( His Excellency President Jacob Zuma toasts with His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari at the State Banquet). His Excellency President Jacob Zuma at the invitation of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pays a State Visit to Nigeria from 08 to 09 March 2016. South Africa and Nigeria have good bilateral political, economic and social relations underpinned by strong historical ties dating back from the years of the liberation struggle. 08/03/2016, Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

Lagos - President Jacob Zuma’s state visit to Nigeria will pave the way for Nigeria-South Africa cooperation in defence and security issues affecting the two nations.

South Africa’s Defence Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said on Monday that South Africa was interested in how best to engage in areas of cooperation in information sharing, training, research and development, and exchange programmes that would help the two countries deal with security challenges.

According to her, as part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013 between the two countries, the committee on defence put together by the two countries would hold its inaugural meeting in June, during which cooperation on defence would be discussed.

She also highlighted the need for a strong relationship between the two defence industries, adding that there were plans for a conference of the two defence industries in South Africa.

Mapisa-Nqakula noted that the cooperation between the two countries would lead to stronger ties, adding that the areas of cooperation, including the transfer of skills and technologies, would depend on the decisions of the Chiefs of Defence Staff, who had identified the critical areas, including procurement, during an earlier meeting.

Also speaking on the sidelines of the meeting with his South African counterpart, Nigeria’s Minister of Defence, retired Brig Gen Mohammed Dan Ali, said the Defence Chiefs of Nigeria and South Africa had stepped up plans for the deployment of Special Forces against Boko Haram.

Answering questions on the possibility of South Africa extending military expertise to Nigeria, Dan Ali said: “This is just like the Special Forces that have been discussed between the two chiefs of defence staff. That will come into being between the two countries as soon as possible.”

Their meeting was a follow-up to the visit by Nigeria’s Minister of Defence to South Africa a few weeks ago.

Dan Ali explained that the ministries of defence of the two countries had gone through the areas both nations would benefit from each other during their meeting in Pretoria.

He said bilateral talks on the technical aspects of the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) had been ironed out during that meeting, and South Africa promised to partner with Nigeria "in this very important area’’.

He said that Nigeria had acquired some mine resistant armoured vehicles, and that South African defence expertise might be needed for maintenance and operational purposes.

Meanwhile Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Abayomi Olonisakin, has also asked for “the training of more special forces and equipment that could be used against Boko Haram, which, he said, had been substantially decimated and degraded.

“It is a very good thing that we are thinking that South Africa, being our close ally, should come and help us in developing our military industrial complex - that is the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria.

“We are of the opinion that very soon, after the two Commanders-in-Chief meet, we will look into going deep on how the two countries will work together and come to an agreement on the MoU and technical expertise between the two countries,” he said.

His South African counterpart, General Zakaria Shoke, said South Africa's military was willing to work with their Nigerian counterparts, saying the SANDF was willing to support Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram.

Independent Foreign Services