How Algeria will help Nigeria to market unutilised gas – Amb Mabdul


The Nigerian Ambassador to Algeria, Mohammed Mabdul, explains the economic advantages of the partnership between Nigeria and Algeria in this interview with ADELANI ADEPEGBA

Give us a brief history of your diplomatic career.

 I joined the foreign service in 1987 and rose as a career officer. In the course of my assignment as a diplomat, I had the opportunity of being posted to some countries. My first posting was to Algeria. I served there between 1995 and 1998 and when I returned with the coming of the (Olusegun) Obasanjo regime, I was deployed to the Presidential Villa, Office of the Vice-President, as Protocol Officer. I served there for years under the Obasanjo administration and rose to become the Director of Protocol to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. When I returned to the headquarters in 2008, I was posted to Portugal and spent three years before I returned to the headquarters and stayed for a while. In 2015, I was posted to the Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I was supposed to come back in October 2018; in April 2018, my appointment as ambassador to Algeria was announced.  But the process for screening at the Senate took some time, so I resumed late in Algeria in November 2019.

What is the quality of the bilateral relations between Nigeria and Algeria?

The diplomatic relations with Algeria was established since 1992 when Algeria became independent and since that time, Nigeria always has an ambassador sent to that country to promote relations between the two countries and the relationship has been very strong and beneficial. It got a boost during the Obasanjo regime when he became very close to the then Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. They worked together closely, especially on issues that relate to African development. They were later joined by the South African President, Thabo Mbeki. Their activities became very strong such that within the African Union alongside Ethiopia, they formed what they called Group of Four Countries. Most of the time, when issues of development that affect Africa come up, they tried to work together. It has helped a lot in terms of relations with Algeria. The relationship has been very deep, cordial and respectful. We reached a stage where we set up the bi-national commission which spelt out how the countries would relate; government agencies, departments headed by the President or represented by the foreign minister involving also the private sector, how they would come together to look after their interests in terms of political, economic issues, commerce and trade, investment. This was set up in 2002.

 So far, what has the Bi-national Commission achieved for Nigeria?

From the various meetings held, there are several agreements that we have signed for the benefit of the two countries and now, some of these agreements were implemented and some are in the process of implementation. For example, we have the Bilateral Education Agreement that was signed for exchange of students between Algeria and Nigeria. Right now, we have about 120 Nigerian students reading various courses in Algeria. The advantage of the courses is that the first year is devoted to studying French since Algeria is a French-speaking country. After that, they go for another four years of degree and if they successfully complete it, they are given opportunity to go for their master’s for another two years. We have some of them that are already graduating now. On the side of Algeria, they have not shown any interest because Algeria is one of the most literate countries in Africa with about 87 per cent literacy level. To fill up the gap, some of their university scholars or academicians partnered some universities in Nigeria and we give them visas to stay in Nigeria for three, six months for research and other academic activities. We also agreed on bilateral air service but since Nigeria has no national carrier, we agreed that Algeria would open up air route to Abuja and Lagos so that our businessmen and women would be able to travel freely. If you want to go to Algeria, you either go through Turkey and if you are going through Turkey, you fly six hours to Istanbul, then connect three hours to Algiers. If you are going with Qatar Airways, you fly six hours to Doha and connect five hours to Algiers making 11 hours. But if you have a direct flight to Algiers, it’s only four hours. So you can see the benefit of implementation when it comes into operation. They had planned to implement it in 2020 but we could not conclude the arrangement because of the COVID-19 issue but we are hoping that very soon, it would happen.  And then the third is on visa exemption on diplomatic and official passports for the two countries. It was signed and this year, our President graciously approved it in February 2021. The Algerians already signed their own.

In 2002, the two countries signed an agreement on “development corridor.’’ What is the latest on the ambitious projects listed for execution under the initiative?

This development corridor project explains the importance of the economic relations between Algeria and Nigeria. The two countries have long realised that it is far better for their people to engage themselves rather than looking toward Europe where the relationship has been exploitative and the major people within these two countries are not benefitting from the trading activity. Three major projects were initiated: First is the Trans-Sahara Highway, which is a road network that would take off from Lagos, pass through Kano, cross to Niger border and from there to Algeria. Also, there are other countries within this area that are connected to the road like Chad, Mali. The total length of the road network is 9,900km and the good thing is that about 90 per cent completion rate has been achieved. The Algerian side has finished their own; they are only waiting for the inauguration.  In order to support the implementation of economic activity, it was also agreed that three deep seaports would be constructed to power economic activity. A deep seaport is in Lagos, a new deep seaport would be constructed in a place called Maghnia in Algeria, a coastal city. Then, another one would be constructed in Gabes, also a coastal city in Tunisia. The importance of these seaports is that goods coming from Europe and other parts of the world would pass through them and they would be evacuated and be transported through these road networks. It is a huge project that would create a chain of activities for transporters, businessmen, traders. It would be a boon for these places to flourish.

What about the gas pipelines project?

I need to explain the current situation. Right now, Algeria supplies most of the gas requirement in most European countries. They have a gas pipeline network of over 2,000km.  Their major gas field is called Hazaram gas field which has the fourth largest gas reserve in the world. From there, it is connected to over 2,000km pipeline in the country. In Algeria, nobody goes to the filling station to buy gas; the gas is piped into houses through the gas infrastructure. For external use, they have a gas treatment plant in the city of Oran and from there a pipeline network is connected through the Mediterranean Sea to European countries like France. From Hazaram, they pump the gas on a daily basis to the market in Europe. The problem is that they cannot meet the high gas demand. While their gas reserve is depleting, Nigerian gas is unutilised. They now want the facility to connect to the Hazaram gas field and from there, we just connect and market our product. It is a win-win situation. They would coordinate and sell and Nigeria would be getting her revenue. The third project which is the optic fibre cable project is aimed at boosting Internet connectivity between Africa and Europe. From my understanding, it is being spearheaded by Globacom and some other development partners that are pumping money into the project so that Internet network would expand throughout Africa once the optic cable is connected to Europe.

What is the level of the Trans-Sahara gas pipelines implementation on the Nigerian side?

The Nigerian government announced the contract award of $2.8bn for the pipelines coming from Warri through Ajaokuta passing through Abuja going to Kaduna and Kano. Now, it has gone very far. Just like what is happening in Algeria where the gas has a lot of use within the country; as this gas pipeline is passing through these places, electricity generating stations would be constructed to ensure gas supply to the stations. Also, the same way gas is piped in Algeria, it will be piped in these places as the pipeline goes. The project is going on very fast and the moment it reaches Kano, it would be connected through Niger border and from there proceeds to Algeria. I understand the Algerian pipelines have almost reached their borders with Niger. The total package for the pipelines is expensive; it is about $10bn but a lot of resources has been committed and all these countries have shown enough interest and the development partners-World Bank, African Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank – are pumping money because of the multiplier effects of the economic benefits to all the countries that are involved in this project.

What is the projected revenue from the gas pipelines project to Nigeria?

For now, the estimate is that Nigeria is supposed to deliver 30 billion cube feet of gas annually through the network. The economic benefit is huge. The gas reserve in Nigeria is almost unlimited, and that is why the development partners are interested because the future of gas is obvious in global economy. The arrangement is public-private-partnership so that as the money is being pumped into the construction, they can recoup their money after some years. It is a very important project that would generate a lot of money both for Nigeria and other countries that are involved in it.

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Publish date : 2021-11-20 23:25:43

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