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Israel International Relations: Nigeria-Israel Relations

Israel and Nigeria first established diplomatic, cultural, and economic ties officially in 1960 after Nigerian independence was established. Israel contributed significantly to the development of Nigeria as well as other Sub-Saharan African countries in the 1960's and 1970's by sending Israeli experts and volunteers to modernize Africa's agriculture and and teach African farmers sustainable farming techniques. These Israelis also played a role in developing Nigeria's educational system and medical/technology sector. Following the Yom Kippur War in 1973, many African countries including Nigeria severed ties with Israel and relations were not restored until 1992. In April 1993 Nigeria opened an embassy in Israel.    Israel has an embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. 

Since 1992 Israel and Nigeria have enjoyed a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship, with more than 50 Israeli companies investing in Nigerian construction, infrastructure, technology, communications and information technology, agriculture, and water management industries. A Memorandum of Interest (MOU) was signed between the Nigerian and Israeli Ministries of Foreign Affairs in 2006, formalizing bilaterial consultations on political issues. This MOU facilitated increased dialogue and cooperation between the two countries on issues of regional and international concern. Economic ties between Israel and Nigeria are promoted by the Nigerian-Israeli Chamber of Commerce, and the Israel-Africa Chamber of Commerce. 

In April 2013, Elbit Systems was awarded a $40 million contract by the Nigerian government to put in place their Wise Intelligence telecommunications surveilance system. This system allows the Nigerian government to monitor all internet activity within Nigeria, a development feared by human rights activists that was met by a significant backlash. 

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan became the first Nigerian President to visit Israel in 2013 (he also visited when he was Vice President). He held a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, during which the two leaders affirmed their commitment to stop the spread of terrorism.  Goodluck Jonathan also expressed his support for Peres's efforts to bring about a peaceful end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  When speaking of the relationship that Nigeria and Israel share, Goodluck Jonathan stated that the relations are not only "excellent at the official level", but have also been "marked by deep interpersonal affection." Since this initial visit Goodluck Jonathan has been back to Israel once, in October 2014, bringing other Nigerian officials and religious leaders with him. 

In June 2014, when Israel was looking for three abducted teens who were later killed by Hamas terrorists, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: I assure you that we are in solidarity with you, as we believe that any act of terrorism against any nation or group is an act against our common humanity. We unequivocally condemn this dastardly act, and demand that the children are released unconditionally by their abductors. President Rivlin reaffirmed his commitment in April of 2015; saying "The latest news regarding the Boko Haram-ISIS alliance underscores the need for like-minded countries to unite in the fight against such radical terrorist organizations. I assure you that in this important campaign, Israel stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Nigeria."

Nigeria's envoy to the United Nations Security Council, Joy Ogwu, reaffirmed her countries commitment to Israel's safety and security on December 30, 2014, by abstaining from a vote which if passed would have paved the way for Israel to be required to end their occupation of the territories captured following the 1967 war. This resolution was brought to the Security Council by Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians and needed nine out of the fifteen members on the Security Council to vote in favor in order to pass. The eight countries that supported this measure included China, France, Russia, Argentina, Chad, Chile, Jordan, and Luxemborg. Australia and the United States chose to vote against this measure, while Nigeria, Britain, Lithuania, the Republic of South Korea and Rwanda abstained from voting. Nigeria's decision to abstain from the vote came at the last minute, which was expected. In the past Nigerian officials have promised to support similar Palestinian statehood measures, and experts close to the Security Council stated that it was expected that Nigeria would play like they were supporting this measure and then change their mind at the last minute. 

In 2016, 84,000 Nigerian tourists visited Israel. 

In July 2018, it was reported that 100 Nigerians who were taking part in a 2017 trip organized by the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) left the group to start a new life in Israel. A Nigerian soldier, a policeman, and a university lecturer were among those who stayed in Israel. None of the Nigerians abandoned the group during their visits to Rome or Greece during the previous week.  

Nigeria imports an average of $300.4 million in Israeli goods each year, and is consistently one of the top 20 importers of Israeli goods.   

On September 2, 2019, the Nigerian government announced it would partner with Israel to address security challenges, particularly the Boko Haram insurgence, facing Nigeria. A strategic partnership between the Galilee International Management Institute and Michael and Cecilia Ibru University was signed to enable the students of Michael and Cecilia Ibru University to take courses and obtain postgraduate degrees in Agriculture, Water Management, Health Management, Computer Science, Education and National Security without leaving the country. What they’re calling a Nigeria-Israeli University is meant in part to reduce the number of Nigerian students studying abroad.

The Galilee Institute, which has been working with Nigerian organizations for the last 30 years and has about 2,300 alumni, hopes to pass on Israeli expertise in the various areas covered by the courses. In the case of national security, the hope is that a peace plan can be developed to end the fighting with Boko Haram.

Sources: Peres Hosts Nigerian President for First Ever State Visit,The Jerusalem Post (October 28, 2013); 
Israel MFA
Israel Diplomatic Network;
Jimmy Johnson. Scandal in Nigeria over Israeli arms firm’s Internet spying contract, Electronic Intifada (July 2, 2013);
Soldier, policeman, lecturer, 97 other Nigerian pilgrims abscond in Israel, Premium Times, (July 9, 2018);
Chris Ochayi, “Israel to help Nigeria fight insecurity,” Vanguard, (September 3, 2019).