Buhari speaks on Nigeria-UK relations, rues visa, customs barrier within Commonwealth

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President Muhammadu Buhari, on Sunday spoke on Nigeria’s relations with the United Kingdom (UK) and the country’s exit of the European Union (EU).

Buhari, in an article titled ‘A new case for a Commonwealth based on trade, sought closer ties with the UK and called for better trade as well as uncomplicated movement of people and goods within the Commonwealth.

He noted that in recent years, Nigeria-UK relationship – particularly economically – has become increasingly defined by Britain’s membership of the European Union.

“A new free trade agreement would reconfigure this, presenting new opportunities for both”, Buhari noted.

“As the largest economy in Africa, my country of nearly 200 million people has a great deal to offer: Nigeria’s vast natural energy and mineral resources, unbarred through the ending of customs barriers, could help supply growth for companies in all corners of the UK.”

“For my country, greater UK engagement in its economy would bring jobs to under-tapped sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing. Millions of highly skilled, English-speaking but underemployed young people, are eager to work but without the opportunities that foreign investment can bring to create jobs and build businesses.”

“Yet there is also a case to be made that our two Commonwealth countries should try, with other members, to deliver more – collectively. In 2015, I became the first head of a new Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council tasked with boosting trade and investment within the wider organisation.”

“Now with the United Kingdom – the Commonwealth’s largest economy – no longer obliged to ringfence its economy with tariffs, this mission will be given a jolt of vitality. However, we must be realistic: the commonwealth will not suddenly become a multilateral-free trade zone.”

“Today many members reside within regional free trade and customs zones of their own. Yet without any of us needing to relinquish these ties, we can work together to minimise – consistent with respective memberships – as far as possible many of the tariffs and barriers on commodities, products and services.”

“Because member countries’ national laws are built on the principles of English jurisprudence, we might work together from this common platform to better align regulations on investment, certification and trade.”

“A renewed sense of Commonwealth solidarity would also be of enormous benefit to the large and vital diasporas – particularly from Africa and the Indian subcontinent – that live in Western Commonwealth countries such as Britain, Canada and Australia.”

“These communities still maintain the strongest of cultural and family links with the countries from which they and their forebears emigrated. Visa restrictions and customs barriers must be reduced to fulfill the potential these connections could bring to the nations where they today reside.”

“As an African leader, I have an obligation to speak of the fact that while many in the African Diaspora enjoy considerable benefits from life in the West, they do not always feel at the heart of the community. A renewed sense that there are ties that bind us through the Commonwealth, could act as a spur to encourage togetherness and the certainty of belonging.”

Earlier on Saturday at a meeting with a select group of the Nigerian community in the UK, Buhari commented on the partial closure of Nigeria’s borders.

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