Apr 25, 2008, 5:40 AM
The occasion was celebrated in The Gambia with a reception at the posh Cocoa Ocean Hotel on the Bijilo coast, Tuesday evening.
Attended by cabinet ministers, diplomats, managing directors and a large section of the Nigerian community in The Gambia, the occasion marked a fitting opportunity for officials from both countries to pay a glowing tribute to the excellent relationship between The Gambia and Nigeria.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Nigerian High Commissioner to The Gambia, Esther John Audu, said there is no doubt that the journey of 53 years has been quite challenging, but remarkable, considering the giant strides recorded within the span of the period.
Turning to relations with The Gambia, she said the longstanding bilateral relationship has stood the test of time, and is growing from strength to strength every day.
She thanked President Yahya Jammeh for his tireless effort in ensuring that this relationship is sustained, through his tireless support and encouragement to the government and people of Nigeria at all times.
‘‘We shall continue to work, support and collaborate with the government of The Gambia in relevant areas, for sustainable development of our two countries, in order to achieve success.
“In support of the Gambia government’s development efforts, the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has continued to post Technical Aid Corps Volunteers (TAC) to The Gambia.Our support and sacrifice is informed by our conviction and belief in the development of The Gambia and the well-being of its people,’’ she stated.
The High Commissioner then turned to her own compatriots urging them to continue to be good ambassadors of Nigeria in the diaspora, and to work closely with the Gambian authorities to strengthen our bilateral relations.
“I further urge you to engage in legitimate businesses at all times, and stress that you all obey the laws of The Gambia.All our efforts in the Nigeria Mission is to continually ensure that you are law-abiding, comfortable and engage in legitimate business’’.
‘’To our friends”, shewent on, “I wish to inform you that the Nigerian market, with its industrial infrastructures and cultural diversity, offers you a viable investment opportunity and tourist destination in Africa.
“Today I am proud to announce to you that on display outside is a Made in Nigeria car, manufactured in Nnewi in Anambra State by Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
“ I invite you all to visit Nigeria and take advantage of its business opportunity and pleasure thereof, and I call on all other nations to join hands together with Nigeria to promote peace and security for economic and social growth of our continent, Africa, and the entire world,’’ high commissioner Audu added.
Responding, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Nana Grey Johnson, holding the fort for the absent on duty, Susan Waffa Ogoo, the Foreign Minister, conveyed President Jammeh’s and the Gambian peoples’ best wishes to President Goodluck Jonathan and the Nigerian people.
He said Gambians and Nigerians have a long history together with blood relations, and a very strong cultural affinity.
Mr. Grey-Johnson stated that Gambians live in Nigeria and are engaged in various ventures in education, trade, and other forms of gainful employment, just as many Nigerians have been living with their brothers and sisters in The Gambia.
“I am pleased to state that your nationals living in The Gambia have always been respectful, law-abiding, and peace-loving. They have always and continue to contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of The Gambia.
“The presence in The Gambia of several Nigerian banks and insurance companies, coupled with the existence of many investors of Nigerian origin in small and medium enterprises and other forms of economic undertakings is ample testimony of the strong fraternal relations between Nigeria and The Gambia.’’
Minister Grey Johnson further said that the countries have always enjoyed strong bilateral relations of friendship, brotherhood and cooperation.
“My presence here this evening is aimed at enhancing and strengthening those bilateral ties for the mutual benefit of our two peoples. The Gambia and Nigeria have been and continue to benefit each other on the basis of comparative advantage, particularly in sectors like Education, Agriculture, Tourism, Health, Justice, Youth and Sports, etc,’’ he stated.
According to him, it is no secret that for the past decades, successive governments in Nigeria have complemented efforts by the Gambia government in capacity building through the provision of training opportunities for Gambians in Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning, and the provision of technical personnel on technical assistance basis in vital sectors of the Gambian economy. Over the years, Nigerians and Gambians have come closer together and we remain thankful and appreciative’’.
On the multilateral front, Mr Grey Johnson said “with two more years until we know how many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) we have met,the evidence is that we are on track, even though there is still more to be done”.