds would have been in delivering these critical infrastructures; but we all know what happened.
“This is why PMB is travelling. To repair our reputation severely damaged by the last government, and to assure our partners that Nigeria has changed. From there, to renegotiate an existing funding agreement to complete critical transport infrastructure.
“PMB is building affiliations everywhere that if well-managed in future, will develop into a global network of friendships, trust and respect for Nigeria and Nigerians.
“I once heard that the role of a leader, like that of the head of a family, is that of an aggregator, opening doors and opportunities, breaking down barriers and forging alliances. I agree.
“This is my Takeaway on these trips”, concluded the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
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