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May’s replacement to determine future of $4.2bn Nigeria-UK trade

In less than two weeks from today, Theresa May will be stepping down as British Prime Minister, paving the way for a new successor from the Conservative Party. This is coming after months of intense pressure within and outside her party.

But this does not come as a surprise to many analysts who say it was expected.

“This is long envisaged. I knew that when May has been failing to convince the parliament on many occasions to go with her Brexit plans, there is little or no choice left but for her to quit,” said Jide Ojo, a development consultant and public affairs analyst. “I think that Theresa May came at the wrong time. She did her best but the system just didn’t work for her.”

Interestingly, the race to occupy No.10 Downing Street gathers momentum as party bigwigs throw their hats into the contest. Notable among them include Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd. Boris Johnson, 54, is widely regarded as the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership race. His plan is to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union in October with or without Brexit deal.

Micheal Gove is the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and has consistently shown his support for May’s deal. Also, Jeremy Hunt, UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, has declared his intention to bid for the seat in the leadership election.

Andrea Leadsom is also being rumoured as a major contender for the Conservative leadership after resigning from the UK government as leader of the House of Commons.

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Amber Rudd, who returned to cabinet as the Work and Pensions Secretary, refused to rule out the likelihood for running to succeed Theresa May. Rudd is regarded as one of the pro-EU members of the cabinet. She has vowed to quit the UK government if the no-deal Brexit becomes government policy.

The contest will be an internal process in the ruling Conservative Party, as candidates will be whittled down, in a series of votes, to two candidates by Conservative lawmakers in the coming weeks. The final two left standing will then be put to party members for a vote.
However, this new development has raised concerns about the likely impact on the existing bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the UK.

Nigeria is Britain’s second-largest trading partner on the African continent after South Africa. According to Britain’s Minister for Africa, Harriet Baldwin, the yearly trade between Nigeria and the United Kingdom stood at £4.2 billion.

According to UK trade statistics, Nigeria’s top exports to the UK include crude oil and gas, while exports from the UK include refined oil, pharmaceutical products, general industrial machinery, and electrical goods.

The UK is also among the foremost destinations for Nigerian students and tourists.
However, Akinola Olawore, president, Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), said the resignation of the British Prime Minister would not impact negatively the existing bilateral relationship between the two countries.

According to Olawore, Nigeria plays a big role on the continent and the trade volume between the two countries keeps growing on a yearly basis.

“The new prime minister will still have to do business with Africa, and Nigeria remains the largest economy on the continent,” he said.

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During May’s three-day visit to some African countries, including Nigeria, in 2018 as part of her efforts to deepen economic and trade ties with growing African economies ahead of the Brexit Plan, the prime minister promised that the British government would continue to increase its military support to Nigeria and help protect its citizens and British workers in the country from terror attacks.

May announced that the two countries had signed a defence and security partnership which could see the UK train for the first time, full army units to combat insurgents in the north-east of Nigeria. Insecurity is one of the major challenges facing the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

According to May, tackling the “menace” from groups like Boko Haram was in the UK’s interest.

May also agreed on a £10.5 million package to help victims of modern slavery. As part of this, the UK will provide counselling to up to 1,700 people who have been subjected to forced labour, domestic servitude and sexual abuse and help them reintegrate into their communities.

A joint initiative with France will also see the UK assist Nigeria and Niger strengthen their border cooperation to prevent trafficking of migrants to Libya and Europe.

May said Brexit plan would increase opportunities to extend existing commercial links with Nigeria, particularly in the area of financial services. She announced £4bn of extra British support for African economies, noting that the UK would overtake the US to become the G7’s biggest investor in Africa by 2022.


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