UK committed to strengthening bilateral relations with Nigeria -Envoy

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By Chinenye Offor

The British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Dr Richard Montgomery, has expressed commitment to strengthening existing relationship between the United Kingdom and Nigeria.

Montgomery made the  commitment in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja, in commemoration of his first anniversary in Nigeria.

He said the UK  had stepped up its engagement with Nigeria and recorded a significant increase in areas of trade and security, in 2023.

According to the envoy, it is obvious that both countries have a very strong set of people-to – people links with a huge Nigerian heritage that works and lives in the UK, just like there is a huge British population with  dual nationality in Nigeria.

He said that his first year in office was partly driven  by the inauguration of President Bola Tinubu and the need for the UK to get to know the new government in Nigeria.

He added that one of the highlights of his first year  was when he hosted the former foreign secretary of the UK, James Cleverly, who visited President Bola Tinubu in early August 2023.

Montgomery said that Cleverly met with business leaders and partners across government, adding that  after the  meeting with Tinubu, both countries agreed to work in three areas.

The British Envoy listed the areas as security, trade and investment, and “reasonable cooperation”.

“Both countries will need to step up their security independence, and they should strongly enhance the trade and investment between them,” he said.

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He called on African countries to unite and ensure that democracy thrives on the continent.

“They should have a reasonable cooperation because the Nigerian President was the chairman  of ECOWAS when a difficult development occurred in the region, like  the coup in Niger.

“There was a discussion on these regional issues and how the UK can support,” he said.

He commended members of  staff of the British High Commission for their professionalism and efficiency.

“I am pleased to say that I have  fantastic teams at the British High Commission.

” They work on security and defense, enhanced trade and investment, and they also work on migration, visa and home affairs.

“We have a large development cooperation programmes and technical assistance in key areas, and we need to talk about regional and global foreign policy issues with the Government of Nigeria.

“So, my team has been working on these areas, and I think that was the second big highlight of my first year, and in February, we signed a couple of new detailed agreements.

“In February, we had a big UK security and defence delegation, military security foreign policy, counterterrorism delegates, and they were hosted by the Nigerian National Security Adviser.

The Nigerian national security adviser convened all the leadership from Nigeria Security Defense architecture, and we held several days of tours in Abuja.

“And at the end of that, we signed a new security and defence partnership, through which we can collaborate in areas like defense and  counterterrorism.

“Other areas are  cyber security, countering violent extremism, serious organised crime, policing, and also upholding human rights.

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“We now have a detailed work plan of operation and security defence,” he said.

He said that in February, Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for Business and Trade,  visited Nigeria and had been working with her counterpart at the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and  Investment.

“We have agreed on a range of sectors which we are now working on such as  agriculture, the creative industries, legal and financial services,  education partnerships and to increase mutual trade and investment between the UK and Nigeria.

“And my third highlight is  the ability to get around this amazing country and I have managed to visit some  states like Sokoto,  Taraba,  Borno ,  Rivers and Enugu.

“I also visit  Lagos regularly, and I have  been to a number of states in between.

“Getting across this country has been a huge highlight and I will like to use this opportunity to thank some people for their warm hospitality.

“I thank the governors, traditional leaders, the  business people  and civil society across the country.” (NAN)

Edited by Chioma Ugboma/Folasade Adeniran

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