BY ANDREW IKEHI
It was indeed a red carpet event. The carpet flowing several meters from the reception down to the beautifully decorated conference hall of the exotic five star Hotel- Eko Hotel and suits, as well as the streams of exotic cars that pulled by at the parking lot of the Hotel coupled with the fierce-looking but courteous security personnel that accompanied those cars were indications that extra-ordinary meeting was holding at the alluring Hotel sitting at the ‘heart’ of Victoria Island, Lagos.
The day was Tuesday, January 28, 2014 and the venue was the famous Eko Hotel and Suits, Victoria Island, Lagos. The event was slated for 6:30 in the evening, which, as it was later understood, was indeed strategic to enable all the participants ease off from their busy schedules and have a swell time to unwind.
Expectedly and thus; typical of the event and the organizers as it was the 54th anniversary of Japan-Nigeria Diplomatic Relations, every available space within the bowels of the large capacity sitting conference hall of the glamorously beautified hotel was filled to capacity as at few minutes to 7:00. African time as it is prevalent in contemporary gatherings within the Nigerian context as it were was indeed misnomer, at least, not in this occasion.
Again, and contrary to the contemporary gatherings, at least in this part of the globe, it was an all-standing event. Aside of the chefs strategically positioned at the rare side of the hall, with few tables to support their fruit-like dinner, there were neither chair nor tables to accommodate the streams of guest that flooded the event. Yet, as though all the guests whose presence at the occasion was strictly by invitation were earlier intimated about the development which to me, your dear compatriot was strange given the Nigerian, nay African setting, no one seems to be complaining.
Although no formal roll call was made, the gathering was for who-is-who in Nigeria and perhaps, Japan. It was a collection of captains of Industry, heads of academic institutions, foreign and local investors, heads of civil society organizations, players within the financial industry in the country and beyond, among others.
Interestingly, the presence of the Dein of Agbor Kingdom, Dr. Benjamin Ikenchuku Keagborekuzi 1, who arrived the venue in company of a colony of beaded chiefs and palace officials, added both glamour and royal touch to the event. The Monarch, clad in his traditional royal attire-neatly ironed and flowing green-like brocade with beads adorning his wrists and neck, no doubt, became the cynosure of all eyes as everyone jostled to know who the new entrant into the hall that was almost filled to capacity was. And true to their expectations, upon the realization that the lanky handsome young man, beaming with irresistible smile is the world’s youngest crowned King, the Dein of Agbor Kingdom, the quest to have a word or perhaps a handshake with him by the teaming crowd was visible.
Although he took time to exchange pleasantries with almost everybody at the event, he remarkably had some chat with the Japan Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Ryuichi Shoji as well as the Japanese Honorary Consul in Lagos, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma. The chat afforded the highly Reverend Monarch the opportunity to woo the Japanese Ambassador to encourage the Japanese Government and its Private Investors to take advantage of the industrialization drive of the Delta State Government in establishing its business outfit in the Oil-Rich-State
Describing Delta State as Investment destination given the prevalent relative peace and security, the Monarch enjoined the Japanese government to cash-in on the advantage and strengthen its investment profile in Nigeria by investing in the State.
The Paramount Ruler who is also the Chancellor, University of Illorin, called on the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan to extend his good relationships with the international community to Japan by further wooing its government as well as its private investors to come and invest in the state.
His words, “I am encouraged by the decision of the Japanese Government to continue to strengthen its bilateral relations with Nigeria. I am more encouraged when the Japan Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ryuichi Shoji said that in 2012, the bilateral trade between both countries reached an historic highest point of around Five US Dollars. This is encouraging as the bilateral relations are indeed expanding.
“By this, just like you heard me spoke with the Ambassador a while ago, I want to use this opportunity to call on my State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan not to relent in his drive in wooing Foreign Direct Investors into the state, particularly Japanese Investors
“As the state governor has been going round some of these developed and industrialized countries, I would like him (Uduaghan) to strengthen the state’s bilateral relations with Japan by further inviting it (Japan) to come and invest more in the state.
“We do understand that he has barely one more year to leave office, but I want to urge him to use the remaining one year or so to stamp his feet harder on the sands of history. He has been getting my support, and I will continue to give him the needed support”.
While urging Deltans, particularly prominent private investors to continue to support the present administration, stressing that government cannot succeed alone, the Agbor Monarch used the forum to commend the former Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia for assisting in alleviating the sufferings of the Youths in the area.
The Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ryuichi Shoji while expressing the country’s resolve to strengthen its bilateral relations with Nigeria said that Japan is irrevocably committed to harnessing the country’s (Nigeria) untapped wealth.
He noted that as part of its resolve to support the industrialization and economic diversification policies of Nigeria, Japanese companies were ready to invest in the expansion of nation’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production.
The Japanese Ambassador held that in 2012, the bilateral trade between both countries reached its historic highest point of over Five Billion US Dollars, just as he noted that the bilateral relations are indeed vigorous and expanding.
“If Gas resources are the untapped wealth which should be made fully available to support Nigeria’s Industrialisation and diversification of its economy, Japan is the largest importer of Nigeria’s LNG nad Japanese companies are ready to invest in the expansion of its production
“In the field of investment, last year, five new investment decisions were taken by Japanese companies in diverse sectors. Most of them will start their business in Lagos. Thios augurs well for future bilateral economic relations and makes Lagos and its vicinity more important to us
“The Embassy of Japan is committed to work harder to promote this win-win relationship between our two countries by encouraging and facilitating Japanese Companies’ investment in Nigeria and by cooperating with the Nigerian Federal Government as well as state governments to secure a business friendly environment”
He expressed confidence that given the on-going transformation in the country, Nigeria has a brighter future ahead, saying, “We believe that a nation is as strong as its people and this is the reason for our strong optimism in the great future of this country”
Further he said, “Nigeria has rich human resources and a people that are young and vivid, full of energy and constantly aspiring for a better quality life. They have every quality to contribute to making the country rich and prosperous”.
In his key note address, the Japanese Honorary Consul in Lagos, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma said that given the Japanese expertise in the Petroleum sector, power sector, road and rail infrastructure, agriculture, electronics and computers, the Nigerian government, particularly the private sector has a lot to benefit from the uncompromised bilateral relations between both countries.