In what could best be described as a major milestone for Nigeria at the ongoing Belt and Road Initiative Forum (BRI) in Beijing, China has committed to refinancing and completing the Abuja-Kano and Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri railway projects.
According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Stanley Nkwocha, the president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, pledged yesterday while responding to requests made by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima at a bilateral meeting with the Chinese leader in Beijing, the Chinese capital.
It would be recalled that since the launch of the projects, China is yet to release funds for the two major railway projects in Nigeria, largely due to cutbacks and commitments.
China had agreed to provide 85 per cent financing for the construction of the Abuja-Kano and Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri railway projects, while Nigeria, which had the duty of paying the balance of 15 per cent, paid its part of the funding from the inception of the project through appropriations.
The crucial infrastructure, also termed a legacy project, has the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation as the contractor for the project.
The Chinese president pledged increased investment in Nigeria’s power generation and digital economy and called for the protection of Chinese nationals working in Nigeria, saying he would, in turn, ensure that the Nigeria-China bilateral relation is stronger than before.
President Jinping promised that China will enhance political support and build cooperation in all fields, just as he appreciated Nigeria’s support of One-China Policy.
In the area of security, President Jinping promised a continued crackdown on terrorists, assuring categorically that China is committed to peace in the Sahel region, more so that its long-standing military training and MoUs on joint exercises remain sacrosanct.
Vice President Shettima, who delivered the well-wishes of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, described the rail projects as very vital to the president and people of Nigeria, saying it remained a legacy project that would further open up the nation’s economy, create jobs and boost trade and investments across the country.
The vice president said President Tinubu remains committed to a stronger Nigeria-China tie, adding that it was laden with respect, non-political interference and mutual international cooperation.
“Our relationship commenced about 50 years ago, precisely in 1971 and it has been upgraded to a comprehensive partnership but we crave your indulgence, Your Excellency, to further upgrade this relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership because of the importance we attach to our relationship with China”, he said.
Shettima appreciated China for treating Africa with dignity and standing with the continent during the independence struggles.
President Jinping had before his meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima formally declared the Forum, which had numerous heads of states and top government officials present, open.