•Buhari wants trade volume change
From Juliana Taiwo Oballonye, Abuja and Aidoghie Paulinus, Beijing
ON Tuesday, Nigeria signalled intent to diversify its foreign exchange reserves away from dollars when it entered into an agreement to denominated part of it in Chinese Yuan.
Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC) have signed an agreement that would ease yuan transactions in the country’s banks.
Lin Songtian, ICBC director-general of the foreign ministry’s African affairs department, confirmed this to newsmen on yesterday, when he said the Chinese currency would now be included in Nigeria’s foreign reserves.
“It means that the renminbi (yuan) is free to flow among different banks in Nigeria and the renminbi has been included in the foreign exchange reserves of Nigeria,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
CBN said it plans to diversify the foreign exchange reserves away from the dollar by switching a stockpile into yuan, underlining the momentum behind Beijing’s drive to internationalise its currency.
Nigeria converted up to a tenth of its reserves into yuan five years ago. Now the government is considering issuing Panda bonds to help fund a record budget as Africa’s biggest economy suffers a slump in global oil prices, which has slashed revenues.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari attended the official opening ceremony of the business forum on China-Nigeria production capacity cooperation holding in Beijing.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah said the president and people of Nigeria deeply appreciate China’s continued contribution to Nigeria and the development of Africa.
At the official opening of the forum were Xu Shaoshi, chairman of National Reform and Development Commission; Zheng Zhijie, governor of National Development Bank, and Qian Hongshan, assistant manager of foreign affairs.
On the Nigerian side were Okechukwu Enelamah, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment; Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works, Power and Housing; and Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser.
Also, Buhari decried the current trade imbalance between Nigeria and China with a charge to the business communities of both countries to work towards reducing it.
He gave the charge yesterday in Beijing at the opening of a Nigeria-China Business/Investment Forum, with the theme, “Exploring new horizons and opportunities in China”, where, he noted that currently, the trade imbalance was in China’s favour as it enjoys 80 per cent of total trade volumes between both countries.
Buhari further assured them that his administration was doing everything possible to address concerns about security in Nigeria.
He said, to consolidate on recent successes against Boko Haram, close to 20 per cent of the 2016-budgetted expenditure has been allocated to the Ministries of Defence and Interior as well as other security agencies.
“We are committed to protecting all lives and property within our borders. You can, therefore, be rest assured that your investments in Nigeria will be safe and secure,” he said.
Business and trade relations between Nigeria and China have grown astronomically in the last decade with bilateral trade volumes rising from USD2.8 billion in 2005 to USD14.9 billion in 2015.
Nigeria accounted for 8.3 per cent of the total trade volume between China and Africa and 42 per cent of the total trade volume between China and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member nations in 2015.
This is even as China has offered $15 million agricultural assistance to Nigeria for the establishment of 50 Agricultural Demonstration Farms across the country.
The president gave the directive yesterday in Beijing after talks between the Nigerian delegation and high-ranking Chinese government officials led by President Xi Jinping.
According to his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the technical committees are to conclude their assignments before the end of next month.
On his part, President Jinping agreed that Nigeria’s chosen path of development through economic diversification was the best way to go.