By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja – Nigeria and Iran have agreed to set up a bi-national commission that will promote trade, investment, agriculture and technology transfer.
According to the President’s spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu in a statement in Abuja, the agreement was part of the outcome of a meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and Iranian Vice President for Economic Affairs, Mohammad Nahavandian, on Friday in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
Speaking at the bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the 5th Summit of Gas Exporting Countries Forum, President Buhari said he was impressed with the speed in transformation of Iranian oil and gas industry from what it used to be when he served as Nigeria’s petroleum minister in the 1970s.
He said: “I will work very hard toward the joint commission. We will go back and identify sectors of common interest.
“In particular, we are interested in how you utilised your gas, with 95 per cent of your national population wired to gas.
“The evolution of our gas industry is too slow. We are still flaring gas.
“I will work with you on how to harness and utilise our gas. I am very impressed.”
President Buhari asked to be given up to the second quarter of 2020 on the modality of the bi-national commission.
He noted that Iran also flared gas in the 70s, expressing his delight that the fires had all been put out.
He expressed optimism that Nigeria would soon attain the same feat.
The President recalled, with delight, his close association as Nigeria’s oil minister with Iran.
He told his guest that if the blueprint he left behind as petroleum minister had been followed, Nigeria would have had 12 Liquefied Natural Gas trains by 1983.
“Instability and partisan politics thwarted all that, leaving us with just six, and the seventh we are now working on.
“We would have been earning more from gas,” he added.
According to him, the future of oil and gas is in value addition, extolling Iranians for attainments in oil and gas, electricity generation, agriculture and petrochemical industry.
The President commended the Iranian defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, saying the dispossession of the terrorists of their oil wells meant that they had lost access to resources used in supporting Boko Haram in Lake Chad sub-region.
The Iranian Vice President, who was emphatic that Nigeria and Iran could do a lot, said: “A lot can be done. We can do miracles. We have the vision.”
He suggested four major areas of economic cooperation, namely: petrochemical, power, irrigation agriculture and industry.
The Iranian Vice President also offered cooperation in counter-terrorism, citing the routing of ISIS in Iraq and Syria as major contribution to the global anti-terrorism efforts.
He used the meeting to brief the President on the political and security situation in the Middle East region.