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Russia to assist Nigeria revamp Ajaokuta Steel – Okonkwo

by Business News Report

President, Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Obiora Okonkwo has expressed the readiness of the Russian Federation to assist the Federal Government in revamping the near-moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company, saying the onus was on Nigeria to take the first step. Dr Okonkwo disclosed this in Abuja at a news conference to announce the inauguration of the Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He said; “Russia has made itself available to the Nigerian government that should they decide to bring back the original equipment manufacturer, they are ready to assist. 

Speaking when he received in audience a delegation of Nigerian-Russian Chamber Of Commerce and Industry, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said “with mutual diplomatic relations between both countries dating back to the 60s, the formal inauguration of a Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry will greatly consolidate efforts made to deepen the long-lasting relationship and invigorate business opportunities. The delegation also included representation from the Russian government, including a special envoy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Mr Oleg Ozerov, and the country’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Alexey Shebarshim.  According to the Vice President, “…after a very extensive period of collaboration between between our countries, frankly, I was quite surprised that we don’t already have a Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, I assumed that such a body already existed. It is never too late to do a good thing. This is an auspicious time to do so, especially given all of the economic opportunities before us.”

Referring to a previous meeting of African leaders and Russian business executives in 2019, Prof. Osinbajo noted that the interaction “was an excellent introduction to serious business for African countries with Russia and our Heads of State who attended obviously felt this was a unique opportunity to do more serious business with Russia. There have been very many economic and social engagements, especially in education. I think also that there have been several economic relationships that have blossomed for a while and several other business and commercial opportunities that are opening up here and there. But I think there is a need to formalize and to have a channel such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There is a need for that to happen so that we are better able to build upon what has taken place in the years gone by. This is a very unique opportunity for us to do really good work and to strengthen relations between our countries.” He reiterated the support of the Federal Government to ensure that the Chamber of Commerce to be inaugurated soon “works for the benefit of Nigerian businesses and Russian investors and business people.”

Okonkwo said “Revamping Ajaokuta has a lot more to do with Nigeria and not Russia. It is more of our policy somersault and a whole lot of conflicting international interests Nigeria’s Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is in talks with the Russian Ministry of Trade and Investments and they are willing to help Nigeria in that regard”. Okonkwo recalled that an Russian-African summit had taken place in Sochi, Russia in 2019 as part of efforts to open up a new era of Africa-Russia relationship. One of the deliverables from the summit, he said, is the inauguration of the chamber of commerce. He said the inauguration of the chamber is the beginning of a new journey that will enable “Nigeria explore business relations with the Russian Federation which, we believe, will promote economic growth, technology transfer, development and also foster better understanding for both countries”.

“As you may be aware, the Nigeria-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NRCCI) was founded by my humble self. It is incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990, and has established beneficial relationships and contacts with numerous economic development organisations in Russia. Our aim is to promote commerce, industry, education and training between the two countries. The principal objectives of NRCCI is to promote commerce, industry, trade and ancillary services; foster, advance and protect commercial, industrial, trade and professional enterprises and, without limitation, other activities and business undertakings of all kinds in the locality and elsewhere.

“Our collaboration with the Russian Federation, as the name of the Chamber suggests, is predicated on our interest in the vast opportunities which the Russian economy presents. We are therefore seeking to establish an industrial development mechanism built on the principle of mutual beneficial relationships with their own business groups. The strategy is to establish and sustain business contacts with the existing numerous economic development organisations in Russia and Nigeria. The Russian business delegation was led by an Ambassador-at-Large, Oleg Ozerov, an Envoy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Head of the Secretariat of Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.

Other members of the delegation were Mr Andrei Albeshchenko from the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States; Mr Andrei Vladimirov, JSC Rusatom Overseas; Mr. Stepan Belanovich, Uralchem United Chemical Company JSC; Mr Maksim 

Poltoradnev, Uralchem United Chemical Company JSC and a host of other Russian business executives. Mr Ozerov said the delegation had earlier paid a courtesy call on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa. He said; “We are impressed with the meeting we had with the vice president of Nigeria. Nigeria has the will to build a better future and we hope that we can build this future together”.

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