Sun, Dec 4, 2016 | updated 01:12 AM IST

Nigerian President Buhari accepts President Mukherjee's invitation to visit India

Updated: Sep 28, 2016 09:35 IST

By Amit Shankar

Abuja [Nigeria], Sept. 28 (ANI): Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has accepted President Pranab Mukherjee's invitation to visit India. The invitation was handed over to President Buhari by Indian Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari, who is on a five-day official visit to Nigeria and Mali as part of New Delhi's efforts to bolster ties with both the West African nations.

Briefing the media, Economic Relations Secretary Amar Sinha said, "He (Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari) handed over an invitation from our own President to President Buhari to visit India sometime next year, which was greatly accepted. In the general exchange of views, President Buhari focussed a lot on India's scientific and technological strengths. Specifically, he mentioned the advances we have made in space and civil use of nuclear energy."

Sinha said there was recognition of India moving from a net importer of food grains to an exporter.

"Nigeria, despite the vast landmass it has, is substantially dependent on imports for food grains. So, that is another key area that he felt that India, Nigeria need to work together. He has launched a programme called the 'Green Alternative', which is to make Nigeria self-sufficient and also a net exporter," he added.

Sinha further said an idea which emerged during the meeting was both India and Nigeria could focus more on G2G sort of contracts.

"Oil and gas are one of our largest exporters. They had nearly 16 percent share of the crude, which has now come down to 12 percent. One idea which emerged there was we could focus more on G2G sort of contracts and also those contracts are implemented so that the off take is of course guaranteed by us and the supply is guaranteed by them. We will work on that," he added.

Sinha said both the countries also talked about defence cooperation.

"He (President Buhari) hopes that once he goes to India, he may wish to go back to Wellington. So, we will work out his programme and will see that he actually gets there. We, on our part, of course recognised that Nigeria is a major power in the region. It has an important say in various arenas besides what it is doing regionally," he added.

Acknowledging Nigeria as the major power in Africa, the Economic Relations Secretary said it has an important say in key areas like United Nations Security reforms.

He said that talks on both sides were aimed at building strategic partnerships which was established in 2007 and it was necessary to give 'more content' and increase the area of cooperation between the two countries.

Nigeria is India's largest trading partner in Africa with the bilateral trade amounting to USD 12.6 billion in 2015-16.

India is also the largest buyer of crude oil from Nigeria, and more than 100 Indian companies have a large presence there as well as both the countries have strong defence cooperation.

On the second leg of his trip, the Vice President will reach Mali on September 29 for the first ever high-level visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Modibo Keita. (ANI)