Connect with us

Business News

How Shagari rebuffed pressure by ex-U.S. President Carter to flood Nigeria with American rice

Published

on

With Nigeria still struggling to address its dependence on food imports, a declassified American diplomatic file has revealed how former President Shehu Shagari 39 years ago deftly fended off pressure by his United States’ counterpart, Jimmy Carter, to open up the Nigerian market to American rice.

Acceding to the pressure would have involved the reversal of a restriction on the importation of rice then in place to revive agriculture in Nigeria, promote local food production and cut choking food imports.

Mr Shagari who died on Friday at the National Hospital, Abuja, at 93, was the Nigerian president in the short-lived Second Republic between 1979 and 1983.

According to the Memorandum of Conversation in a file of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977-1980 (Volume XV11, Part 2, Sub-Saharan Africa), Mr Shagari met with Mr Carter at the White House on October 7, 1980.

Earlier that week, Mr Shagari had marked his first anniversary in office. It was also a month before Mr Carter would lose his reelection bid to Ronald Reagan.

On Mr Shagari’s delegation to the meeting were eight officials, including the Minister of External Affairs, Ishaya Audu; Minister of Transportation, Umaru Dikko; Secretary to the Government, Shehu Musa; and Minister of Agriculture, Ibrahim Gusau.

The others were the president’s special adviser on Economic Affairs, Emmanuel Edozien; Special Adviser to the President, Bukar Shaib; Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S, Olujimi Jolaoso; and the Director of the African Department at the Ministry of External Affairs, L.S.M Osobase.

In attendance with Mr Carter were nine top officials of his government, including the Secretary of State, Edmund Muskie; Secretary of Defence, Zbigniew Brzezinski; and Special Assistant to the President, Frank Press.

The meeting covered a range of bilateral and global issues, especially conficts and other developments on the African continent and American’s expectations of Nigeria on them.

Grasp of policy and firmness

Contrary to the impression of Mr Shagari created by his political opponents, the conversation revealed a president who appeared comfortable discussing policy and international issues.

He demonstrated his commitment to policy and national interest when he firmly rebuffed repeated demands by Mr Carter for the removal of the restriction on the importation of rice for the benefit of American farmers.

The restriction was placed by the military administration of Mr Obasanjo which also introduced the Operation Feed the Nation programme in 1976 and promulgated the Land Use Decree to ease access to land for agriculture.

After Mr Shagari took office in 1979, his National Party of Nigeria government continued with the agriculture reform policy and introduced the Green Revolution programme as its flagship.

Before the Washington meeting, U.S vice president, Walter Mondale, had visited Nigeria during which both countries agreed to establish a joint committee, following Mr Shagari’s request for American assistance for his government’s agriculture scheme.

Recalling the discussions at that earlier engagement, Mr Shagari said in his preliminary remark at the meeting of October 7:

“I know that we have recently formed a joint agricultural committee. I have with me Professor Edozien who will be our chairman; also my Minister of Agriculture and my special advisor who will meet with some of the eminent agriculturists here in the U.S. Our number one priority is agriculture. Nigeria has a lot of potential. Before we exported a lot of food; now we import it. We have every potential to export again. We know how much the U.S. can contribute. The President himself is a farmer and knows what we are talking about.

“We recognise that agricultural development is a long-term activity and one cannot expect quick results. During my talks with American businessmen in Nigeria and New York all have talked of the trade imbalance between Nigeria and the U.S. As far as I am concerned the way to reduce this imbalance is for Americans to invest in Nigeria in a big way. This will provide much scope for more imports, especially industrial. For our development programmes we need increasingly to import machinery, particularly agricultural machinery. We are presently preparing a four-year development plan which we have been working on since January. We have had to import a lot of machinery in the past and hope that your cooperation in the future will be forthcoming.”

Responding, Mr Carter reaffirmed America’s desire to offer help.

He said: “The soils in many parts of the U.S. are similar to those in Nigeria. If you should have any needs for fertilizers, transportation, methods to harvest crops or means to control insects or rodents, I hope you will make a request. We will try to be resourceful and send experts to Nigeria, or bring people here. We also can be helpful with the problem of transportation, particularly with regard to the transportation of seed.”

But he thereafter immediately slipped in the American rice farmers’ desire fo unrestricted access to the huge Nigerian market.

“We are anxious to help on rice. There are certain segments in the American economy who are upset about the difficulties of exporting rice to Nigeria. I would like to see a change in your sales policy authorized by you. Our farmers would like to see this very much. We also have an eager business community which follows this issue. Following my visit I know that you have modified your laws in part to the benefit of both countries.”

