Despite the devastating war with Russia, Ukraine has expanded the frontiers of its bilateral relations with Nigeria and has expressed its willingness to assist Nigeria with the technology to produce and process grains, especially wheat in Nigeria.
The Government of Ukraine also expressed its readiness to establish grain hubs in Nigeria and other African countries even as it has donated about 25,000 tons of grains to Nigeria to boost bilateral ties.
Indications to this development emerged when the Ukrainian Minister of agrarian policy and food, Mykola Solskyi, led a delegation to a discussion with the Nigerian minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and the minister of agriculture and rural development Mohammad Abubakar in Abuja, yesterday.
Abubakar assured that Ukraine has the technology and know-how to help Nigeria in wheat production, stressing that capacity building will be part of the relationship which will produce a win-win situation.
Abubakar said that Nigeria is very willing and ready to provide the appropriate ports for this grain hub in the country.
“We appreciate and commend you that despite the war you still found time to extend a gesture of friendship to Nigeria and also donated grains. I can assure you that the relations with Ukraine will improve, we have been having businesses with Ukraine especially in the agriculture sector and I can say that over 30 per cent of our agricultural businesses are with Ukraine especially in the area of wheat, fertiliser and other grains. And this I can assure you will continue to improve our relationship,” he said.
While fielding questions, Abubakar said the purpose of the grain hubs is to have a center where Ukraine will be bringing grains for onward distribution to other African countries, which will be useful in case of emergency.
“We are looking at the Lagos Port and also Onne Port in Port Harcourt. The grains coming from Ukraine will increase the amount of grains here and the hub will eventually become a business hub with other African countries and beyond and it will help to stabilise the price,” he added.
Speaking during the meeting, Onyeama, who expressed sympathy to Ukraine over its ongoing war with Russia, also lauded it for the grain donation, adding that the gesture was coming even when the country is still at war.
“Notwithstanding the situation in which your country finds itself, you are able to reach out a hand of friendship not just to Nigeria but to other African countries. This demonstrates superhuman courage and we really admire your generosity, we thank you for this support, Onyeama said.
Onyeama noted that Nigeria has a long-standing relationship with Ukraine, and lamented that some of the victims of the war in Ukraine are the large number of Nigerian students, whose studies have been interrupted by the war.
“You have built up real specialization in many disciplines and Nigerian students are the beneficiaries. We can continue to strengthen relations between our two countries and our two peoples. We will do our best at the multilateral level to bring the war to a very quick end,” the foreign minister added.
The Ukrainian minister in his remarks said the grains from his country will arrive in Nigeria next month under the initiative called ‘Grains from Ukraine.’
He said, “Despite the war with Russia, the Ukrainian food industry wants to have closer relations with Nigeria and we are very thankful to you that your country is ready to develop these relations. Despite all the events going on in the world our countries are ready to develop this cooperation. The Ukrainian government and Ukrainian president are ready to pay a lot of attention to this development. We want to have regular contacts every year not only by our agriculture ministers but other ministers as well.
“Development of such hubs will make it possible to bring in high quality grains into your country and it will influence prices in your country positively. Ukraine intends to develop two or three hubs in Africa and taking into consideration the capacity of your country, the grain hub in your country is priority number one. If we implement it well it would be a practical step towards businesses reaching a new level,” he said.
However, some experts are of the opinion that this development might not help Nigeria in the long run may in fact hamper local production.
An expert in agricultural technology, who does not want his name on print, told our correspondent that “ the idea of a grain hub in Nigeria might be good but if not properly implemented, Nigeria may become a dumping ground for foreign grains some of which we produce locally. This might cause problems for the prices and could discourage local production. Therefore, the government needs to weigh the options and come out with what will benefit Nigeria in the long run.”