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The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Mr Cui Jianchun, has commended the set of 65 young Nigerians who were received back in the country on 4th July, 2023 from China after completing a five-year degree programmes of study in rail and road transport engineering and related courses courtesy of scholarship by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

The ambassador made the commendation Wednesday in his remarks at the Welcome Back Ceremony organised by CCECC Nigeria Ltd at its Abuja headquarters in honour of the returning graduates.

The programme of sponsoring Nigerian students to China is an outcome of collaboration between CCECC Nigeria Limited, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria in Nigeria, China’s Central South University (CSU) on one hand, and CCECC and Chang’an University in China, supported by the government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Transportation and the government of China. The training is centred on rail and road transport as well as related fields.

As of June 2023, the company had sponsored a total of 197 Nigerian students to study in China, 92 of whom have successfully completed their studies. Among these 65 students who have returned home after their studies today, 49 are undergraduates and 16 are postgraduates, majoring in Civil Engineering, Transportation Engineering, Road, Bridge and River-crossing Engineering, etc.

His Excellency, Mr Cui Jianchun, expressed his warm congratulations to the graduates, their parents, and Nigeria, noting that the students demonstrate how two countries can cooperate and jointly educate young talents.

“It is a typical example of China-Africa cooperation in capacity building, and an epitome of in-depth cooperation between China and Nigeria. The students will be the promoters of cultural exchanges between China and Nigeria, and will play active roles in enhancing mutual understanding and trust between the two peoples.

“The first point I want to make to this graduated students from China is very simple; I want to say congratulations for your achievement in China in five years. I really understand that you have suffered a lot – language barriers, cultures, custom, habits. But I do believe you have learned a lot that will be beneficial not only to yourself or to your family, but will be good to Nigeria as a nation.

“Secondly, I must commend you for making a decision to be back to Nigeria. And that reminds me of what happened when I served in Germany in the year 1993, some 30 years ago. At that time the German government and the people told me, please stay in Germany; we love you to stay here. I really struggled and that’s because as at 1993 China was not like what it is today. Yet, finally, I made my decision to go back to my country. So I want to commend this your very brave decision. I think this is really a very good decision to serve Nigeria.

“The third one I want to use the word command or request to students that are now back to Nigeria. You are to take the lead and set a very good example to young Nigerian people, to encourage other Nigerian students to study in China. And also I believe, just to mention, maybe in future there will be President from among these students, so I do believe that you will be the backbone of Nigeria’s development.

“For me two years and three months as Chinese 14th ambassador to Nigeria, I’ve continued with my passion, enthusiasm, my knowledge, and tried to even broaden and strengthen the relationship between Nigeria and China.

“So I hope that you are not only the assets of your family, you are the asset of the nation. And I do believe through the study in China, you can contribute your wisdom, your knowledge, your skill to the development of our great Nigeria,” Jianchun said.

The Chinese Ambassador, Mr Cui Jianchun

He charged CCECC and other Chinese companies in the country to do more in engaging and taking young talents, who according to him are in abundance in Nigeria, to China for study.

“Today you are doing this for 65 students. I encourage them. In Nigeria we have a lot of young talents, and I hope that we can bring more to China. Also I want to take up this opportunity, with all the excellencies here, we have a lot of the Chinese leading companies here in Nigeria. I encourage them to support the young ones to go to China to study,” he said.

Speaking earlier, the chairman of CCECC Nigeria Limited, Zhang Zhichen,
also delivered a speech to congratulate these students on the successful completion of their studies and expressed his appreciation for their excellent achievements in China. He expressed his wishes to have the students work in the company. He also appreciates the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, Central South University, Chang’an University and the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Ministry of Transportation for their assistance during these students’ study in China.

Zhang Zhichen also raised three expectations for these students: firstly, he hoped they could apply the knowledge and skills they learned in China to their work and contribute to the economic and social development of Nigeria; secondly, he hoped they could work in CCECC Nigeria Limited; thirdly, he hoped they could become the ambassadors of friendship between Chinese and Nigerian people.

Nigerian Secretary of Government (SGF) of Federation, George Akume, while speaking as the Special Guest of Honour at the welcome ceremony described the returnee graduates as valuable assets of Nigeria who would bring more benefits and opportunities to the people of both countries.

He appreciated the Chinese government, the embassies, universities and CCECC Nigeria Ltd for the effort, adding that history of development in Nigeria cannot be complete without CCECC.


Chairman CCECC

The SGF who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Political and Economic Affairs in his office, Mrs Nko Esuabana Asante, said, “I am delighted to be at this epoch-making event to celebrate the latest fruits of the collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Transportation with the CCECC, Nigeria limited who have acquired engineering knowledge and understanding on how to sustain the rail enterprise in our beloved nation.

