Abuja – A lot is at stake should there be full bilateral break-up between Nigeria and Indonesia.
The ongoing diplomatic spat between Indonesia and Nigeria may cost the two trading partners about $4.145bn economic and trade losses, if it led to a break-up of bilateral relations.
Checks indicate that trade between Nigeria and Indonesia has been on the upward swing with the balance in favour of the former by more than $500m.
Experts say Nigeria could lose its $500m trade advantage if the issues surrounding the attack on a Nigerian diplomat in Jakarta were not resolved amicably.
Bilateral relations between the two nations started in 1965 when Indonesia opened its first diplomatic mission in Sub-Saharan Africa in Lagos.
Nigeria reciprocated in 1976 by opening a diplomatic mission in Jakarta.
Since then the two countries have enjoyed fruitful diplomatic and economic relations which may be eroded by a full-blown diplomatic spat over the assault on a Nigerian diplomat, Abdulrahman Ibrahim, by immigration officials in Jakarta on August 7, 2021.
A trending video had shown the Indonesian officials almost strangulating Ibrahim inside a moving car.
The incident drew outrage from the Federal Government which summoned the Indonesian ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Usra Harahap, on Monday.
But Harahap insisted that the incident was triggered by Ibrahim’s refusal to identify himself when accosted by the immigration officers, adding that he also injured one of the men during a scuffle.
However, there are concerns over the economic implication of a diplomatic spat between the two countries.
Nigeria is Indonesia’s second-largest trade partner in Africa after South Africa and its export value from January to November 2018 was $378b, amounting to 11 per cent growth.
In 2018, Nigeria’s import growth to Indonesia was 17 per cent, while Indonesia importation growth to Nigeria for oil products was 103 per cent and 125 per cent for non-oil products.
Citing data from United Nations Comtrade database, tradingeconomics.com said Indonesian imports from Nigeria include mineral fuel, oil distillation valued at $780.58m in 2020; cocoa and cocoa preparations ($46.80m); aluminium ($1.77m); coffee, tea, mate and spices ($612,012); oil seed, oleagic fruits, grain, seed, fruits ($254,065).
Others are raw hides and skins and leather valued at ($162,035), ores slag and ash ($91,093), organic chemicals, paper and paperboard, articles of pulp valued at over $100,000.
Indonesia, described as the 16th most prosperous country in the world bought goods estimated at $830.73m from Nigeria in 2020, according to data from United Nations Comtrade.
Nigeria’s imports from Indonesia in 2019 was valued at $450.46m.
The imports include paper and paperboard, articles of pulp animal valued at $99.45m; iron or steel ($90.50m); machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers ($54.84m); miscellaneous edible preparations ($39.61m); animal, vegetable fats and oils, cleavage products ($28.96m).
Others are essential oils, perfumes, cosmetics, toiletries $28.40m); organic chemicals ($19.51m); plastics ($11.73m), electrical electronic equipment ($11.27m) and pharmaceutical products, $8.29m, and others.
But commenting on the situation on Friday, a former Central Bank Deputy Governor, Dr Obadiah Mailafia, said the diplomatic crisis should not be escalated if Indonesia sanctioned the officials who attacked the Nigerian diplomat and also apologised to the Federal Government.
He said, “Nigeria should demand full compensation for what this gentleman has suffered. There should be a proper apology and we should expressly be told what punishment is being meted out to those immigration officers. We also need to establish that these people were acting on their own and that it was not an official policy of the government of Indonesia.
“Having said that, I don’t think we should escalate it if the government of Indonesia is ready to meet our demands. But our ambassador should not go back until they have met our demands and with a full apology to Nigeria and the diplomatic official who was nearly killed.”
The Development Economist observed that a dispute with Indonesia would not affect Nigeria’s trade position right now.
A professor of political economy and management expert, Pat Utomi, said the issue may not escalate to the level where both nations would break off bilateral relations.
“There is not much trade between the two nations but I don’t think it would get to the level where there would be any significant economic damage to the Nigerian economy,” he noted.