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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nigeria and Russia Pledge to Boost Trade

President Vladimir Putin and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo agreed Tuesday to boost trade and military-technical cooperation during the first top-level meeting between their large, oil-producing nations.

Obasanjo's delegation was also to meet Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev and arms export officials Tuesday, and observers predicted the three-day visit would result in weapons deals.

At a Kremlin meeting, the two presidents signed an agreement pledging to increase joint military-technical projects, and to fight international terrorism. No specific projects were outlined.

Putin pledged to "intensify relations with African countries," and urged more global reliance on the United Nations instead of the United States.

"The sides are ready to play an active role in the formation of a multi-polar world, based on equal partnership," the agreement said.

Putin praised Obasanjo's work toward economic and democratic reform in Africa's most populous nation. Obasanjo's election in 1998 ended nearly 16 years of military rule that left Nigeria $30 billion in debt.

Putin said the two also discussed the costly, long-stalled Ajaokuta steel plant in central Nigeria. The plant was built by the Soviet Union but has yet to start production, and is linked to corruption charges against Obasanjo's predecessors.

Obasanjo's government has emphasized plans to revive Nigeria's steel industry and complete the Ajaokuta plant, likely with Russian help.

Obasanjo lamented the decrease in trade turnover between Russia and Nigeria in recent years.

"It is of course unacceptable to both of us that trade has fallen from $200 million a year to $50 million," he said after their meeting.

They agreed to try to boost trade to $500 million a year by 2005.

Obasanjo's meetings were also to discuss cooperation in the oil and gas industry. It was unclear whether they would address Nigeria's substantial debt to Russia.

The delegation, which includes Nigerian Defense Minister General Theophilus Danjuma, was to meet officials from natural gas monopoly Gazprom and arms export giant Rosoboronexport. The visitors were also to view military aircraft and artillery systems at the military town of Kubinka outside Moscow and visit the Hammer and Sickle steel plant Thursday.