Noticing that the Nigerian delegation had made no concession on the request to open up the country to American rice, Mr Carter much later in the meeting returned to the issue. Then the following conversation ensued:

President Carter: I would like to go back to another issue. How difficult would it be for you to increase your rice purchases given your needs for rice imports?

President Shagari: We cannot lift the restrictions on foreign rice purchases. We must look at this in the context of our own production. Whatever we cannot produce we purchase abroad.

President Carter: Let me pursue this another way. We would like to know what you can do over the longer term to purchase U.S. rice if you have a need?

Bukar Shaib: American rice is not competitive in price. Our businessmen have been going to Thailand to purchase rice.

Henry Owen: What we are interested in is open and general licensing. We want to compete openly with other exporters.

President Carter: We will meet the rice producing competition on quality and price.

President Shagari: We cannot afford to lift the import restrictions. The place would be flooded to the detriment of our farmers. We cannot allow an open policy. We have restrictions also on the Thai rice imports.

Bukar Shaib: Let me try to explain. If a license is given to a businessman he can go where he wants to purchase the rice. For example, if he has a license to purchase 50,000 tons he may find that the Thai rice is most competitive.

President Carter (to the U.S. side): Will you get me an accurate analysis so that I can explain this issue to the American farmers because they believe that Nigeria has important specific restrictions against American rice. This seems to be the only problem between our two countries. Do you have any other problems you would like to raise before lunch?

Mr. Moose: There will be a meeting between the Secretary of Agriculture and the Nigerians this afternoon. We will report back to you before dinner.”

Below is the full text of the conversation at the 55-minute meeting:

President Carter: I want to tell you again, and privately, how delighted I am that you can be with us and that you brought such a distinguished delegation with you. We have read of their distinguished backgrounds. Their presence will add to the depth of understanding on the issues which we discuss. I am also grateful that you were such a generous host to Vice President Mondale and his wife during their recent visit. I’ll always remember myself the hospitality of General Obasanjo. The exchanges which began with that visit and have continued for the last few years have been of great benefit to our country. We have seen an exchange in the fields of trade, science and technology, the sale of many products, and especially the exchange of students. All this has been very beneficial.

Dr. Press was very pleased to have signed several agreements on technology. Again, let me say that I am very grateful that you could come and hope that you will share with me your views on issues of common interest, including those of a bilateral, Africa-wide and international nature. Once again, welcome. I am delighted that you can be here.

President Shagari: I want to offer my sincere thanks for your kind invitation. It is especially thoughtful for you to see me now because of all of your other business, the election and the campaign. It will be definitely a privilege to share part of your time. I am happy that you have invited me and members of my staff for these talks to discuss matters of mutual interest between our two countries. We appreciated very much the visit of your Vice President and others. We had fruitful discussions with them. As in your case, I have four years to accomplish many tasks. One year of that term has already passed. In the next three we will want results. As I told Vice President Mondale, Nigeria cannot afford a lot of bureaucracy and red tape. We do not want talk but action. We want to produce results. We are happy that you have responded positively to our science interest by sending Frank Press, and by making arrangements for the various committees to discuss the various issues between our two countries. I want to thank you for what you have done. Our officials are here and in other places today to meet with you and others to finalize many things. We really want to get moving. We know how busy you are. Our officials should work together and get results.

I know that we have recently formed a joint agricultural committee. I have with me Professor Edozien who will be our chairman; also my Minister of Agriculture and my special advisor who will meet with some of the eminent agriculturists here in the U.S. Our number one priority is agriculture. Nigeria has a lot of potential. Before we exported a lot of food; now we import it. We have every potential to export again. We know how much the U.S. can contribute. The President himself is a farmer and knows what we are talking about.

We recognize that agricultural development is a long-term activity and one cannot expect quick results. During my talks with American businessmen in Nigeria and New York all have talked of the trade imbalance between Nigeria and the U.S. As far as I am concerned the way to reduce this imbalance is for Americans to invest in Nigeria in a big way. This will provide much scope for more imports, especially industrial. For our development programs we need increasingly to import machinery, particularly agricultural machinery. We are presently preparing a four-year development plan which we have been working on since January. We have had to import a lot of machinery in the past and hope that your cooperation in the future will be forthcoming.

American businessmen also complain about the lack of markets in Africa. Not many know about our potential. We are 80 million people and with ECOWAS, we see a possibility of expanding this market to the rest of West Africa with a total market of 150 million people. This is a market which we would like to show your businessmen.

Another interest is our desire for technology transfer. We need assistance in this regard. We are really going for improved technology in a big way. We are trying to open technical universities and technical schools. We believe that this technical experience will be required for running both our old and new industries.

