July 26, 2016
Special Adviser to the Nigerian President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina has said 70 Iranian investors and businessmen are presently in Nigeria holding discussions with a view to investing in sectors like banking, education, scholarship, agriculture, energy, tourism and technology development.
He said: “We are very keen to see a better and stronger relationship with Nigeria, which is the largest country (population) in Africa and a major global player.
Zarif said he came into Nigeria with a delegation of more than 70 members of the Iranian business community who had already started discussions in investing in sectors like banking, education, scholarship, agriculture, energy, tourism and technology development.
Earlier, President Buhari had said the federal government would work to ameliorate the challenges faced by the Nigerian economy within a short period by under studying the experiences of countries like Iran which thrived in adversity.
Buhari said the Iranian economy remained an inspiration for Nigeria in the deployment of technology to harness and export gas, grow food for the populace and promote entrepreneurship in education.
The president noted that Nigeria has all the potential for growing into a great economy through more inclusive planning, consistency in government policies and commitment to the realisation of development targets.
“In Nigeria, we are learning. We are learning the hard way through hardship, and we are learning very quickly on how to explore other sectors of the economy like gas, solid minerals and agriculture for growth.
Observers view Iran’s growing presence in Nigeria with suspicions. In February 2013, Nigeria’s State Secret Service accused a local Shiite cleric, Mallam Abdullahi Mustaphah Berende, 50, of heading a terrorist group backed by Iran that was plotting to assassinate Nigerian officials and attack Israeli and American targets in Nigeria. Berende first visited Iran in 2006 to study at Imam Khomeini University, and was recruited when he returned for further studies in 2011. He was trained in the use of the AK-47 rifle, pistols, and the production of improvised explosive devices.
Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, the undisputed leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, is another Nigerian Shiite. A protégé of Iran, he was creating a radical socio-economic and military system that resembles that of Hizbullah in Lebanon. He was said to have a supporter base numbering over a million. His organization was involved in many confrontations with the army and the Christian population.
On October 2010, an Iranian weapons shipment was discovered in Lagos Apapa Port concealed in thirteen containers aboard a ship sailing from Bandar Abbas, in clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 (of June 2009) imposing additional sanctions on Iran. This episode was followed by the discovery of $10 million worth of heroin hidden in engine parts shipped from Iran that was seized at Lagos Airport that same year. When Nigerian authorities requested information from Tehran about the identity of the weapons cargo’s recipient, they were rebuffed. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was then sent to Nigeria to solve the problem. Mottaki met with Nigerian authorities and explained that there had been a mistake and that the weapons’ destination was actually Gambia. Meanwhile, new shipping documents were produced for the cargo, which listed the private address of Gambian President Jammeh as the destination.
The second Iranian, Sayyed Akbar Tabatabaei, the Africa commander of the Quds Force (the branch of the Revolutionary Guards charged with exporting the revolution overseas), had received his entry permit to Nigeria to “provide administrative support” to the Iranian Embassy, as per the request of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Holding diplomatic immunity, Tabatabaei found refuge on Mottaki’s plane and flew with him to Iran. Subsequently, according to reports, he was sent to Venezuela to oversee Quds Force recruitment in Latin America. Mottaki was replaced as foreign minister during a later visit to Senegal, as Tehran was dissatisfied with his failure. Nigeria reported Iran to the UN Security Council, of which it was a member, where all the known details were disclosed. The case of Aghajani and his Nigerian accomplices is still being tried in a Nigerian court.
Iran became interested in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and the fifth largest provider of oil to the U.S., where more than half the population practices Islam. Iran identified Nigeria as a regional power that could serve its interests in Africa and provide support at international forums. Economic ties between the countries were forged in the late 1990s and were accelerated after Iranian President Khatami’s visit there in 2005.
The main topic during Zarif’s visit is Nigeria’s energy shortage. While Nigeria is an oil exporter, the country suffers from chronic shortages of refined fuel products due to limited refinery capacity and widespread corruption in the energy sector.
Iran urged Nigeria to adopt nuclear technology, which greatly worried the United States. During his last visit to Nigeria in July 2009, President Ahmadinejad promoted nuclear energy as a cheap energy source.
Addressing Zarif during his current visit to Nigeria, the Nigerian President said “You have also achieved a lot in nuclear research. I must also congratulate you for successfully negotiating with America and the European countries on the development of your nuclear energy.”