Liberian President seeks stronger bilateral relations with Nigeria

Timothy Choji, Abuja

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Liberia’s President, George Weah has appealed to Nigeria to help jump start his country’s economy.

Speaking after a closed session with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mr Weah described Nigeria’s economy as the largest in Africa.

He said: “Our people have voted for change, and for hope. And change is finally here. But mere political change is meaningless without development, prosperity, and growth Your Excellency, we need Nigeria’s help to jump-start our economy. My administrations’ Pro-Poor Development Agenda, is intended to tackle the many economic and social problems that my Government has inherited, especially in addressing the large fiscal and infrastructure deficits, the urgent problem of youth unemployment, and reviving the education, agriculture, mining and health sectors.”

The Liberian President thanked Nigeria for the role it played in sustaining peace in his country, leading to his emergence as President.

Technical Support

He noted with satisfaction various ways in which Liberia has benefited from Nigeria in the past, urging that the tempo be sustained.

“You played a major role in bringing peace to Liberia you reformed our Army and today it is performing it duties to the highest professional standards. As we speak, they are serving in a peace-keeping mission in Mali You have also built and expanded the capacities of Liberians in so many ways. For example, during our recent observance of Armed Forces Day in Liberia, we were informed that two of our military personnel will soon be graduating as pilots from one of your esteemed institutions. We would like to see a continuation and expansion of that program, women. for both men and My administrations’ Pro-Poor Development Agenda, is intended to tackle the many economic and social problems that my Government has inherited, especially in addressing the large fiscal and infrastructure deficits, the urgent problem of youth unemployment, and reviving the education, agriculture, mining and health sectors. Your sustained technical assistance for capacity building in these sectors is most welcome. For example, Nigerian teachers and medical volunteers to Liberia, under the Technical Assistance Corps TAC) Agreement with Liberia, have been very crucial in boosting capacity development in Liberia, and it is my hope that this assistance can be considerably increased to address with urgency our most pressing socio-economic needs at this time. More specifically, under the Bilateral Teacher Exchange program, we are seeking 6,000 plus teachers to make up for the shortage of good teachers in our educational system. in agriculture, we are seeking experts and extension workers to build capacity in the sector, particularly with crops, (such as cassava, for example,) which lend themselves readily to value- added propositions and export earning potential,” the Liberian President requested.

Pic 2. President Muhammadu Buhari welcoming the visiting Liberian President George Weah at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Monday (5/3/18)

Business Opportunities

The Liberian President used the opportunity to woo Nigerian investors to his country, as the atmosphere is conducive, as he advocated increased trade between Nigeria and Liberia.

“I hereby declare that Liberia is now open for business to the Nigerian private sector. There is a need to address the current volume of trade between our two countries, which is very low and does not exceed million, by some estimates. Yet, the Liberian banking sector is dominated by Nigerian banks, and I am made to understand that their Head offices in Nigeria may be considering reducing their support or even shutting them down because of the recent downturn in our economy. If this is true, l urge them not to do so, as l am optimistic that trade and commerce will increase in the near future. “There are also major shortcomings in the electricity and power sectors, in road construction, in housing, in mining, and in fisheries, to name a few, that could be of serious interest to Nigerian investors, either as individuals or companies, or through joint-ventures or public-private partnerships. We invite all of you to come to Liberia and explore the many new opportunities for investment that are bound to increase under this new political dispensation I promise you that you will find a Government that is not only business friendly, but ready to do business,” he said.

The Liberian President pledged to continue to seek President Buhari’s counsel in many issues and advice as he embarks on his arduous task of nation building, reconstruction, and transformation of Liberia.

World Cup

While answering questions from State House Correspondents, on the forth-coming FIFA World cup, the Liberian President described Nigeria’s national team as a model for other African countries.

He advised Nigeria to ensure that the Super Eagles go into camp early, ahead of the Russia 2018 and also make sure the players and official do not lack anything, so as to do well at the world cup and possibly bring back the trophy.

“I must first say your Excellency, thank you very much because is not an easy task to qualify for World Cup because every government in Africa complains when it comes to sports. I have been fighting for so long for my national team to qualify. Imagine, I’m the world best here in Africa, the only world best. I think Nigerian team is a model, we all followed them. I have played with great Nigerian players, I played against them. Now you have a new generation, the fact that they qualified is a good thing for Nigeria. 

But I hope that they will prepare very early because they are going to represent Africa and we will be there to watch them, for them to bring the trophy for the first time if it is possible. But I think the seriousness to go to FIFA World Cup is not to pay players to go, I want every African government to know, if you win World Cup is a pride to Africa is not just to Nigeria, so we must do everything to ensure that the players are not stressed, make sure they concentrate, make sure their incentives are given to them to motivate them.  Some of the things you see at the World Cup, you will see an entire team go to represent a whole country and you will hear that one Minister took the money, they did not pay these players and the players are causing problem. When players are going to camp is to relax and focus. And for them to be in camp they must have everything there for them not to worry. So let the players not have excuse, support them and let them go and bring back that cup,” he advised.

Nnenna.O