President Muhammadu Buhari has urged stronger emphasis on people-to-people relations between South Africa and Nigeria to evolve a bond that will be of benefit to both countries and the entire African continent.
President Buhari, who received President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the State House Abuja on Wednesday, reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to improving a “special relationship’’ with South Africa, which will translate into gains for the continent, particularly in education, science, trade and investment, tourism and security.
At the opening of the 10th Session of Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) held in his office, President Buhari said: “Mr. President, permit me to state that some of the challenges identified during the last Bi-National Commission (BNC) have not been completely addressed. We need to ensure that our people-to-people relations are enhanced to a point where there would be no need for unhealthy competition.
“In this regard, we need improvement in educational and scientific cooperation, mines and energy resources, transport and aviation, tourism, youth exchange programmes, trade and investment and military cooperation, to mention but a few.”
President Buhari told ministers and government delegates of both countries that a strong bond of brotherhood between Nigeria and South Africa would be of great benefit to Africa as a catalyst for economic, technological, social and cultural development as a force for peace and security on the continent.
Adding: “Let me at this point re-iterate my commitment to ensure that the special relationship between our two countries is continually strengthened.’’
President Buhari said it was fulfilling that despite all the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the BNC was still holding on schedule.
“It is also gratifying to observe that this has been brought about by the dogged commitment of senior officials from our countries.
“More importantly, it is gratifying to note that despite the pandemic, our timelines for implementing some decisions of the 9th BNC have been met. Similarly, discussions are ongoing on new and important areas of cooperation between our two countries.
“I must commend the Honourable Ministers and senior officials of both our governments for their sustained effort in breathing life into the bilateral agreements between our countries. I am aware that the Senior Officials Meeting and Ministerial Meetings which preceded this Presidential BNC were successfully concluded,’’ he added.
At the end of the Summit, President Buhari expressed his delight at its successful conclusion, calling it, “heartwarming and a source of great pride that we have been able to further cement the special bond of fraternal friendship between our two countries.”
He also remarked that the agreement on Early Warning Mechanism would “improve the people-to-people relations of our two countries. Similarly, our two countries have established high level official communication channels for diplomatic consultations, trade and investment, and will, shortly, inaugurate the Nigeria – South Africa Youth Dialogue. I am confident that these vehicles of engagement and cooperation will serve our mutual interests.”
The Nigerian President commended the South African leader for initiating the Nigeria – South Africa Youth Dialogue which he (President Buhari) also endorsed.
“I hope that beyond being a vehicle for mutual learning and understanding by our youth, it would also foster the kindred spirit of humanity towards others as prescribed in the great South African traditional philosophy of Ubuntu. That would lay a solid foundation for the realization of the Africa that we want,” he said.
His South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa called for an immediate reversal of the travel ban on flights to and from South Africa by European countries.
He said: “I think it is important that I emphasize that in the light of the discovery by South African scientists of the Omicron variant of coronavirus and the subsequent imposition of extremely harsh and unfair travel restrictions on flights from and to South Africa as well as on a number of other African countries.
“President Buhari the solidarity expressed by yourself and the Government of Nigeria sends the strongest message. It says that as African countries we are standing united against the imposition of arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions that are not only unscientific, but counterproductive in the long run.
“Indeed, the leaders of Cote d’Ivoire where we are traveling to later today, as well as the leaders of Ghana and Senegal, have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the travel ban against South Africa and our sister countries in southern Africa. This is a global pandemic. And overcoming it requires that we collaborate and work together as a collective.
“The resulting damage to this travel ban to the economies of the countries affected will be considerable and long lasting. So I want to use this opportunity to once again call on the countries that have imposed this ban to reverse their decisions, whether they are in the northern, more developed economies or in other parts of our continent and elsewhere.”