The purpose of this article is not to discourage The Federal Government or Nigerian business men from conducting business with Russians. Actually, it is the belief of the author that in order for the economy to grow quickly, the more business partners we have, the better. There is the need to diversify our business.We need to look beyondBritain and USA, our major trading partners, due to our colonial past and language.
I strongly believe that Russia can and should play a big role in the economic, social and man-power development of Nigeria.
In terms of infrastructure building, Russia is very competitive with the west. Russia could provide us with state of the art and reliable infrastructure for a fraction of what the west could have charged us. Nigeria can also benefit significantly from the very rich experience of Russian sports trainers, (with the exception of football) who are regarded among the best in the world. It is not accidental that for decades The Soviet Union/Russia has been winning medals in major competitions – and is unparalleled in some. Today Russian tennis players have practically dominated the sport.
Credit needs to be given to the Nigerian ambassador in Russia, H.E. Air Commodore (rtd) Dan Suleiman for his vision in organising the first ever trade fair in the history of bilateral relationship between the two countries, in Moscow.
On display were Nigeria’s agricultural and arts products. The event is supposed to be an annual event. The second exhibition has just ended. There was a large attendance. In general, it was a success.
Ambassador Suleiman was able to bring into reality for the first time in Russia, what I call ‘Trade Diplomacy.’ Unfortunately, the role of trade diplomacy in nation building and economic development had for long being undermined by previous administrations, with the discovery of oil.
Undoubtedly, if The Federal Government is steadfast and intensifies its efforts in this direction, it is the believe of the author that trade diplomacy will eventually not only turn around the economy but will provide jobs for millions of Nigerians. Indeed, ambassador Suleiman needs to be emulated by other Nigerian diplomats in this direction.
However, in order to avoid economic sabotage, and make the best out of our fastly developing economic relationship, it is of utmost importance to understand the peculiarity of doing business with Russia and Russian business men – knowledge of their history, mentality, negotiation style, business ethics and environment, trust worthiness, methods of settling business disputes; which at times may rise, judicial system, e.t.c.
It is only after having a full understanding of the above-mentioned that the federal government and Nigerian Business men can not only minimise their risks, but as well achieve the maximum benefits in such a bilateral relationship.
In the course of this article, a lot of cases and recent developmentswill be sited to buttress my points. Conclusions will be made from the sited cases. The intelligent reader, in some cases, is expected to make the necessary conclusion by himself
Unfortunately, in the opinion of the author, most Nigerian business men not only know very little about Russia, but do not conduct a due diligence of Russian companies and business men that they intend to do business with.
This problem is compounded by the language barrier. Information on Russian companies and business men, in general is scarce. And, if at all available on the internet, in most cases are general and mainly in Russian language.
Most Nigerian business men in their quest to have an advantage over their counterparts and make ‘fast deals’ conduct business transactions secretly with Russia or Russian business men without carrying out any due diligence, nor do they consult with well informed Nigerians; who studied, work or live in Russia, and are well acquainted with Russia and its business environment.
And when they consult, in most cases, they consult with Nigerians who never studied in Russia, speak very bad Russian and could hardly read or write in Russian and are out of tune with Russian business environment and developments.
The results of these clandestine trade transactions are that our business men or the Nigerian government enter into transactions that are lopsided i.e. commercially not favourable to them. Companies, goods and services are sold for peanuts. In some cases, some fall victims to fraud from their Russian counterparts.
Sometime last year, I met two Nigerians at the Nigerian embassy parading themselves as executives of Russian-Nigerian Chamber of Commerce. They were going all over Russia to speak with Russian companies and business men. I was shocked to discover that these Nigerians neither studied in Russia, nor spoke the language.
A Nigerian, resident in Moscow, told me, not quiet long ago, how a Nigerian company, soliciting for Russian business partnership, narrowly escaped being duped by a Russian company, that claimed to be LukOil – the biggest Russian oil company, and one of the biggest in the world. The plot was uncovered accidentally, due to the coincidentaltrip of the V.P. of Lukoil to Nigeria, just at thetime the Nigerian company was about to transfera huge amount to the account of the fake Russian company that impersonated Lukoil.
TO BE CONTINUED.