Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan – who is in Israel leading a pilgrimage –
also found the time Monday to discuss counterterrorism operations and sign a
bilateral air services agreement that will open new horizons for travelers
between the two countries.
He was hosted by President Shimon Peres at a
luncheon at his official residence on Monday.
He is the first sitting
president of Nigeria to come to Israel, though he did visit previously as vice
In welcoming Jonathan, Peres said that Nigeria and Israel face
a common menace and have been steadfast partners in combating radical religious
terror groups such as al- Qaida, Hezbollah, and Boko Haram, each of which
threatens regional stability in Western Africa and the Middle East and is
spreading terror all over the world.
“With Nigeria at our side on the
front against terror, we remain determined as ever to combat the spread of
darkness,” said Peres.
“The future can be saved by making peace,” he
added, underscoring that the future can be destroyed by giving it to
It is for this reason that Israel wants to make peace with
the Palestinians, he said.
“It is in Israel’s interests to live in peace
with our neighbors.
Peace in itself may be the greatest benefit to the
two of us. Terrorists all over the world are united in their attempt to destroy
hope and unity. Those of us who seek peace and freedom must be united in order
to defend our common front.”
Jonathan said that it would be remiss of him
if he did not acknowledge Peres’s unrelenting efforts to bring about a peaceful
solution to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
the commitment to peace talks that both sides made in Washington in July, he
continued, and the subsequent release by Israel of a number of Palestinian
“We urge that the momentum for negotiations and eventual
resolution of the crisis be sustained,” said Jonathan, who several times during
his brief address spoke of what Peres has done to advance the peace process and
of his role in the evolving history of Israel.
With regard to relations
between the two countries, Jonathan said that they are not only excellent at the
official level but have been marked by deep interpersonal
Increasingly large numbers of Nigerians visit Israel annually,
he said. Last year the number came to 30,000, and a significant rise is expected
Some 50 Israeli companies are operating actively in Nigeria
both directly and through joint ventures, said Jonathan, listing companies
involved in agriculture, construction, communications, infrastructure, water
management and resources, education and health.
Israel and newly
independent Nigeria established diplomatic relations in 1960, which were severed
by Nigeria in 1973 following the Yom Kippur War and renewed in September
Israel has maintained an embassy in Abuja since April 1993, and
Nigeria has maintained an embassy in Tel Aviv for the same period of
During the initial relationship with Nigeria, Israel sent experts
to help modernize agriculture, health services, and education and also accepted
hundreds of Nigerian students for studies in various fields in
After the renewal of relations, Nigeria became an important,
multimillion-dollar export market for Israeli military and surveillance
equipment, for which Israel also provided the training.
Among the Israeli
companies operating in Nigeria are Solel Boneh, which was one of the first
Israeli companies to do business with and in Nigeria; Gadish; Ashtrom; Motorola
(Israel); Tahal and other well-known firms.
In recent months, there has
been a great deal of controversy in Nigeria over a $40 million deal that the
Nigerian government concluded with Elbit for the supply of its Wise Intelligence
Technology to monitor Nigeria’s Internet traffic. Many Nigerians have protested
that use of the system is undemocratic and a violation of their civil
But the government sees it as a necessary evil in combating cyber
The Nigerian president’s entourage includes eight governors,
seven ministers, three members of the National Assembly and several church
Among the ministers are Minister of Foreign Affairs Viola
Onwuliri; Federal Capital Territory Minister of State Olajumoke Akinjide;
Minister of Information Labran Maku and Minister of Aviation Stella
Also traveling with the group is Nigerian Chief Rabbi Israel Uzan,
who together with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the
Holy Sites, accompanied Jonathan when he prayed at the Western
Jonathan and his entourage visited the most important Christian
holy sites in Jerusalem and Nazareth. The Nigerian president is leading 3,000
countrymen on his pilgrimage.