Daily Trust| Abdullateef Salau: Daily Trust: Will Iran allow a major cut in oil production to beef up international price as agreed by OPEC?
Morteza Rahimi Zarchi: Iran and Nigeria are two major members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and both have good cooperation in the organisation. During the last visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Tehran, the two sides had good discussions in the areas of gas and petrochemicals and cooperation at the OPEC level. With the cooperation of Iran and other oil producing countries, a Nigerian, Mr. Barkindo, was elected Secretary General of OPEC. He came to the embassy to appreciate Iran’s position on his emergence at the top office. Under him, we have seen results of the cooperation. Some other countries who have agreed to reduce production of oil understood that the losses affect all member states. That is, if one country sustains losses today due to the reduction in oil price, another country will tomorrow. Even too much reduction of oil prices is not to the benefit of consumer countries and also not useful to major global oil and gas companies. This necessitates member states to find a reasonable price for oil. Fortunately, the two sessions which were held in Vienna and Algeria were beneficial to the member states. What we have received so far is that the role of Iran has been positive in this effort. And of course other countries have been positively cooperating. We hope that OPEC achieves a reasonable price which will benefit member states. Even some non-OPEC members such as Russia have expressed satisfaction with the discussions and the conclusion they reached.
Daily Trust: Nigeria and Iran have had long standing relations. How will you assess the bilateral ties between the two countries at the moment?
Zarchi: Both sides have made efforts to promote relations but the capacities of both countries have not been used properly. We need to identify to each other, the capacity and opportunities of both countries and the major role to play in this effort. We should try to expand and develop relations in the economic sector such as oil and gas and petro chemicals, energy, and renewable energy, construction and launch joint projects. We want Nigerian goods to be exported to Iran and vice versa. Iran is ready to export technical engineers to Nigeria. We also want some Iranian companies to invest in Nigeria.
Daily Trust: Is there any export from Iran to Nigeria or enquiries by Iranian companies on what they are interested in investing in Nigeria?
Zarchi: The head of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council visited Iran recently and signed in Tehran, two Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the objective of exporting Nigerian commodities to Iran and also importing to Nigeria, Iranian goods. Some of the Nigerian goods requested in Iran include Sesame seeds. This year, Sesame export to Iran has increased and it is a good one. Also, some produce like candies and biscuits are imported to Nigeria from Iran. There are also discussions on establishing factories in Nigeria where all these goods will be produced instead of importing them. This is a good area of cooperation. The Nigerian Minister of Solid Minerals, Mr Kayode Fayemi, is planning to visit Tehran to explore ways of cooperation in the area of mines. There are so many mines in different areas in Iran. He will also visit some factories in Yazd province. This is for the benefit of both countries. In the area of media, we had invited some journalists from Nigeria to attend a press exhibition in Tehran. I believe that cooperation in the area of media also contributes to the recognition of both sides’ capabilities and potentials. Information about Nigeria in Iran is not complete, we should make effort to update it. To achieve this, it is important to invite journalists from Iran to Nigeria to have first hand information about the country. Some foreign media are creating what is called Africaphobia and Iranophobia but with media cooperation, both Nigeria and Iran can understand that those who are fabricating these ideas are doing that for their own interests.
Daily Trust: Is there any existing security cooperation between Nigeria and Iran, such as to assist Nigeria’s counter-terrorism efforts?
Zarchi: Unfortunately, terrorism has created serious threats in the world and it recognizes no borders. And those who think that they can utilize terrorism for selfish interests made mistakes because they may be the victims of terrorism someday. In the past few years, Nigeria and some other countries on the continent have been facing this problem and the Buhari government has strived hard to achieve some success in this area. During his visit to Nigeria, Dr Muhammad Zarif, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran had a good discussion with his Nigerian counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, on the issue of cooperation in the area of security and he mentioned that Iran was ready to work closely with Nigeria to tackle terrorism. Some other African countries have announced their interest to cooperate with Iran in the area of security and this arises from the experience we have gained from tackling insecurity. At the African Union level, some efforts have been made. Security is at the top of all affairs, development is dependent on it. If there is no security, there will be no development and human advancement.
Daily Trust: Stories Iranians hear about Nigeria are about Shiites clashes with the Nigerian military. How have you been able to mediate this delicate issue?
Zarchi: This is an internal affair of Nigeria. What is widely published in Iranian media is about the Boko Haram insurgency and other security issues. Though it is not easy fighting corruption and insecurity, we wish the government of President Muhammadu Buhari success in this fight. In as much as we have close relations, we can prevent misunderstandings. Some of these issues arise from misunderstandings.
Daily Trust: Having spent some time in the country, what is your impression about Nigeria and Nigerians?
Zarchi: I have not been in Nigeria for a long time but the few periods I have spent make me so interested in the country and its people. The most interesting thing about Nigeria is its variety of cultures and languages. These differences make Nigeria a unique country. I’m interested in visiting all Nigerian states but until now I have only visited a few like Lagos, Sokoto, Kano, Kaduna and I have been invited to Katsina. I will soon be there. In Abuja, we can see the diversity of Nigeria from the residents. This is interesting for me.
Daily Trust: Do you have any idea of the population of Nigerian students in Iran?
Zarchi: There is a significant number of Nigerian students in Iranian tertiary institutions studying different disciplines such as Medicine, Engineering, Human and Basic Sciences, etc. The Deputy Chancellor of Tehran University had expressed satisfaction about the academic performance of Nigerian students in the university. He is satisfied with the talents, behaviour and punctuality in class.
Daily Trust: Are there intermarriages between Nigerians and Iranians in Iran?
Zarchi: Yes, there are intermarriages though the number is not too many. That’s interesting to me. I know of some young people who recently got married and are fond of each other. Some Nigerians also go for medical care in Iran and our medical treatment and medicine are cheaper and the quality is better. I once visited a hospital in Iran and met some Nigerians there. We can develop this area by establishing hospitals here in Nigeria and also sending some Iranian doctors.