The Presidency on Monday rose in defence of President Goodluck Jonathan’s five-day state visit to China, debunking the insinuations that it is a mere ‘junket’.
Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati told State House correspondents shortly before his Principal left the country that the trip, which has 13 ministers on board is very strategic to national interest.
He also used the opportunity to deny report in some quarters that the President is visiting China to spite United States President Barrack Obama who recently avoided Nigeria during his recent visit to some African countries.
Abati insisted it is in Nigeria’s strategic interest to forge closer ties with China which has the largest market in the world and largest importer of crude oil from Nigeria after the US.
He spoke further, “China is a very important country. China is the largest market in the world with its 1.35 billion people. China is also the world largest creditor nation. China is also the largest importer and exporter of goods and it is a large consumer of primary commodities, including crude oil.
“In fact, after the US, China is the largest importer of crude oil in Nigeria. So, it is in our strategic national interest to have very good relationship with such a country. Nobody can call this trip a junket.
“The claim that the China trip is a respond to the fact that Obama did not come to Nigeria is also not true because this trip was planned one year ago. Every country has the right to determine where they go.
“We have excellent relationship with the US and the truth of the matter is that nobody can overlook America. But China is also an important partner. China has shown a lot of interest in Africa in the last few years.
“Nigeria is a major trading partner with China. We have over 30 Chinese companies operating here.”
“What Nigeria is interested in is long term sustainable relationship between the two countries. The third leg of the trip is that China is a major trading partner in Nigeria. Last year alone, China imported about 80,000 metric tons of cassava chips.
“China has shown a lot of interest and support for the President’s determination to diversify the nation’s economy. So you find China supporting our agricultural programme.
“Part of the purpose of this trip is also to encourage China to invest more in Nigeria; foreign direct investment. The emphasis is not necessarily on loans although during this trip, there are two concessionary loans that will be considered in relation to the Zungeru Hydro Power Project and one other.
“More than that, there will be agreements and MoUs signed in different areas including power, construction, infrastructure, communications, telephony and illegal theft of cultural artifacts among others.
“To show the importance Nigeria attaches to this trip, there are 13 ministers traveling as part of the President’s delegation. It is not only about the President’s delegation. It is also about the interest the private sector in the country has shown in the trip. A lot of investments are going to China,” he said.
The Presidential Media Adviser also said that President Jonathan will meet with Nigerian community in China “to listen to their concerns”.