On the question of education, we owe a great deal to the U.S. Most people who hold high positions in my government were trained in the U.S. We still need teachers from the U.S. These, Mr. President, are some of the points which have been discussed before with the Vice President and Mr. Press.

Other questions of importance in Africa are: Chad—we are very worried about the situation there; Western Sahara—Nigeria is a member of the OAU “Wisemen”; Namibia—which I discussed with Secretary-General Waldheim; South Africa—which concerns us very much; and the Horn of Africa—Nigeria is chairman of the committee set up by the OAU for reconciliation between Ethiopia and Somalia. We held a meeting in Lagos to try to bring together the two countries. There were, of course, certain difficulties. I would be pleased to discuss these and other issues.

Outside Africa, Nigeria is concerned about the Middle East, and the war between Iran and Iraq. We are among those who share your concern about the unfortunate situation in Afghanistan. We are very concerned about the hostages in Iran and have made appeals to the Ayatollah. All these things, Mr. President, are matters that concern us. I will be quite happy to do whatever small part I can to contribute toward world peace.

President Carter: Thank you very much. It is important to have heard your explanation of the bilateral issues. I am especially interested in the exchange between colleges because I believe our land grant universities have much to offer. The soils in many parts of the U.S. are similar to those in Nigeria. If you should have any needs for fertilizers, transportation, methods to harvest crops or means to control insects or rodents, I hope you will make a request. We will try to be resourceful and send experts to Nigeria, or bring people here. We also can be helpful with the problem of transportation, particularly with regard to the transportation of seed.

We are anxious to help on rice. There are certain segments in the American economy who are upset about the difficulties of exporting rice to Nigeria. I would like to see a change in your sales policy authorized by you. Our farmers would like to see this very much. We also have an eager business community which follows this issue. Following my visit I know that you have modified your laws in part to the benefit of both countries.

We are pleased by the number of Nigerian students studying in the U.S., especially in vocational and technical schools. Dr. Press would like a list of your needs in this area and we will try to accommodate you. We have a high trade deficit with Nigeria, primarily because of your oil exports.

We will consult closely with you on the question of Namibia. As you know, the US is one of the five members of the contact group. You may know also that the Secretary-General is going to southern Africa to explore next steps on October 20.

President Shagari: Yes, he told me.

President Carter: My opinion is that South Africa has delayed settling the Namibia question month after month. I must not build up expectations too much because in the past when we thought we were close to a settlement, the South Africans have always created problems. I should admit though also that there have been some problems on the other side as well.

I share your view on the war between Iran and Iraq. I hope that you will join with others in seeking a peaceful solution to this problem. Twelve million barrels of oil per day flow through the Persian Gulf. A few countries which are dependent upon supplies from Iran and Iraq are now deprived of this fuel. I would hope that during this interim period you could increase Nigerian production and sell to some of them. The spot market is a very difficult and expensive place to purchase fuel.

We will follow up on the science and technology exchange. Your specialists know better your needs than we do. If these specialists need to come here, we would be happy to receive them.

I appreciate your efforts to get the hostages in Iran released. Iran has become very isolated in the world community as a result of the hostage issue. We want to see the hostages released, but we would also like to see Iran at peace with its neighbors. This is not possible as long as Iran is guilty of holding hostages. Your assistance is very beneficial.

As you know, we follow closely what the OAU does on Chad and the Western Sahara. Please, if you have further ideas on this subject, let me know either through Ambassador Low in Lagos or Ambassador Jolaoso here. We believe that the problems of Africa can best be solved by Africans. We are strongly opposed to the presence of foreign troops in Africa. We would like to see the Cuban troops leave Angola after the problem of Namibia is resolved. The Angolans know our views on this and our desire for normal relations. We appreciate personal consultations. I would be happy if you would send me letters with your thoughts on these issues and I would like also the privilege to write to you from time to time.

President Shagari: Some areas are very difficult, but we know the influence you can exert on African issues; for example, in Chad. I have encouraged the people who supply arms to stop these activities. They seem to supply arms to both sides. The French in particular do this sort of thing. Also Egypt does it, perhaps claiming that this is necessary to control the Libyan influence.

President Carter: Do you believe that Libya is also guilty of providing arms to all sides?

President Shagari: Yes, they are guilty also.

President Carter: What are your relations with Libya?

President Shagari: They are normal for relations between African states. (Laughter from Nigerian side).

Secretary Muskie: Normal in the sense that you have normal relations with all of the African states.

President Carter: Qadhafi is a fellow Muslim, isn’t he?

