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TRADE PACT WITH AUSTRALIA 'LL BOOST FG'S AGENDA -SEN SANKARA

By NBF News
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Former National Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Water Resources, Alhaji Danladi Sankara, was on the Federal Government's delegation to the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (GHOGM), Perth, Australia. He spoke with Daily Sun in Kano on his experience. Excerpts:

Experience
It was a very exciting and rewarding experience. A lot of issues were discussed at various levels, especially topical issues of global, regional and states dimensions. The Nigerian delegation under the able leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan made very significance impact on all aspects of the conference, an effort that made it possible for the nation to make far-reaching progress on the road map towards attaining the transformation agenda of the Federal Government. Jonathan made very good use of the opportunity offered by the conference to re-affirm and consolidate the existing bilateral economic co-operations between Nigeria and Australia.

At the same time, new mutually beneficial economic agreements were ratified between the two countries. Nigeria has been Australia's second largest trading partner in Africa. This status and the visible economic gains recorded over the years between the two nations informed the renewed commitment to widen the scope of bilateral co-operation resulting in fresh trade and economic agreements.

The gains
The main focus of the gains of the meeting was Jonathan Julia Gillard, Australia's Prime Minister, ratified the establishment of Australia-Nigeria Trade and Investment Council. The council is mandated to identify and develop new business opportunities between the two countries. Jonathan and Gillard noted that Nigeria is a strongly growing emerging market and is Australia's second largest trading partner in Africa. So far, six Australian mining companies are already active in Nigeria, in addition to Macquarie Bank, already operating in the country.

The council will focus initially on collaboration between Nigeria and Australia in the critical economic sectors of energy, mining, agriculture and financial services. And with the private sector backing, the council will establish functional secretariats in Perth, Australia and Lagos, Nigeria. Solid minerals, oil and gas and agricultural development were the key issues and sectors Jonathan focused mostly in his various interactions with Australia's business and economic communities. He extended invitation to experts and investors to come to Nigeria to explore the vast potential resources available. He was very passionate about his desire to involve Australian investors also in areas of infrastructural development, particularly the agriculture sector.

Outline of the local impact to achieve the desired result

Jonathan informed the forum of Australian investors that about 70% of Nigeria's population is the youth. He emphasized the determination of the Federal Government to provide the institutional support for the teeming youth population and other groups of able-bodied but unemployed persons to be gainfully engaged in the agricultural sector to boost food production. He was very forthright when he stated emphatically at one of the meetings that Nigerian needs employment opportunities through foreign and local investments to engage the youth in productive activities, pointing out the fact and reality that if we do not engage the youth, they would end up engaging the leadership. That was how truthful the President analyzed the situation.

Another good news was the resolve of the Federal Government to create conducive enabling environment for the prospective investors to facilitate their contribution to the development of the key sectors of the nation's economy through proactive policy of diversification. We have to diversify to other equally profitable sectors of the economy to lessen over dependence on oil to enable us attain optimum economic prosperity.

Other areas of co-operation
At the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Jonathan made a pledge that Nigeria would spend about N9billion, that is about $60 million towards the complete eradication of polio in Nigeria within 24 months. This issue was a re-affirmation of the earlier pledge the President made to the visiting Mr. Bill Gates in Abuja shortly before the Commonwealth meeting. Gilliard pledged that her government would also provide another sum of $50 million to the global polio eradication effort. In the same manner, British Prime MinisterDavid Cameroon, announced that Britain would give additional £40 million towards polio eradication. The position taken by Jonathan in rallying world leaders and governments at the meeting to contribute to the eradication of polio paid off.

Highpoints of Jonathan's activities
The President held meeting with cross section of Nigerian community in Australia, met with Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Stephen Harper, representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Catherine Ashton, the Commonwealth summit proper and the fora for the various bilateral talks held with various leaders, groups and organizations. It was a very crowed schedule a very rewarding meeting and experience for the Nigerian delegation.

Nigeria in the comity of the Commonwealth of nations

There is no doubt that Nigeria is a very influential and frontline member of the Commonwealth. The dignity and the seriousness of Jonathan further raised the prestige of Nigeria at the Commonwealth meeting. The quality of the delegation itself is another distinctive feature of the manifest leadership position of Nigeria not only in Africa, but at the highest level of global political terrain.

We should be proud of our great country Nigeria, particularly the radiating confidence of our leader, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He did the Nigerian nation proud at every outing throughout the conference. The leadership quality of Nigeria as a nation became crystal clear at the CHOGM 2011, as Jonathan gave a superlative account of himself in terms of focus, articulation, grasp of salient issues and proposition of workable solutions to them.