By Roy Lie Atjam
The Embassy of Nigeria in the Netherlands, led by H.E. Ambassador Dr. Eniola Ajayi, uniquely celebrated Nigeria’s 63rd Independence Day. The celebration spanned a week and included various cultural activities. The event began on Sunday, October 1st, and showcased the Ekiti State Performing Art Company.
The Nollywood Travel Film Festival, or NTFF, screened six films in Amsterdam and The Hague. The opening film was Love, Lust & Other Things (2023), directed by Kayode Kasum. Additionally, there was an Independence Day reception.
The Nigerian Film Festival (NTFF) held its closing ceremony in The Hague, which included a film screening, an award ceremony, and a session for handing out certificates. The event was graced by the Nigerian Ambassador and other notable guests, including the Ambassadors of Algeria, El Salvador, Kuwait, Morocco, Rwanda, and Tanzania. The closing film of the ceremony, “Eagle Wings,” was directed by Paul Apel Papel.
Awards and certificates were given to recognize outstanding contributions to the Nigerian film industry. Recipients included filmmakers, directors, producers, designers, scriptwriters, and actors, among them Mama G.
The Nollywood Travel Film Festival Caravan launched in Toronto in 2017 and has since visited various cities such as Atlanta, New York, Toronto, Hamburg, Berlin, London, Glasgow, Oslo, Athens, and currently Amsterdam.
The film festival aims to present the works of Nigerian filmmakers from all around the world to a broader and more diverse audience. Its objective is to create new markets for the Nigerian film industry, strengthening its brand and attracting more global investment. The film festival also offers workshops and panel discussions at the University of Amsterdam to promote and enhance the skills of Nigerian filmmakers.
H.E. Dr Eniola Ajayi, Nigeria’s Ambassador in the Netherlands, shared her enthusiasm about NTFF: “We are looking forward to the Nollywood Travel Film Festival in the Netherlands. It is always an honour, great privilege, and pride for us to participate in any program showcasing our culture, creativity, and diversity at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
As for the Independence Day reception, Mr. Mayiwa Alyedun, Head of the Chancellery, was the MC. Ms Hannah Lebbie gave a vocal rendition of the Nigerian and Dutch national anthems.
The Ekiti State Performing Arts Company performed at the event, which also featured a raffle with numerous prizes.
H.E. Ambassador Dr. Eniola Ajayi delivered the following discourse:” October 1st being the actual date is a National day we share with China, Cyprus, Republic of Korea and Tuvalu. I am extremely delighted that you could join us once again to celebrate with us.
It has been the honour of my life to serve and represent the unique people of Nigeria as an Ambassador. My sojourn began under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and now currently under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu after a smooth transition of power on May 29, 2023. Thankfully, Nigeria has successfully sustained its democracy since 1999.
The potential of Nigeria as the most populous African country with the biggest economy cannot be overemphasized. We are looking at the future with even greater optimism now, especially in lieu of the economic reforms of President Tinubu. These reforms include the removal of fuel subsidies and the single market Foreign Exchange rate, amongst others.
The reality is that the average household is feeling the pinch of the reforms but the renewed hope that things will ease up in the near future is already on the horizon. The sustained effort on dealing with the cruel ring of those involved in our crude oil theft is also yielding results.
The security situation is receiving great attention also. Nigeria represents a great destination for investments still. We offer so many incentives for investors in our economy.
Since the last celebration of the past year, we have sustained our efforts through bilateral cooperation with the Kingdom of the Netherlands on several levels. We held a very well-attended and successful business and Investment Forum in April 2023. This forum was preceded by the meeting of our Former Minister of Industry Trade and Investments H.E. Otunba Niyi Adebayo, and the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Wopke Hoekstra.
This was closely followed by the annual bilateral consultations between Nigeria and the Netherlands in Abuja, Nigeria in May 2023. The team was led by the Deputy Director General for Political Affairs, Ms Erica Schouten.