President Shagari: Yes.

President Carter: Any calming influence which you might have on Qadhafi would be very much appreciated.

President Shagari: He is somewhat crazy. You know how difficult he can be. We will do our best to talk to them. They support one side one day and another the next. In the case of the Western Sahara, we have managed to get all sides together to talk. We were able to get the Moroccans to attend the most recent session. I believe that this Moroccan willingness was due largely to the pressure which Nigeria applied. The Moroccans have just recently refused to accept our solution from that conference that is a referendum, one which seemed very reasonable to us. The OAU has accepted our solution and the Polisario has accepted it as well. With great difficulty we got the Polisario to agree on a cease-fire and a referendum.

The Moroccans have refused the referendum part and parcel. They state that the traditional way of conducting a referendum has already been exercised; that is, the tribal chiefs have already paid homage to the King which they interpret to mean the people have accepted the Moroccan solution. We tried to show that this sort of traditional self-determination is no longer acceptable. There should be a free and fair referendum. Our fear is that they will refuse and that more and more African states will recognize the Polisario. In that case the Polisario will definitely be encouraged to continue fighting. If Morocco goes on fighting that will be too bad for them. They must agree to a referendum supervised by the OAU and the UN. Everybody will accept that outcome. We as friends and the US also must exert pressure upon the Moroccans to make them see reason and stop war.

Much the same is true in the Horn of Africa. There the OAU passed a resolution which said that the Ogaden is a part of Ethiopia. This is based on the OAU charter which says that all colonial boundaries must be accepted. Unless this principle is accepted all Africa will be at war with each other. The colonial boundaries must be observed. Somalia must realize this. This problem has brought in powers outside Africa. That is one of our problems—foreign troops—they come in when African countries fail to solve problems. Issues should be resolved between neighboring countries themselves. We think the Somalis should accept the resolutions of the OAU instead of fighting. We know these questions are not of your direct concern. We members of the OAU are trying to bring peace and independence to the region. We hope you can help and greatly appreciate your efforts toward peace.

President Carter: We take the same position on the Ogaden. We have limited influence on Siad. We asked him to take his troops out of the Ogaden and he has reduced them substantially. We want to stabilize the situation. We are monitoring the situation closely and agree that the situation is a threat to peace.

Dr. Brzezinski (to Assistant Secretary Moose: Dick, have we endorsed the OAU decision on the Western Sahara?

Mr. Moose: We have not specifically endorsed a referendum or taken a formal position on the OAU recommendation. We have said that we do not consider an act of self-determination to have taken place.

President Carter: Yes, that is right. We have taken no position on the OAU recommendations. I would like to go back to another issue. How difficult would it be for you to increase your rice purchases given your needs for rice imports?

President Shagari: We cannot lift the restrictions on foreign rice purchases. We must look at this in the context of our own production. Whatever we cannot produce we purchase abroad.

President Carter: Let me pursue this another way. We would like to know what you can do over the longer term to purchase U.S. rice if you have a need?

Bukar Shaib: American rice is not competitive in price. Our businessmen have been going to Thailand to purchase rice.

Henry Owen: What we are interested in is open and general licensing. We want to compete openly with other exporters.

President Carter: We will meet the rice producing competition on quality and price.

President Shagari: We cannot afford to lift the import restrictions. The place would be flooded to the detriment of our farmers. We cannot allow an open policy. We have restrictions also on the Thai rice imports.

Bukar Shaib: Let me try to explain. If a license is given to a businessman he can go where he wants to purchase the rice. For example, if he has a license to purchase 50,000 tons he may find that the Thai rice is most competitive.

President Carter (to the U.S. side): Will you get me an accurate analysis so that I can explain this issue to the American farmers because they believe that Nigeria has important specific restrictions against American rice. This seems to be the only problem between our two countries. Do you have any other problems you would like to raise before lunch?

Mr. Moose: There will be a meeting between the Secretary of Agriculture and the Nigerians this afternoon. We will report back to you before dinner.

President Carter: Then I will see you at the banquet this evening. I look forward to seeing you again. Mr. President, I would like to present you a couple of books. One which I wrote myself and the other with some photos of the earth taken from satellites. These are typical satellite photos which, if you are interested, we could help you obtain.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Business News

Nigerians ‘spent N3 billion in cinemas for first half of 2019’

Published

on

Nigerians spent nearly 3, 124, 026, 959 billion Naira to watch box office movies at Nigerian cinemas between January and June.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the figures are according to data provided by cinemas and gathered by the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN).

