Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

The Government of India and Nigeria have concluded plans to sign the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) next week.

Following the move by both countries, travellers to and from both countries can heave a sigh of relief with the planned commencement of direct flights.

Indian High Commissioner Designate, Mr Abhay Thakur, disclosed the plan by both governments during the Celebration of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and World Hindi Day 2019 in Abuja.

Thakur said the future prospects of both economies is going to be far more exciting considering that Nigeria, as the largest economy in Africa and the most populous country in Africa, is currently the highest priority for India in Africa.

He recalled the huge base of Indian investment in Nigeria, particularly of $10 billion, but said there is the need to take the engagements to the next level.

Thakur added that the next level can be achieved in terms of much greater developmental assistance such as the soft line of credit which enables Nigerians to access Indian loan facility at a very concessional rate of 1.75 percent.

He said at a time the labour rate is so high, a very concessional attractive funding envelope is available to Africa and expressed confidence that Nigeria, as the largest economy in Africa, will be using much of it.

Thakur said: “There is also some pending agreements. We look forward to the signing of the Air Services Agreement between Nigeria next week when the Honourable Minister of Aviation will be travelling to India.

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“They shall be having hopefully, what I hope will be the final round of negotiations on the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement in the end of January.

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“And I think with this very foundational agreements, our trade investment cooperation will get a huge boost.

“So, we have three things: Air Services, Trade and Investment Promotion through Double Taxation Avoidance and Indians Developmental Assistance Package.”

The envoy further said in addition to a lot of things that the private sector is doing, the huge presence of 25 Indian companies in Nigeria, India looked forward to them investing more.

Noting that the Indian companies are currently the largest foreign employers in Nigeria, the envoy further said they should expand in that direction as much as possible and localise themselves.

According to Thakur, “We think the foundation documents and programmes that we are talking about will be the way forward in the new year 2019 and beyond.”