The Assistant Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia (African Branch), Mr. Matthew Neuhaus has expressed the desire of the Australian government to strengthen the economic relations between Australia and Nigeria.
Neuhaus said this in Abuja while answering questions from State House correspondents after his visit to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The Australian official said the economic diversification programme of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was gratifying.
He said his team discussed the new initiatives of the Buhari administration aimed at doing business with ease in Nigeria.
“We were talking about areas of cooperation between Nigeria and Australia.
“These have been very long standing including cooperation in the United Nations and internationally, including through trade.
“We see a new opportunity for further developments in the solid minerals sector which Australia is very active in across the whole of Africa.
“But so far there is not much development yet in Nigeria.
“We discussed some of these and some of the new initiatives of the Buhari government to make doing business easier in Nigeria.’’
Neuhaus said trade between Nigeria and Australia was fair.
“We still have engagements with Africa primarily one of trade relations, economic investments and on very equal terms and we have been very active in some other African countries.
“It is time that we have similar level of activity in Nigeria,’’ he added
He acknowledged the infrastructure challenges in the country and expressed satisfaction with the steps being taken by the Buhari administration to address them.
He said he was delighted to be back in Nigeria having been the High Commissioner in Nigeria a few years ago.
“It is very nice being back here and meeting with the vice president and engaging the new Nigerian government.’’
Also, the Australian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Mr Paul Lehmann, said the two countries had huge mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities to exploit.
“We are both outward looking, strong trade nations with good track records in looking to take advantages of their natural resources.
“We would like to move that even further but also try to look at areas where we can diversify the trade and investment relationship beyond natural resources.
“We are looking at where there could be links between industries, the education and services sector.
“We think there is a great potential and we are building up a very strong base for two countries looking to diversify their economies and build their economies into the 21st century.
“We think is an enormous call for development.’’
More Youths Engage In Artisanal Refining
As unemployment bites harder amidst rising cost of living, more youths in rural communities in Rivers State are now going into artisanal refining business to earn a living.
The Tide reliably gathered that some youths residing in Port Harcourt City were gradually moving to rural communities for bunkering business otherwise known as ‘kpo-fire’
Narrating his experience to The Tide, Mr Godwin Ibeneme who resides in Rumuekini in Akpor, said he was introduced into the kpor-fire business by his father.
Ibeneme, who hails from Ibaa/ Obelle area of Emohua Local Government Area, said his father compelled him to join other youths who were thriving in the business in the community.
“My father came to my house here in Rumuekini, and told me to come to the village, that other young men are making it through kpo-fire’ bunkering since I have lost my job.
“ I didn’t waste time to give it a trial, because I had really looked for what to do, since I lost my job at a fast-food company. Since then, I can tell you that I have been taking care of myself, unlike before when everything looked hopeless”, he explained.
The Tide also learnt that the kpo-fire’ business was currently thriving in Isiokpo axis of Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.
A resident of the community who pleaded anonymity, told The Tide that there was a high level of discrimination in the business.
According to him, he decided to engage himself at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, to hustle for his daily bread, instead of staying idle.
The Tide recalls that the Federal Government had promised to build modular refineries in the Niger Delta region since 2019 as an alternative to illegal oil bunkering in the region as well as to create employment for the youth.
The Tide also reports that three years after the promise was made, nothing has been done in that regard.
Oyigbo Cassava Plant, Legacy Project -Akawor
The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, Amb. Desmond Akawor, says the cassava plant project, being executed by the Rivers State Government in Oyigbo is a legacy project that will generate huge employment for Rivers people.
He said the project was well thought out and would stand the test of time to tackle unemployment as well as ensure food availability in the state.
Akawor made the remarks during an interaction with journalists at the weekend in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the cassava plant which was supposed to be executed by the previous administrations, was initially planned to be a joint venture between the state government and some organisations, but that the other partners did not pay their counterpart funding.
“The steps taken by the Wike-led administration to bring this project to life without the counterpart funding is commendable, because of the huge economic benefits it will give to the state.
“Many people have also been employed at the construction sites of flyovers being executed by Julius Berger. Eighty percent of those working there are indigenes, while the company provides the expatriates”, he said.
The PDP chairman also hinted on the plans of the state government to privatise the Buguma fish farm and banana farm, among others, so as to make them more viable.
He said that the state government had not abandoned the projects initiated by the previous administration, but was thinking on what to do with them.
Akawor maintained that the employment of 5,000 persons into the civil service was still ongoing, saying the government is only taking time to ensure that indigenes of the state are employed.
PH Airport Resumes Skeletal International Flight Operations
Skeletal flight operations have resumed at the international wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
This follows the lifting of the curfew that was imposed in the state by the Rivers State Government to check cases of insecurity in the state.
The Tide’s checks show that many of the airlines that operate international flights are yet to resume flight operations, even though the coast is clear for them to resume operations.
The Cronaux Airline, it was gathered, is the only airline at the moment that has fully resumed international flight.
Other airlines that operate at the international wing, like the Lufthansa Airline, Turkish Airline, and Ethiopian Airline are yet to resume operations.
The Acting Head of Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Kunle Akinbode, confirmed the resumption of international flight operations at the airport, last Friday, saying the international wing is now open for international airlines to operate.
He explained that the curfew that was imposed in the state delayed the resumption of international flights operations, even when issues of Covid-19 standard protocols had been addressed.
“Now that the curfew is over and the international wing is open for flight operations, it is left for each of the airlines to work out its own schedule for operations.
“It will not be the duty of the airport management to sort things out for them and know when to resume. I know that some have started. Lufthansa has said they will resume next month, August”, Akinbode said.
The Tide reports that the international wing of the Port Harcourt Airport had been shut since the Covid-19 lockdown, and did not reopen when other international airports in Lagos, Abuja and Kano among others reopened for international operations.
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