The year opened with ‘Aquaman’, ‘Chief Daddy’ and ‘Up North’ sitting on the top three of the chart, with estimated combined earnings of 168, 263, 512 million Naira.

The movies maintained their positions until the fourth week when ‘Glass’ debuted at number one with ‘Aquaman’ taking second place and ‘Chief Daddy’, third booting ‘Up North’ to fourth place.

This led to combined earnings of 91, 409, 100 million Naira which fell to N77.2 million as January closed with Kevin Hart’s ‘The Upside’ kicking ‘Chief Daddy’ to fourth place.

NAN reports that earnings remained low for February, making it the lowest grossing month with a total of N291.8 million.

Top spots were alternated between ‘Alita’, ‘Cold Pursuit’, ‘What Men Want’, ‘Escape Room’ and ‘The UpSide’.

By March, viewership picked up steadily and the earnings were almost doubled from that of February leading to a total of 434, 432, 431 million Naira.

‘What Men Want’, ‘Alita’, ‘Hire A Woman’, ‘She Is’, ‘Us’ and ‘Babymamas’ enjoyed a relatively good run in March but a chunk of the earnings and viewership went to Marvel’s flick ‘Captain Marvel’.

At the beginning of April, ‘HellBoy’, ‘Shazam’, ‘Little’ and ‘Us’ continued to share the top spot with ‘Captain Marvel’ until the release of the much anticipated ‘Avengers: Endgame’.

NAN also reports that with ‘Avengers: Endgame’, earnings from April climbed from 186, 929, 188 million Naira in its third week to 342, 382, 389 million Naira in its final week.’

The month, which is the highest grossing in 2019, closed with estimated total earnings of 734, 151, 060 million Naira due to (a) major boost from Disney’s ‘Endgame’.

In May, there was a massive dip in earnings similar to that experienced in February. With ‘Endgame’, ‘The Intruder’ and ‘Longshot’, it earned a total of 367, 498, 554 million Naira.

The fall in viewership is usual after a global holiday such as Christmas for December/January and Easter for April.

The numbers picked up in June with ‘John Wick’, ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Aladdin’ leading the numbers. They were supported by ‘Anna’, ‘Men In Black’, ‘Dark Phoenix’ and ‘Bling Lagosians’.

June opened with 161, 132, 714 million Naira but closed with 100, 663, 647 million Naira leading to a total earning of 576, 322, 779 million Naira.

Continue Reading

Business News

Go Cashless This Summer With FirstBank Visa Multi Currency Card

Published

on

First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services provider, has introduced the Visa Multi Currency Card, an All-in One-Card and first of its kind to be offered by any financial institution in Nigeria. This card can be linked to all of four currencies namely: NAIRA, USD, EURO and GBP accounts.

With the Visa Multi-Currency card, FirstBank customers – within and outside Nigeria – can now enjoy the luxury of having their local and foreign denominated accounts in any currency, linked to a single Debit card. The Visa Multi-Currency Card is designed to ease the daily cashless transactional needs of customers regardless of where they are across the world. 

Amongst the many benefits of the Visa Multi-Currency card are Point of Sale and Online purchases, access to and use of ATMs worldwide. There is no cash collateral requirement prior to its issuance.

Speaking on the card launch, Mr. Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Product said “FirstBank takes pride in pioneering the Visa Multi Currency Card in the country, as we remain committed to providing products and services that are designed to ensure the banking convenience of our customers regardless of their location.”

“This card is designed to make traveling fun for our customers and ensure they have a seamless transaction experience during their vacation, tourism and other business-related trips around the globe”, he concluded. 

Traveling abroad for summer, walk into any FirstBank branch today for your Visa Multi Currency Card.

Continue Reading

Brands

NSE Suspends Airtel Africa Listing

Published

on

The planned listing of Airtel Africa Plc on the trading floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has been postponed.

The exercise was suspended as a result of the failure of the telecommunications company to meet pre-listing requirements.

Yesterday, Business Post reported that Airtel Africa failed to attract at least 300 institutional and high-net worth individual investors, one of the major requirements needed for joining the stock exchange.

The NSE, which confirmed suspension of the listing today, however, did not make it clear when the company would be admitted. It only promised to provide further communication on the issue when all the conditions for the listing in its market had been met.

“The cross border secondary listing of 3,758,151,504 ordinary shares of Airtel Africa Plc has been postponed from the scheduled date of Friday, July 5, 2019.

“This postponement was necessitated by the need to ensure that the company meets all the post NSE approval pre-requisites for listing on the NSE.

“However, the facts before the listing event will hold as planned at 11.00 a.m. on Friday, July 5, 2019,” the statement said.

Continue Reading

Trending