Статья 'Analysis of historical perspective of the Nigeria-Russia diplomatic relations as an instrument for the current diplomatic ties' - журнал 'Genesis: Historical research' - NotaBene.ru
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Genesis: Historical research

Analysis of historical perspective of the Nigeria-Russia diplomatic relations as an instrument for the current diplomatic ties

Adebayo Kafilat Motunrayo

PhD in History

Assistant, the department of Theory and History of International Relations, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

117198, Russia, Moskva oblast', g. Moscow, ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, 15

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Abstract: The diplomatic relations between Nigeria and USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) can be traced back to 1960, since which both countries have maintained warm political, economic and cultural relations. The establishment of their relation prompted by the political and military support of the Soviet Union to the Nigerian government during the Nigerian Civil War in 1967 and 1970. This article underlines the aftermath of dissolution of the Soviet Union, which influence in Nigeria and West Africa had drastically reduced. The author examines the traditional diplomatic relations between Russian and Nigeria from the historical perspective, based on the diplomatic theory as a paramount instrument for tracing the existing diplomatic relationship between the two colossal nations. However, in 1991 the Russia Federation being the successor to the Soviet Union proceeded to establish the diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Then President Olusegun Obasanjo officially visited Moscow in 2001; both governments signed a declaration on the principles of friendly relationship and partnership. The agreement on the program of bilateral and international relations was also signed.

Keywords: Cultural, Politics, Development, Economic, Contemporary Ties, History, Russia, Nigeria, Strategic Partnership, Relations


Analyzing the collapse of the Soviet Union in December, 1991, it was gathered that after several years of seriously rendering unlimited efforts to manage the speedily growing domestic challenges of the communist autonomous enclaves together with the pragmatic program of glasnost (meaning openness) and perestroika (meaning reconstruction), the consequence of which is that, the fifteen former Soviet republics (The Russian Socialist Federation, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and the likes of others such as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Estonia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Lithuania, Byelorussia, and Latvia) eventually gained individual independence.

Our research concurs that the disintegration of the once great Soviet Union solely led to the collapse of the world socialist system, as regards the Warsaw Pact and that of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance. Also, as an aftermath, down the lane was the utmost foreign policy posture of the Soviet Union which was not only a superpower but also a backbone of support for the developing nations in the International arena which was dominated by the ideological polarization, as well as the cold war. Without mincing words, it could be bluntly said that the collapse of the USSR subsequently led to the crises of a new world order.

Despite the fact that there have thus been some obvious fundamental changes in the International relation dynamics, we can say that that of the Russian Federation is peculiar, mainly due to its series of challenges in transitioning from a socialist system to a capitalist and later to a liberal democratic system. All of the challenges which were caused by the Russian development have had a great impact on Russia’s relations with other countries in the International environment. However, it is important to note that Russia has been greatly putting efforts to redefine both itself and its vision in the new era. To that end, we’d accord a befitted credit to Vladimir Putin who has led an energetic and resurgent Russia to migrate from a common regional power to being a superpower.

Theoretical Framework

This article used the traditional diplomatic theory which is majorly based on the state-to-state diplomacy. The theory is known to be effective due to its peculiarity of being functional based on geography and territory. If territory is no longer a sole principle in the world, then we can as well say that the impacts and implications of the traditional diplomacy are not needed. The traditional diplomacy ascertains the official interaction of two or more states through each of their permanent ambassador or their specially appointed diplomats. In our opinion, for smooth and effective dealings, the states involved must be sovereign political units and they must be able to exercise a supreme authority within the unit, as well as being total independence outside the unit. In addition, there must be a core existence of interests and values which would enable the states involved to develop regularity in their pattern of interaction. The fundamental principles of sovereignty, national interests, and national security mainly lie in the hands of traditional diplomacy and as the foundation of the traditional diplomacy is based on the state to state basis, we can relate it to the Nigeria-Russia ties which are the main justification of the theory to this paperwork.

Nigeria-Soviet Union Relations 1960- 1991

Despite the fact that Nigeria and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations in 1960, this does not automatically means that they had a very cordial relationship mainly due to both countries having different ideological as of then. It was the period of the cold war and we could say that the Russians were against the capitalist system, while there was an emerging interest in the socialist path of evolution in the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As a result of this, the departing colonial powers such as Great Britain and their allies were solely against their former colonies to have any cordial relation with the Soviet Union. According to Onafowokan: 2010, an opinion of which our research paper agrees, the Nigeria and Soviet Union relations can be termed as ‘cold to lukewarm’.

At the initial stage of the Nigeria and the Soviet Union relations, there was lack of trust in each other until the Nigerian civil war in 1967 and 1970 created a solid foundation for both countries to uncover their value for each other. The Soviet Union, being the world’s largest arms producer desperately required buyers as much as Nigeria was desperately in need of those weapons, so both countries effectively worked together. This development made a great difference in altering the path of the civil war and one could say that at the most crucial time in the history of Nigeria, the Soviet Union surfaced and rendered a significant assistance. However, due to the lack of support from Nigeria’s traditional allies which were the Britain and USA, there was a creation of a new phase in the Nigeria-Russia relations.

