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Aug 13, 2009, 6:27 AM

[Being the full text of the speech given by the Honourable Minister of State II, His Excellency Ambassador Bagudu Hirse on the occasion of the signing of TAC Country Agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and The Gambia at the Kairaba Beach Hotel on 11th August]

I wish to express my profound happiness and delight to be part of this historic and important occasion in our collective effort to strengthen the very cordial relations existing between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of The Gambia.

The signing ceremony that is taking pace today marks yet another milestone in the growing cooperation between our two countries particularly in the critical area of technical manpower assistance. It is gratifying to note that the friendly ties that have long existed between our two countries since the establishment of diplomatic relations have continued to grow from strength to strength especially through the firm commitment of our various leaders and Governments resulting in closer socio-economic cooperation for the mutual benefit of our countries and peoples.

The Technical Aid Corps Scheme (TAC) was established in 1987 by the Federal Government of Nigeria to assist countries in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) Regions in critical manpower and skills development in the spirit of South-South Cooperation and self reliance amongst our various countries.

The TAC programme which started with 12 volunteers in The Gambia in January 1988 has grown tremendously due to the positive impact of the Scheme in the socio-economic and manpower development of The Gambia. The fact that the two countries were operating the scheme without a subsisting TAC Country Agreement underscores the fraternal relations and cooperation between Nigeria and The Gambia. Over the years, the TAC volunteers have served in various strategic sectors of The Gambian Economy.

During the 2006-2008 TAC biennium, a total of 83 volunteers served in the Gambia. These corps of TAC volunteers, having distinguished themselves their various places of assignments, had since returned "to Nigeria. Given the positive impact this set of volunteers made especially in the vital areas of education and health which directly touched on the lives of our brothers and sisters in The Gambia, the Government of the Republic of The Gambia decided to make a fresh request for 163 volunteers in various professional fields in the current TAC Biennium, which has just began.

In order to formalize this request, and thus pave way for deployment of Nigerian volunteers, the two countries are now about to sign the TAC Country Agreement on Technical Manpower Assistance; an occasion that will pave way for the deployment of another set of Nigerian volunteers as will be provided by the letter and content of the Agreement.

It is hoped that immediately following the formalization of this agreement, the new set of volunteers whose Curriculum Vitae (CVs) have already been forwarded for clearance will be deployed as soon as they are cleared by The Gambian authorities.

Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a long road to get to where we are today and I therefore wish to seize this opportunity to thank most especially, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency, Mr. Omar Touray for his dynamism and personal commitment in making this historic day possible. His personal involvement and that of his Principal staff namely: the Permanent Secretary I, Mr. William John Joof, Permanent Secretary II, Mr. Yaya Sireh Jallow, Directors of Personnel Services, Mrs. Aminata Drammeh, Mrs. Binta Singhateh, Mr. Habib Harra and the Director of Protocol, Mr. Juma Janneh. I will not stop without also mentioning the supports of the Principal Assistant Secretary, Mr. Samba C. Mballow, and Mr. Sulayman Njie. The Minister's effort helped in no small measure to resolve some vital issues of mutual interest to both countries in the process of finalizing the TAC Country Agreement that is being signed today. It is my sincere wish that His Excellency, the Foreign Affairs Minister of The Gambia, would continue to remain engaged and committed in nurturing Nigeria-Gambia relations to even greater heights. Indeed the contributions of other stakeholders particularly the Honourable Ministers of Health and Education of the Republic of The Gambia and their dedicated staff were also very critical to the signing of this Agreement.

In the same vein, my gratitude goes to the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of both countries, the Director/Chief Executive Officer of TAC, Ambassador Mamman M. Daura, Her Excellency, the High Commissioner of Nigeria to

The Gambia, Mrs. Esther Audu and their staff, who have in no small measure contributed to the success of this modest example of functional cooperation between Nigeria and The Gambia.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, capacity-building is without any doubt fundamental to meaningful socio-economic development of any country. This therefore explains the spirit of the deployment of 163 Nigerian volunteers to The Gambia to effectively participate in the ongoing efforts to accelerate socio-economic development for the Gambian people.

Honourable Minister, may I once more seize this opportunity to assure you that the prospective volunteers soon to be deployed to your country are highly qualified professionals, who would come here fully determined to put their best in the areas they would be assigned to serve. With the concerted efforts put up by the officials of both countries, I have no doubt that the scheme would be as successful or even more successful this time around and would indeed continue to provide a veritable platform for the strengthening of Nigeria-Gambia bilateral relations.

I thank you all, God bless.