Nigeria attracts enterprising Indians despite terror

By Francis Kokutse, IANS,

Accra (Ghana) : With major Indian interests in Nigeria in the areas of trade and investment, the west African country’s huge economic potential continues to be a big draw for Indians despite recent terror attacks, one of which killed 160 people, including an Indian, last month.

Support TwoCircles

Coordinated attacks carried out by the Boko Haram sect, known to have ties with Al Qaeda, targeted the security forces Jan 20 in Kano city. Kevalkumar Kalidas Rajput, 23, who hailed from Gujarat and had been working for Kano-based company M/s Relchem since March 2011, was killed.

Boko Haram is an Islamist group that says it is against Western education and has vowed to implement Sharia law. Many people across the northern part of the country are known to have been killed or maimed in their bomb attacks.

These incidents would not deter others because “with an annual bilateral trade in excess of $13 billion, India continued to be Nigeria’s second largest trading partner”, Indian High Commissioner in Abuja Mahesh Sachdev said in a recent speech.

“We were the largest investor-country in Nigeria in 2010 and major new Indian investments were announced in 2011. India’s Airtel alone is amidst a $600 million network expansion plan in Nigeria,” Sachdev added.

It is not only Indians who are visiting Nigeria.

Figures show that “nearly 33,000 Nigerians got Indian visas during 2011 – up 40 percent on 2010”, he said, adding: “…India has become a destination of choice for Nigerians seeking state-of-the-art healthcare combining quality with affordability”.

With a population of 158 million and considerable revenue from oil exports, Nigeria is the largest trading partner of India in Africa.

The Indian community in Nigeria is estimated to be 35,000-strong. Most Indians in the country are well-off and enjoy a non-controversial existence.

As for the terror attacks, in order to control the situation, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to Boko Haram to come out to negotiate with the government, but this has been rejected by the group’s spokesperson, Abu Qaga.

Local media reports quoted Qaga as telling a British daily that “we will consider negotiation only when we have brought the government to their knees”.

“Once we see that things are being done according to the dictates of Allah, and our members are released (from prison), we will only put aside our arms – but we will not lay them down.”

Qaga claimed in the interview that the group’s members were spiritual followers of Al Qaeda.

“Al Qaeda are our elder brothers…We enjoy financial and technical support from them. Anything we want from them we ask them,” he was quoted as saying.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at [email protected])