President Buhari, who was received by a large crowd from the airport to the Rabat Royal Palace, assured King Mohammed VI of Nigeria’s full commitment to the actualisation of all the agreements signed.
Stakeholders, particularly those in the oil and gas sector have expressed divergent opinions over the infrastructure agreements that President Muhammadu Buhari signed with Morocco and another currently being fine-tuned between Niger Republic and Nigeria.
While the country is currently on the verge of signing a pact for the construction of a refinery with Niger Republic, Buhari, on Monday signed a deal for a regional gas pipeline that will enable gas supply to countries in West Africa and by extension to Morocco and Europe.
Though, most stakeholders were upbeat on the synergy with African countries and the economic opportunities from the initiatives, the sustainability of the plans, especially with government as key investor and possibly manager, created concern for the players.
Immediate Past President of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), who chairs Lagos based Chairman of Tricontinental Group, Olabintan Famutimi, said closer relationship with African countries is laudable but the projects may remain a mirage because private sector players are not the key drivers.
“If it is the private sector that is proposing such laudable projects, I will be very excited and I will be in support of it because I know it will work. Once it is purely government, they will fail.
“This is something that is supposed to be purely business transaction. If it is government, they will fail. It will not succeed.
They will award contracts; they may even complete the refineries and build pipelines but when it comes to running them they will run at a loss. They will eventually be abandoned,” Famutimi said.
Famutimi added that the concepts are good but should be done by the private sector, while urging government to move away from spearheading commercial projects like the construction of refineries and pipelines.
Energy analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Pedro Omontuemhen saw the initiative as a good development, noting that the move would strengthen trade relationship within the continent and enable Nigeria to transport crude oil to other countries.
He was optimistic that the designed 5,660km long pipeline as well as the refinery, if done on time and according to budget, would address many challenges facing the sector.
However, Omontuemhen wants government to copy the Nigerian LNG model “where you have the government investing through the NNPC and the management of the company is left in the hands of the private sector.”
He noted that the gas infrastructure requires government involvement considering the prevailing challenges, especially in getting the right of way.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Footprint to Africa Limited, Osita Oparaugo said: “We should support intra African trade.
What we are looking for from outside is inside. However, we support free trade and fair trade.
Morocco is doing very well but they are not abiding with the agreement of fair trade.
“If Nigeria is entering into any agreement with Morocco we support that because we welcome intra African trade but we insist that it must be on a win-win situation not on orchestrated to favour a particular person,” Oparaugo, who firm specialises in driving investment into Africa said.
He also noted that government must limit itself to creating an enabling environment for private sector business to thrive.