The second segment of the Consultations which centred on Economic, Trade and Investments issues also took place in Abuja and Lagos in June 2023. The Vice Minister for Foreign Trade, Ms. Hanneke Schulling led a strong team of Dutch officials responsible for foreign trade international enterprise, as well as energy and climate policies to Nigeria for the high-level engagements. The dual sessions of the Bilateral Consultations and Mission’s Business and investment Forum held in the Hague on 20th April 2023 have continued to generate position results for Nigeria and for the Netherland.
The level of business exploration between the two countries, especially in the area of Agriculture, has been on the rise. It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics recently reported that the Netherlands has become Nigeria’s number 1 trading partner in the world in the 2nd quarter, 2023 in Foreign Trade for oil and non-oil exports. Naturally, I am very excited, but I know there is still much room for growth.
Nigeria is also growing in leaps and bounds in the area of digital economy and entertainment. On the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), President Bola Tinubu launched the National Talent Export Programme (NATEP) in a bid to shore up Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.
President Tinubu was represented at the launch by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka- Anite. The new initiative seeks to position Nigeria as an export hub for talent outsourcing in Africa following the example of India, Bangladesh, Mexico and The Philippines. The Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani would collaborate and support the programme to make sure it delivers on the set objectives.
This year, the celebration of our Independence Day is focused on our entertainment industry. A lot of our Nollywood Stars are in town to celebrate with us and share some of their works through the Nollywood Travel Film Festival (NTFF). We have the pleasure of having Mr Mykel Parish, the CEO of NTFF, with us. We also had the honour of bringing the award-winning Ekiti Performing Arts Company all the way from Nigeria, courtesy of Ekiti State Government, to entertain the Nigerian community on October 1st, and they have already given us a taste of what they are capable of this evening.
We had the screening of The Black Book, a new movie on Netflix. We shall see some sizzle reels from them tonight as well. To cap our week of cultural exploration, we shall have another movie screening on October 7, 2023. All Ambassadors and our colleagues from the multilateral organisations to which Nigeria is accredited have all been invited. We trust you will have a good time with us.
I acknowledge the cooperation from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, especially our dear Director, Protocol and Host Country Affairs Department, H.E. Ms Dominique Kühling who has been of tremendous support since I landed in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
At this juncture, I think it is most appropriate for me to also thank our various sponsors who made these events possible. They are H.E. Abiodun Abayomi Oyebanji, Governor Ekiti State, Nigeria, Netflix, Shell International, Friesland Campina, Heineken, Ataro Foods, Jansen Holland Wax, Ngbaka Beer, Bestman Games, Ntff – Nollywood Travel Film Festival, Diageo -Makers of Gordon’s Gin, OIS – Online Integrated Service.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that this is probably my last celebration of Nigeria’s National Day in the Kingdom of Netherlands on this particular tour of duty. I have had the most fulfilling time here as a diplomat. The conducive working environment of The Hague Diplomatic Corps is absolutely amazing. I celebrate you all. The country – Netherlands is in a class of its own: cosmopolitan, enlightened, exposed, liberal, welcoming, and safe. I am sure you would agree with me, The Hague – is the best-kept secret in diplomatic postings in the world. You get the best of both worlds – a vibrant multilateral engagement and a dynamic bilateral interaction. I am going to miss you all. You are the best! We are sincerely grateful for this support. I am also grateful for the support of my colleagues at the Embassy, who worked tirelessly to put this program together.
I want to remember this week with joy. Please, let have fun tonight, eat, drink, and be merry.
Please enjoy this evening and everything we have to offer, especially our Nigerian cuisine and the raffle draws courtesy of Jansen Holland fabrics, makers of the popular Ankara fabrics, Ataro Foods spice hampers, and Bestman Games Nigeria Limited, Distributors of the Nigerian Monopoly centenary edition.
Happy 63rd Independence Anniversary. May Nigeria succeed! Let’s toast to that success.
Bedankt! Thank you! Mun Gode! Daalu Adupe! “
Mr. Steven Collet, Deputy Director General for International Cooperation, also addressed the audience. He lauded the excellent cooperation between the Netherlands and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
To conclude, guests enjoyed a buffet dinner of rich and diverse Nigerian cuisine featuring dishes from the country’s many ethnic groups.