Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Nigeria, Adnan Bostaji, has reiterated the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia principle that respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs would ensure global peace.
Bostaji, in this interview with Sunday Sun in Abuja, said: “One of the most important principles, which the Kingdom follows and believes in, is respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs, in addition to maintaining international peace and security, which is one of the most important principles advocated by the United Nations. Based on that, if all countries are committed to these principles and work with them, the world can enjoy more security and live in peace.”
The ambassador also disclosed that not less than 65,000 Nigerians visit the holy land every year to perform Hajj and Umrah.
The envoy also opened up on the recent e-visa and visa on arrival policy released by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, saying that the Kingdom did not in anyway exclude Nigeria from the policy.
What is your experience since your arrival in Nigeria as the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?
Nigeria is a great and important country both economically and politically, not only to Africa, but also to the whole world as it hosts the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) headquarters. The historical ties between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Nigeria dated back to the Nigerian pre-independence era. So, working in a country with this weight is considered as one of the most important experience to me. That requires intensive work to develop our bilateral relations in various fields, including political, economic and humanitarian areas, especially that Nigeria is witnessing a lot of developments in recent times, particularly issues related to war against terrorism and corruption, which the Kingdom also partakes in realizing these goals.
How many states in Nigeria have you visited so far?
I have visited a number of states, including Kano, Lagos and Borno states, and I have plans to visit other states soon.
Do you like it here?
There is no doubt that working in Nigeria is quite interesting in the midst of brothers and friends at all levels, including the executives, the parliament, the media and Nigerians in general. We are working to enhance the relations between both countries in all fields. In its relations with Nigeria, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not differentiate based on ideology or ethnicity between all spectrums of the Nigerian society.
How many Saudi Arabian nationals are in Nigeria?
There are dozens of Saudis residing in Nigeria, just as Nigerians in Saudi Arabia are around one million, five hundred. They are in different fields. You have engineers, doctors, teachers, students, labourers, et cetera. As I have already stated, Nigeria is a friendly country and is intimate to the mind of every Saudi citizen, and a lot of Saudis visit Nigeria for business and investment, as well as to see their relatives and acquaintances in Nigeria. A lot of Nigerians also visit the Kingdom for the same purposes.
What is the level of bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Nigeria?
The bilateral ties between both countries are strong and undergo continuous enhancement. Both countries also cooperate and coordinate on a lot of issues, especially in terms of oil policy, in addition to mutual visits by officials of both countries in various fields, and both countries have interest in improving and enhancing their relations.
How many Nigerians embark on pilgrimage to the Holy Land yearly?
I was aware, even before my assumption of duties here, that a lot of Nigerian Muslims have strong interest in visiting the Holy Land to perform Hajj and Umrah, and the Embassy in Abuja, alongside the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Kano, have been facilitating the visa process in accordance with the specific guidelines in this regard, and making it available to Nigerians as soon as possible, so that they can go for Hajj and Umrah. Based on the official statistics, not less than 65,000 Nigerian pilgrims enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia every year.
What is the volume of trade between both countries?
On the economic and commercial level, the volume of trade between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Nigeria reached $240 million in 2017. Whereas the imports got to 26 million Saudi Riyals in terms of charcoal, wood, spices, tea and oily fruits, the volume of exports got to 876 million Saudi Riyals in terms of furniture, machine tools, aluminum and its accessories, wood, and others. Officials of both countries are working to raise the level of trade exchange in the nearest future.
Which areas are both countries intending to explore?
The level of cooperation between both countries is progressing at a fast pace, involving understandings and agreements on regional and international matters. There is a parliamentary friendship committee, as well as joint committees between both countries working in all fields to raise this cooperation to higher levels. There are also memoranda of understanding (MoU) and draft agreements being studied, and work is ongoing to have these agreements signed in the nearest future in order to raise the level of cooperation between both countries.
Considering the robust relationship between Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, why did your country not deem it fit to include Nigeria to countries who are beneficiaries of newly introduced e-visa and visa on arrival?
I thank you for asking this important and good question. I would like to point out here that the relevant authorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have announced the electronic visa (e-visa) system. This system has specified certain countries who can get their visa online or at their arrival at the airports (in the Kingdom). Other countries, Nigeria inclusive, can get the same services in quite an easy way, with conditions like having a passport with not less than six months validity period, a travel ticket, a bank account, and other conditions that can be fulfilled very easily, knowing also that the relevant authorities in the Kingdom continue to review the visa acquisition process to enable all countries take advantage of this E-visa service in the nearest future.
What effort is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia making to promote religious harmony, tolerance across the world?
The Kingdom is one of the pioneering countries that have worked and continues to work tirelessly for peaceful coexistence between followers of religions. The Kingdom, in this regard, has established King Abdullah International Centre for Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Dialog (KAICIID) in 2012 with its headquarters in Vienna. The centre contributes actively in reducing conflicts and encouraging dialogue between religions in order to enhance tolerance and peaceful coexistence between religions. That is done by working with partners across the world. The centre has a permanent platform in Abuja, Nigeria. The centre organises a lot of meetings to spread the idea of tolerance and peaceful coexistence between all religions. This platform has, within its membership, both Muslim and Christian, Nigerian personalities, and they hold periodic meetings from time to time.
As the home of Islam, how does the kingdom feel when terrorists hide under the Islamic religion to perpetuate atrocities?
The Kingdom, as well as its leadership, has always fought against, and rejected terrorist actions of killing and explosions perpetrated by terrorist groups in the name of Islam, whereas these are heinous acts that distort the image of Islam and Muslims. The Kingdom has designated such groups and organizations as terrorist, stating that they must be fought. The Kingdom calls to the moderation, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and always affirms that terrorism has no religion.
What is the way forward in ensuring lasting peace across the world?
One of the most important principles, which the Kingdom follows and believes in, is respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs, in addition to maintaining international peace and security, which is one of the most important principles advocated by the United Nations. Based on that, if all countries are committed to these principles and work with them, the world can enjoy more security and live in peace.