By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday departed Makkah via Abdulaziz International Airport Jeddah for Unitted Kingdom after he successfully performed the Lesser Hajj.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the President left Makkah for Jeddah at about 1.30pm (local time) while his presidential aircraft took-off for London at exactly 3.05pm.
The departure was after all the airport protocol led by Mayor of Jeddah, Almeer bin Abdallah bin Jalawi.
NAN reports that before performing the Umrah, President Buhari had attended three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh from Oct. 29, to Oct. 31.
While in Riyadh, the President on Wednesday held bilateral talks with King Salman in Riyadh, during which both leaders committed to deeper partnership especially in the areas of oil and gas for the development of both countries.
On Thursday, the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, paid a courtesy visit to President Buhari at his hotel room at The Ritz Carlton.
At the event the prince called for the establishment of Nigeria-Saudi Council aimed at promoting investments and enhancing relations between both countries.
The Council would be made up of government officials and business leaders from both countries and the areas of focus are: economic growth and development, investments in oil and non-oil sectors, and security cooperation.
“President Buhari and the Crown Prince agreed that the first assignment for the Council is to establish a legal and operational framework that will facilitate investments beneficial to both countries.
“The Council will be established in the next two months while meetings will be held twice every year,’’ Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu had said in a statement on Thursday.
“To ensure that relations between both countries remain active, it was also agreed that leaders of both countries, at the highest level, will meet at least once every year to review the progress of the joint council and ensure closer collaboration on issues of mutual interest,” Shehu added.
President Buhari thanked the Crown Prince for the Kingdom’s interest in investing in Nigeria and the initiative to establish the Council which would form the foundation for a stronger Nigeria-Saudi relationship.
‘‘Nigeria has a large population mainly made up of dynamic, young people and partnerships of this type will help them to be productive and prosperous,’’ he added.
Speaking on regional and international issues, President Buhari shared the view of the Crown Prince that with the collapse of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the next frontier for terrorism is the Sahel region.
The Nigerian leader commended the concern by the Saudi authorities to keep the issue of the security situation in Sahel region on the front burner.
The Nigerian leader also met with U.S Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin in Riyadh and they had positive discussions on investments in Nigeria under the new United States International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC).
The U.S. agency provides 60 billion dollars for investments in developing nations.
Speaking at the meeting held on the margins of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum, President Buhari said Nigeria would leverage on the U.S facility to address current challenges confronting the power sector as well as general upgrade of infrastructure.
The President thanked the U.S government for supporting Nigeria’s anti-terrorism efforts.
Buhari and Mnuchin also discussed areas of strengthening Nigeria’s ongoing collaboration with the U.S. on stopping terrorist financing.
Mnuchin was accompanied by Brent Macintosh, Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs and Marshall Billingslea, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the U.S. Treasury Department.
The Treasury Secretary used the occasion to introduce Macintosh who was recently promoted Under Secretary for International Affairs by President Trump after the previous Under Secretary David Malpass was elected President of the World Bank.
The Nigerian leader congratulated Macintosh on his elevation and requested for his continued support to Nigeria especially in accessing the 60 billion dollars infrastructure fund under the USIDFC.
NAN reports that the president was accompanied on the Saudi trip by Governors Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, Prof. Babagana Zulum of Borno and Aminu Masari of Katsina.
NAN reports that the governors and other members of the entourage departed Jeddah for Abuja as President Buhari only travelled with very few of his aides to London.(NAN)