The Memorandum of Understanding was dubbed “Cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes”. The official signing activity took place at the Federal Ministry of Science & Technology, Abuja. Although due to the coronavirus pandemic, all parties couldn’t be physically present, the signing ceremony was attended by the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, Shri. V. Muraleedharan through teleconferencing. The physical signing activity was chaired in Abuja by Nigeria’s Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu. Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) scientific secretary, Mr R. Umamaheswaran also attended from the ISRO Headquarters in Bengaluru through teleconferencing.
The Indian External Affairs Minister in his address called Nigeria India’s close friend and largest trading partner in Africa, affirming that the MoU is another milestone in the relations of the two countries.
Speaking on the development, the Director-General of National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Dr Francis Chizea, highlighted the benefits from the agreement. He noted that the MoU will enhance “Planning and implementation of joint space projects of mutual benefit and interest; Establishment, Operation and Maintenance of ground stations for data reception, Processing and utilisation and also support for launch vehicle and satellite missions; Establishment, Operation and Maintenance of ground stations for supporting satellite navigation programmes; Exchange of equipment, documentation, data, results of experiments, scientific and technological information”.
He added that the MoU will cause the “Development of micro and mini satellites for scientific or commercial purposes; Joint activities in launch services, operation and utilisation of satellites; Space application using the spin-offs and spin-ins benefits of space technologies; Promotion of industrial cooperation between the national companies and entities of India and Nigeria specialized in space technology, by facilitating the direct contact between them and by assisting them during the implementation of signed contracts concluded under this agreement; Capacity building in space science and technology and space application programmes for societal purposes; Enlarge Research Institutes in India and Nigeria to develop joint space Research and Development programmes; Exchange and training in the field of space among academic institutes in both countries; Exchange of technical and scientific personnel designated to participate in the cooperative programmes and Organisation of joint symposia, conference and scientific meetings.”
The MoU is premised on an India-Nigeria collaboration in space science, planetary exploration, ground stations, development of micro and mini satellites and joint space research and development. In the statement released by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, it mentioned that “it (the MoU) provides for capacity building assistance by ISRO, exchange of scientific know-how, exchanges between academic institutes and joint symposiums/conferences. Cooperation in remote sensing, communications and navigation will benefit Nigeria in the fields of forestry, environment, agriculture, mining, watershed development and connectivity”.
This is not the first partnership between Nigeria and India on space activities. In the last 12 years, 49 Nigerian nationals have attended various short-term Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) courses in India in the fields of Remote Sensing, GIS and Geoinformatics, conducted by the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun; Geological Survey of India Training Institute, Hyderabad; and Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, Noida, the statement said. Trade between both countries has also gone as high as USD 14 billion.
The two countries equally also agreed to sign a subsidiary MoU between New Space India Limited (NSIL), under ISRO, and Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), under the Federal Ministry of Environment of Nigeria, on cooperation for the use of geospatial technologies.