Crucial Takeaways From President Buhari’s Visit To Morocco, By Garba Shehu
It is a fact that the federal government’s programme of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of former agitators in the Niger Delta region of the country, as part of the Amnesty Programme, brought calmness to the country at its commencement. It however subsequently floundered and wobbled due to irregularities, until the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari put it back on track. Now there is peace once again.
If the disarmament and rehabilitation of 30,000 ex-agitators could do so much for the nation, how far would 18,000 skilled and unskilled new jobs go towards cementing that peace?
While analysts take their time to assimilate and give us the answer to how much good the foregoing would bring, President Buhari, who visited the Kingdom of Morocco between June 10 and 11, 2018, has signed memoranda of understanding and agreements that will lead to the new jobs mentioned and many other such benefits. This, of course, reaffirms the Buhari administration’s commitment to make a very big difference by linking foreign policy directly to Nigeria’s economic interests.
The jobs in view are calculated to come from the commitment to the Regional Gas Pipeline, which will connect Nigeria’s gas resources, those of some West African countries and Morocco, thereby fostering integration and development of countries in the West African region.
These jobs will also come from the establishment of a Basic Chemicals Platform, specifically to develop a significant ammonia production plant by the Kingdom of Morocco in the Niger Delta.
Yet another important takeaway is the decision by the two countries to strengthen cooperation in the efforts to combat religious radicalisation and violent extremism in Africa and beyond.
To achieve this, the two leaders underscored their commitment to moderation, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, as taught by Islam. They expressed deep concerns about violent extremism, terrorism and the persistence of security threats in Africa.
As part of the technical agreement reached in this regard, Morocco will open its facilities for the training of about 150 Nigerians in moderate, modernised and non-extremist methods of Islamic leadership.
On the basis of their exemplary cooperation, the two heads of state agreed to develop partnership in the field of agriculture, particularly through the signing of a Cooperation Agreement on vocational training and technical supervision. This will involve about 80 Nigerians in varied fields of agriculture and the setting up of 20 farmers’ schools.
Broken down to specifics, the agreement promised that Morocco will support university education, with scholarships to eight agricultural engineers per year.
The areas of specific training are:
· Two students in rural engineering;
· Two students in the animal production;
· Two students in horticulture; and
· Two veterinary doctors.
Morocco will equally support agricultural training through the granting of scholarships that would lead to the award of diplomas to five specialised technicians per year (the baccalaureate plus two years) and five technicians per year (the baccalaureate plus two years) in the fields of irrigation agriculture, breeding, management of agricultural companies and marketing of agricultural inputs.
The Kingdom of Morocco will also provide support for continuing education for:
· 20 engineers as part of a short-term training (one-week study trips);
· Five veterinary doctors (one-week study trips);
· 20 technicians (one-week study trips);
· 15 engineers on irrigation techniques, water management and hydro-agricultural infra (one 15-day session);
· 30 engineers on modern breeding techniques (two sessions of 10 days);
· 10 Veterinary doctors on animal health (two sessions of 10 days); and
· 15 engineers on horticultural production techniques (one session…).
In the same breath, the Kingdom of Morocco will support and provide technical assistance in setting up 20 farmer-field schools (FFS) for the training of Nigerian farmers.
The agreement concerning this sector is for a period of three years and may be renewed for a further period.
For Morocco, which has lately been making strong efforts to improve relations with neighbouring states and the rest of the continent since its return to the African Union, it is important that our two states have agreed to consult and coordinate on regional and international issues of mutual interest and concern, and to coordinate the positions of the two countries in regional and international organisations, including the African Union.
His Majesty King Mohammed VI congratulated President Buhari for his leadership in the regional initiative against terrorism in the Lake Chad region and commended his efforts in the fight against corruption and his role as the African Union anti-corruption champion.
Morocco has many economic strengths, including the world’s largest phosphate reserves and a diverse agricultural sector. On the basis of an agreement between the Moroccan state firm, OCP, and the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), Nigeria has been receiving the needed phosphate for the local blending of fertiliser in the country. So far, 14 of the country’s moribund fertiliser plants have resumed production.
Activities have been generated in the value chain in terms of transportation, labour engagements at the plants, including loading and offloading, with more than 250,000 jobs created directly and indirectly.
The Presidential Fertiliser Initiative plans to make one million metric tons of fertilisers available, amounting to 20 million bags to farmers this year.
Garba Shehu is senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity.