ZENNER: Germany Will Further Its Relations With Nigeria In The Areas Of Energy And Security
Mr. Michael Zenner is the German ambassador to Nigeria. In this interview with Abuja Bureau Chief, MADU ONUORAH, and ABOSEDE MUSARI, he affirms that Germany will further its relations with Nigeria, especially in the areas of renewable energy and security.
What is the level of cooperation between Nigeria and Germany? TRADITIONALLY, Nigeria and Germany have very close and friendly relations. Our cooperation is very intensive.
One of the bases of our cooperation is the bi-national commission, which was set up in 2011. This bi-national commission covers all areas; the political area, areas of security policy, economy, investment, culture, and in particular, energy. There is an ongoing energy partnership between Nigeria and Germany.
Germany and Nigeria had several meetings in 2014. In October, the German foreign minister and Nigeria’s foreign minister, Ambassador Aminu Wali both chaired the plenary meeting of our bi-national commission held in Berlin. A few days later, we had the joint visit of the French and German foreign ministers in Abuja.
The level of cooperation is very intensive. The German chancellor, Mrs. Angela Merkel, congratulated General Muhammadu Buhari after his victory at the polls.
Some days ago, I was received by the President Buhari and I handed him the invitation letter from Mrs. Merkel, inviting him to the outreach meeting of the G7 Summit in Germany. Our economies are doing fine and our political relations are excellent.
Germany and Nigeria have excellent bi-lateral relations and can intensify and deepen the relations between our two countries.
Energy is an important area and feasibility studies for renewable energy particularly in the rural areas are ongoing. The rural areas can become independent from the national power grid.
The resources are available for solar energy. We have identified three states where the German Developmental Agency (GIZ) is doing feasibility studies; Cross River, Niger and Sokoto States.
We plan to build solar power energy in the University of Ibadan so that the famous university could have its electricity only by solar energy. The German industry is very active in setting up gas power plants.
Germany and Nigeria should extend the vocational training project intensively in order to train young people for jobs in different areas. This is very important for the industry and helps to deal with the problem of unemployment.
Another thing that is very important as well, is the cooperation in the medical and humanitarian areas. Germany contributes to various projects in order to help people and the refugees in the North-East of the country.
Germany has a project together with the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) on helping traumatised people. There is a humanitarian aid project in Yola. Germany also participates in the vaccination program against polio.
The German industry is very active in Nigeria. In May and June, the representations of two well-known German companies will be inaugurated in Lagos. There are very active small and medium sized German companies in Nigeria as well. If we intensify these commercial relations it will entirely deepen our relations.
In the field of security cooperation, Germany and Nigeria have a project within the Police sector in the area of human rights, which must play an important role in police work. Other elements of this project are border management, forensic training in order to detect crime. Meanwhile, Germany and Nigeria have very intensive cultural relation.
The German cultural centre Goethe Institute is located in Lagos. It promotes cultural dialogue between Germany and Nigeria.
The other work of the Goethe Institute is German language training. Germany has increased its cultural activities in Abuja. This year we want to organise exhibitions on modern German art, these are projects on which German and Nigerian artists work together.
We have dialogue between German and Nigerian media as well. There is a huge academic exchange between Germany and Nigeria.
More than 450 students study every year in Germany. Some of them are sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD. Last year, Germany promised to help fight terrorism in Nigeria. We also know that the first crop of officers in Nigerian Airforce were trained in Germany.
What is the level of cooperation in terms of security? The cooperation with the Police is one element. Another one is that we have two projects between the German Army and the Nigerian Army.
One is a medical centre in Jaji, in the framework of the Nigerian-African Peacekeeping Centre, which has been inaugurated two weeks ago by the Chief of Army Staff, General Minimah and myself. Another project we realised in Abuja is the MECATRONIC centre.
Another field is that we invite young Nigerian officers to Germany to participate in training courses with our armed forces in our staff officers’ school in Germany.
You mentioned that you visited the President Buhari (before his inauguration), are you thinking of new directions in terms of relations between Germany and Nigeria? During my courtesy call to the President, we talked about new projects and new fields where we can deepen our relations. It is very important to move on in the economic, energy and security aspects.
It is important that we coordinate our international policy as well since we have similar interests in the framework of the United Nations.
There are huge fields of common interests. Can you give us an idea of the trade volume between Nigeria and Germany? In 2013, Germany imported goods worth 4.10 billion Euros from Nigeria. Germany exported goods worth 1.36 billion Euros to Nigeria.
]There still exists a huge area where we can intensify our bilateral trade. Germany’s imports from Nigeria are mainly crude oil or gas. Machinery, consumer goods and cars are exported to Nigeria.
Are you satisfied with the level of performance of German companies in Nigeria? German companies have huge interest in Nigeria. In Lagos last week, a group of German entrepreneurs had talks with their Nigerian counterparts and wanted to be informed on business possibilities with Nigeria.
I think it’s very important that we have business relations on a solid ground. It’s important that the companies who invest here can trust that their investment will be safe. Germany and Nigeria have had a bilateral investment agreement for many years.
We will now start negotiations on an agreement on double taxation.
As representative of Germany in Nigeria, what are your expectations of Nigeria in terms of where you want the country to be? Nigeria is an excellent partner.
During his visit to Nigeria in October 2014 the German foreign minister Steinmeier said: ‘Nigeria matters.’ Let me add: bilaterally, internationally and regionally, Nigeria is the most important country in Africa and what happens in Nigeria is very important for the rest of Africa. I think the cooperation between our two countries should move forward.
We have common interests i.e. regarding stability, for example, peace keeping forces of Nigeria participate in missions worldwide. We have similar political structures. We are both federal states.
I think we mutually understand our political system. It’s very important that we increase our cooperation and our relations.
Germany is involved in agriculture in various African countries like Ghana, Zambia through GIZ. Isn’t Germany doing anything in the agriculture sector in Nigeria? The GIZ is also very active here in Nigeria. We have two important projects in agriculture. FAFIN is the support of farmers from production to marketing.
That means the improvement of the whole value chain –– it’s not for huge companies –– so that farmers can improve their activities considerably.
And then the other element is to build a centre in Nigeria, which consults farmers on how to use production methods, what kind of crops are important, for example, rice, potatoes, cassava –– so that the farms can be developed and can provide jobs as well.
Germany rendered financial support to the new Nigeria Development Bank with $200 million for the setting up of small and medium size business activities. One of the secrets of Germany’s economic success is that the industry structure is based on small and medium sized companies. That is something that can provide jobs. Could you explain more on the humanitarian works Germany is doing in Nigeria.
At this time when Nigeria is affected by terrorism and there are a lot of refugees, in what ways is Germany helping out? Germany has various projects in order to help the internally displaced persons. For example, Germany works together with the IOM in order to help traumatized people, women and children particularly.
Germany’s financial contribution to victims of the insurgency in the North-East amounts to about $930,000. Germany supports the centres for inter-communal and interfaith dialogue in Plateau and Kaduna states.
This amounts to 200,000 Euros. There is this GIZ programme regarding training in human rights, border control management and forensic which is 750,000 Euros. And then, GIZ is running important cooperation projects in the field of energy, particularly renewable energy.
In what ways is Germany helping to combat terrorism in Nigeria? I think the police project is very important in this area, which includes border management.