Tell us about your life and career?

My name is Ambassador Mohammed Abdullahi Mabdul . I was born on October 10, 1961 in Makurdi, Benue State and married with children. I graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Arabic & Political Science) from Bayero University, Kano. I joined the Foreign Service in 1987 after my National Youth Service and I have served in various capacities both in the Ministry and some Nigerian Missions abroad. In the cause of my career, I served as the Counsellor in Charge of Consular/Visa at the Embassy in Algiers from 1995-1998, and Chief Protocol Officer, office of the Vice President of Nigeria between 1999 and 2005. Also, I was the Deputy Director and Acting Director of Protocol, office of the Vice President (2005 — 2006 and 2006 — 2007, respectively. I was Director of Research in the Ministry from 2011 — 2014 and in addition, I served as the Consul in Nigerian Consulate, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from 2015- 2018. Apart from my special diplomatic skills, I am a linguist and speak not less than four international languages which is a veritable and effective tool in relations with other nations in the diplomatic circle. I attended courses in Arabic, Portuguese and Management, both local and international. In addition to English, I speak Arabic, French, Portuguese, Hausa and Idoma languages. I like reading, travelling and sports.

Did you win any laurels as a sportsman?

I have won several sports medals. I won the gold medal in Table Tennis Junior Category, First Benue State Sports Festival in 1977. I got the silver and bronze medals in Table Tennis, Junior and Senior Categories at Bauchi State Sports Festival 1977. Furthermore, I represented Benue and Bauchi States in National Table Tennis Competitions 1977-1980. I won the First Edition of Head Masters Cup Football Tournament For all Primary Schools in Benue State in 1980. I was the highest goal scorer in the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria Football Club, Sokoto State Division One League Season 1985-1986.

Tell us about your diplomatic experience

I attended the Foreign Service Academy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lagos 1987-1988. After this, I enrolled in the Advanced Arabic Course at International Language Institute, Cairo, Egypt 1989. I equally enrolled in the Advanced Management Course at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja, 2002 and the Basic Portuguese Language Course at Portuguese Language institute, Lisbon, 2010.

You just ended your duty tour as Nigerian Ambassador to Algeria. In what ways did you add value to the relations between Nigeria and Algeria?

The state of bilateral relations between Algeria and Nigeria has always been strong, authentic, and mutually beneficial to both countries. Since the independence of the two countries, we have struck a very deep and friendly relationship with Algeria that has been sustained through all the regimes in the country. But it became much closer and more solid during the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007. The then-Algeria leader, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was a very close friend to Obasanjo. Obasanjo travelled to Algeria several times and Bouteflika reciprocate the visits. As a result of that, the relationship was very solid and when Nelson Mandela became the South African President, he also became very close to Obasanjo and Bouteflika and within the framework of the African Union, the three countries, joined by Ethiopia formed what was called G4. The four countries harmonised how they deal with issues within the African Union and at the United Nations. Most of the ambassadors that go to Algeria try to build relations based on this understanding. At the time I arrived in Algeria, nothing had changed except for the political actors.

What business opportunities are available in Algeria?

I discovered that aside from trade and investment aspects that will benefit each other, Algeria presents an alternative destination for tourism. Most of the cities in Algeria look like the ones in Europe. The advantage is that the cost of living is cheap. So, it will be a lot easier for Nigerians to travel for tourism in Algeria rather than go to Europe. It will offer the Algerians an opportunity to do business in return. Our businessmen need to take advantage of these business opportunities in Algeria.

Did you succeed in ensuring a direct flight between both countries?

I discovered that communication between Nigeria and Algeria is very important. Already, Nigeria signed a Bilateral Air Service Agreement, which means that each country is free to introduce airlines to each other. Unfortunately, that was not there on the ground. This has created a lot of problems for travellers even if it was an unofficial trip to Algeria. You have two routes that people take. You either go through Turkey and if you do that, it will take you nine hours to be in Algiers; you fly six hours to Istanbul and then fly for three hours to Algiers. The other viable route is Qatar Airways where you fly for six hours to Doha and another six hours to Algiers but if there is a direct connection, it is just fours from Abuja to Algiers. When I discovered this missing link, I worked hard to encourage their local airlines to fly to Nigeria. Luckily, they have expanded to some African countries like Senegal, Niger and Mali. I told them that if they can go to Niger, why can’t they extend it to Abuja and Lagos? Within the period of my stay, we were able to make a good case with the manager of Air Algerie. Before I left, I held a meeting with him in April this year and he agreed that before the end of this year, they will open 11 new routes and one of the routes that they will accommodate will be Algiers-Lagos-Johannesburg. Since that will be a commercial route, they will start with that. And if it becomes viable, they will extend to Abuja. So, this was on the card before I left.

What lessons can Nigeria learn from Algeria in terms of hydrocarbon resources utility?

I think the fact is that Nigeria, just like Algeria, is an oil and gas-producing country. What I can say is that Algeria has succeeded in the utilisation of these two commodities. In terms of gas, especially the ones we use for cooking, they have a network of over 2,500km of pipelines within the country. So, gas has been domesticated. Just like you have pipe-borne water going into your homes, that is how gas is sold. Just like in Europe where you do not need to go to the filling stations to buy gas, there are pipes here and there. The infrastructure is developed and channeled into your building and at the end of the month, you pay. So, Algerians utilised this very well, which has been there since the 90s and we are yet to achieve this. The close effort we are making now is AKK; the pipeline that is coming from the Niger Delta to Warri through Lokoja, coming to Abuja, Kaduna and Kano, where the gas will be passing and the infrastructure will be developed within the cities. It is coming through so that we can replicate what is happening in Algeria. In Nigeria, we are just starting whereas in Algeria, they have achieved that. Also, Algeria refined their oil products. So, they are self-sufficient in it.

What is your next plan after retirement?

I thank God I retired in good health and without any incident that could have affected my integrity over the 35 years of service which I have done, but there is still life after retirement. I have plans of participating in the political process. I just returned at a good time when political activities are starting, and I will be participating where my services may be needed in my community.

News Reporter
Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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