Nigeria and Sri Lanka enjoy strong diplomatic relations
This month the Global Editor for Foreign Exchange The Diplomatic Society, Srimal Fernando was pleased to interview His Excellency Mr S. U. Ahmed, the Ambassador of Nigeria to Sri Lanka. In this exclusive interview Ambassador Ahmed talks on diplomatic relations, tourism, bilateral agreements under negotiation and major challenges Nigeria is facing at present.
His Excellency Mr S. U. Ahmed, the Ambassador of Nigeria to Sri Lanka
Srimal Fernando (SF): Give a brief background of yourself?
Ambassador S. U. Ahmed (Amb): I am from the North Eastern part of the country, and particularly from Gombe State. I studied History at the University of Maiduguri and graduated in 1981, did national service for one year and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1982. Since then, I have served in Italy, Guinea Conakry, Republic of Gabon, Ghana, and People ’s Republic of China, South Korea and now the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. I was appointed last year as Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Sri Lanka. I am married to Michelle and have five children, three daughters and two sons.
(SF): As the Ambassador, what will be your role to enhance diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Sri Lanka?
(Amb): To consolidate on the existing platform on the relationship between Nigeria and Sri Lanka and also to explore the abundant opportunities in trade, commerce, friendship as well as the promotion of the socio-cultural and economic frontiers that exist in the two countries.
(SF): What are your thoughts of marketing the Nigerian tourism sector to Sri Lankans?
(Amb): The tourism sector in Nigeria presently is at a very low ebb. Happily, Sri Lanka happens to enjoy a vibrant tourism sector that is growing in leaps and bounds. Therefore, it becomes necessary to tap from their expertise to harness the huge potentials of Nigeria’s tourism which lies dormant. Furthermore, the lack of adequate awareness among Sri Lankans and beyond makes it imperative for the promotion of Nigeria’s tourism so that Sri Lankans and other people could visit Nigeria and savour the array of tourist sites that abound in Nigeria. Finally, the collaboration of Nigeria and Sri Lanka will help to tap from Sri Lanka’s reservoir of knowledge in tourism and in turn promote the same in Nigeria.
(SF): What are the areas where Sri Lankans and other nationalities can invest in Nigeria?
(Amb): There are numerous areas Sri Lankans as well as others can invest in Nigeria. These include solid minerals, agro-allied industries, telecommunication, real estate, oil and gas, etc. In fact, President Jonathan’s transformational agenda is aimed at the attraction of foreign investment that will create job opportunities, and the creation of wealth and development.
(SF): What are the major bilateral cooperations which will take place between the two countries in the future?
(Amb): For now, there is the bilateral agreement on power and energy, maritime and security as well as that of technical and cultural agreements which are all at different levels of negotiations.
(SF): What are the major challenges Nigeria is facing at present?
(Amb): Of course, Nigeria like every other country at one time or the other is undergoing serious challenges in insurgency and insecurity which boils down to religious extremism, as well as paucity of infrastructures, etc. However, as President Jonathan has continued to say and emphasis, Nigeria will come out of it clean and strong. I must add that currently, the insurgents are feeling the heat with the on-going military action in the North Eastern part of the country.
(SF): How can other countries support your country to overcome these challenges?
(Amb): One of such areas is through collaboration and partnership and sharing of ideas on how to tackle these challenges.
(SF): Would you like to add anything more?
(Amb): I would like to thank the government and people of Sri Lanka for the co-operation we have so far enjoyed since we came into the country and that will further strengthen our relationship as we both share similar experiences within the framework of the South/South co-operation. We also share historical circumstances, as both nations experienced internal conflict and the challenge of reconciliation and reconstruction of our economies. So in this case, Nigeria understands Sri Lanka’s current situation better, when one talks of reconciliation after internal conflict.