By Augustine Ehikioya, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Riyadh accepted an invitation from the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for the establishment of Nigeria- Saudi Council aimed at promoting investments and enhancing relations between both countries.
The decision was the highpoint of a bilateral meeting between the Nigerian leader and the Crown Prince which took place on the margins of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference.
The meeting, according to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, was initially scheduled to hold in the office of the Crown Prince but out of courtesy and respect for the Nigerian leader, Prince Salman insisted that he would meet with President Buhari in his hotel room at The Ritz Carlton, Riyadh.
The Council will be made up of government officials and business leaders from both countries and the areas of focus are: economic growth and development, investments in oil and non-oil sectors, and security cooperation.
President Buhari and the Crown Prince agreed that the first assignment for the Council is to establish a legal and operational framework that will facilitate investments beneficial to both countries.
The Council will be established in the next two months while meetings will be held twice every year.
To ensure that relations between both countries remain active, it was also agreed that leaders of both countries, at the highest level, will meet at least once every year to review the progress of the joint council and ensure closer collaboration on issues of mutual interest.
President Buhari thanked the Crown Prince for the Kingdom’s interest in investing in Nigeria and the initiative to establish the Council which would form the foundation for a stronger Nigeria-Saudi relationship.
‘‘Nigeria has a large population mainly made up of dynamic, young people and partnerships of this type will help them to be productive and prosperous,’’ the President said, assuring that his government will continue to provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the country.
Speaking on regional and international issues, President Buhari shared the view of the Crown Prince that with the collapse of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the next frontier for terrorism is the Sahel region.
The Nigerian leader commended the concern by the Saudi authorities to keep the issue of the security situation in Sahel region on the front burner.
Earlier, the Saudi Crown Prince had noted that the security challenges in the Sahel should be seen as a global issue.
‘‘Saudi Arabia is prepared to participate in the engagement and sensitisation of the whole world to the problems in sub-Saharan Africa,’’ he said.
On bilateral issues, the Crown Prince reiterated the preparedness of the Kingdom to support Nigeria’s development agenda, noting that the country had the potential to be among the top 20 economies in the world.
‘‘Saudi Arabia is eager to support Nigeria and we want to be a part of Nigeria’s journey to be among the top 20 economies in the world,’’ he said.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the President the Saudis have invested 40 billion U.S. dollars in India, 10 billion dollars in Pakistan and 20 billion dollars in Indonesia and are willing to do the same in Nigeria given the favourable business environment.
The Nigerian President re-emphasized that enabling a conducive business environment will remain a priority for his administration.