Analyzing the Nigeria-Russia Relations 1991 to Present

The most critical evidence of this phase is that the Russian Federation was economically very weak, devastated by the political disruption of enormous proportions, with oligarchs and all series of political groups forcefully competing for control of the state. As a result, Russia paid very minimal attention to its relations with African nations.

Nigeria was not left out in the difficulty during that period. In addition to Nigeria’s domestic political challenges, it was also faced with severe economic challenges which included but not limited to: lack of industrial capacity, a decrease in income from oil exports, inadequate investment, unemployment, and poverty.

Through analyzing the market forces, the bilateral trade between Nigeria and Russia as of then amounted to over 180 million US dollars and their diplomatic relations remained in place, however, there was no progress of new development in their political and economic spheres.

Our paper argues that it was only after the return of democratic rule to Nigeria in 1999 that a new door of opportunity was opened to both countries in order to exploit the maximum potential of their cooperation in both political and economic spheres. This argument can be backed up referencing Vladimir Putin coming into office in 2000 which gradually stabilized the Russian society and its economy. It was also during that period that Russia engaged in the difficult task of mending its relations in the International arena, particularly in the aspect of re-engaging the African nations with so many of its high profile Russian officials visiting African countries, Nigeria inclusive.

A new chapter of Nigeria-Russia relations was formed after President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Moscow in 2001 when the Russian officials made an indication that Russia's new policy jolts towards the African countries were to be regarded as a commitment and utmost support for the growth and development of the African continent. It was proved by the signing of the treaty of the Declaration on Principles of Friendly Relations and Partnership between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Russian Federation. There were several other bilateral agreements which officially established a legal structure for Nigeria-Russia relations. Our research supports the notion that the economic ties of Nigeria and Russia were deepened when there was subsequently an establishment of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation (ICESTC) which was between the two countries.

As the years go by, major Russian companies began to develop an interest in Nigeria. With an interest to revive Nigeria's major aluminum smelter, the Russian Aluminium Company (RUSAL) bought 77.5 percent stake for $250 million in the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON). In addition to that, Gazprom, which is the Russian national energy and the biggest in the world, subsequently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on the exploration of the country's enormous gas reserves, which we can say that facilitates several other infrastructural development projects.

These are very good indications for Nigeria-Russia ties. Although the growth is slow but steady as the bilateral trade between Nigeria’s and Russia’s institutions, companies and agencies have made an opening for great opportunities for their further cooperation in the sphere of energy and in the promotion of their bilateral cooperation in the cultural sphere. A major milestone took place when in 2009 when President Dmitry Medvedev visited Abuja which aided the rapid evolvement of the Nigeria-Russia partnership. This can be said to be significant because, since the formation of Russia in 1991, none of the Russian leaders had made a visit to Nigeria. The remarkable aspect of the visitation is the signing of six bilateral agreements which include the following: Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement; Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy; Memorandum of Understanding in the Field of Exploration of Outer; Agreement of the Transfer of Persons Sentenced to Imprisonment; Memorandum and Articles of Association on Joint Venture between NNPC and GAZPROM; and Legal Cooperation between the Nigerian and Russian Ministries of Justice. The aforementioned agreements had resulted in the emergence of several other new initiatives. However, it’s worthy to note that none of the agreements has actually been ratified. It is important for Russia to continue to effectively work with the National Commission on Atomic Energy in order to build an experimental research nuclear plant in Abuja area. The author of this paper posits that there could be a possibility of Russia providing technical aid to Nigeria’s peacekeeping operations. If this happens, it will open a new chapter to the Nigeria-Russia ties.

Presently, Nigeria ranks as the second most valuable trading partner of Russia in Sub-Saharan Africa while Russia ranks as Nigeria’s tenth biggest trade partner. Even though it can be said that the volume of the trade between Nigeria and Russia had grown from $300 million in 2008 to about $1.5 billion in 2010 and mostly in favor of Russia, according to CBN figures, it can still be said that the volume was still quite a low judging from the great potential of both countries, as well as the huge size of their markets. It’s advisable for Nigeria to commence a steadfast move in addressing the trade imbalance engaging Russia with investment opportunities in the sphere of the Niger-Delta oil and gas industry.


Having analyzed the Nigeria-Russia relations with an intent to identify their efforts and challenges and possibility in moving the bilateral relations to the next level, it’s obvious that there is already a pronounced foundation for the cooperation of both countries in their broad area of interests and values. A special kind of relationship has already be formed by these two countries over the past decades, significantly since the period of the Nigerian civil war when the USSR rendered a huge assistance by providing Nigeria with military support.

The two nations had had it very tough with their domestic challenges. Russia, being a successor of the USSR had a great challenge with its political and economic system, while Nigeria on the order hand was experiencing a political turbulence which set the county back politically and economically. The resurfacing of the civilian rule in Nigeria in 1999 and Vladimir Putin became the President of Russia in 2000 which created a new opportunity for both countries to establish and explore the possibilities of them becoming strategic partners

The abundance in Nigeria’s solid mineral and agriculture could be a potential for which Russia could be a great market, as Nigeria could be a source of agricultural raw materials and consumer goods for Russia. The most important aspect is that both countries no longer have ideological differences in their relationship and dealings. However, in order for Nigeria to succeed in its ties with Russia and also to elevate their relationship to a higher strategic partnership level, there is a need for a clearly articulated national strategic vision.

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