“The story of scholarship for Nigerian children to study in the People’s Republic of China is very dear to my heart. Why? Because I was a serving director in the ministry when the programme was kick-started, to select good children from good homes for the programme in the 2018/19 academic session. History of development in Nigeria is not complete without the CCECC Nigeria.”

In her remarks, the permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr Magdalene Ajani, noted that the management and staff of the ministry and indeed Nigeria as a whole consider the day’s event as another milestone in the quest to develop effective and efficient transportation system and its related infrastructure assets which are the backbone and enabler of national economic growth and development.

She explained that the “historic events is one of the outcomes of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of CCECC, a major contractor in our ministry on railway and related projects development. The Federal Government of Nigeria, mindful of the impacts of infrastructure in national development, formulated an infrastructure master plan, and the 25-year railway modernisation is part of Nigeria’s 25 years infrastructure master plan that is designed to ensure it’s a model transport connectivity in addition to linking every state capital.

“The actualisation of this goal requires huge investments from the government. And Mindful of the fact that railway infrastructure is the bedrock of socio economic developments, the government decided to widen the scope of participation of the railway development through the reassignment of railway from the exclusive list to the concurrent, thereby enabling both state and federal governments to participate in railway development in the country”.

The Permanent Secretary also noted that the successful construction and planned commencement of the academic activities in the new University of Transportation in Daura, Katsina State is another CSR contribution of CCECC towards the growth of human capital for the development, growth, And sustainability of railway assets in Nigeria.

Managing Director CCECC

“This cannot be possible without knowledge sharing and Indigenous professionals who would not only develop required requisite skills, but would also domesticate acquired knowledge, like two or three of them have said that they had come back home and were ready to grow their career in Nigeria.

“The federal government upon realization of the need to have indigenous railway experts in line with the global trend in the railway industry, introduced the local content policy with the aim of promoting indigenous participation in the railway development and operations among others. To achieve the aim and objective of the policy, the former president in 2018 introduced an advocacy for enhanced local content in Nigeria infrastructure development based on the Nigeria-Chinese bilateral agreements.

“Accordingly, various steps were taken by the Ministry of Transportation towards effective implementation of these policies. The steps taken include, but not limited to, the following :- the engagement of Nigerian engineers, technicians and craftsmen on the job training programme been organised by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and our consultants. We also carry out constant monitoring and evaluation of the activities of the contractors and consultants to ensure actual transfer of knowledge through the most robust knowledge sharing techniques. 190 students like you have heard were released to different programmes in the Republic of China to study rail and other transportation related courses and these were sponsored 100% by CCECC as part of their CSR,” she explained further.

Noting that the laudable railway projects completed and ongoing across the country can only be actualized and sustained if the prerequisite manpower and technical know how to manage and maintain them, Dr Ajani reminded the returning graduates of the onerous task of revitalising the Nigeria railway industry.

“It is therefore imperative for all our returning graduates, especially those with exceptional performance during their studies, to understand that you have critical role to play in the revitalisation of the Nigeria railway industry. As such, we consider this opportunity that was granted to you by the federal government as a call to serve your own country, Nigeria.

“At this juncture, I want to say a big thank you to CCECC, the Chinese government for your efforts towards making this initiative a great success.
We look forward to mobilisation of another batch for this critical programme. And we assure you of our continuous cooperation towards transforming the railway sector for better performance and productivity in line with the global trends in railway development,” she said.

Congratulating the new graduates, their parents, and and countries for the achievement in his welcome address, the managing director, CCECC Nigeria Limited, Mr David Wang, explained how the programmes are run with the Chinese universities.

He said: “Starting in 2018, CCECC has been working with the government of Nigeria, Central South University, and Chang’an University in China in selecting and sponsoring young Nigerians to further their education in China.

The Ambassador in a pose with a Nigerian official and two of the returning graduates.

“In 2018, the first batch of 45 students who started their five-year undergraduate program in Ahmed Bello University were selected to attend the 3+2 programme, which means that after 3-year study in Nigeria, they will be sponsored by CCECC to continue their study in Central South University, China. Among these 45 young talents, 25 students have already returned to Nigeria after their graduation in 2020. 20 continued their study for master’s degree, and now those 20 students are also standing here after their successful graduation this year.

“Also, in the same year of 2018, CCECC started its 1+4 cooperation program with Chang’an University, China. Under this programme, the students sponsored by CCECC would attend 1-year language study in China before they are officially enrolled into their 4-year study as undergraduate students in Chang’an University. Till now, I am proud to announce that up to 122 students have benefited from this programme, 40 of whom are standing here, with their bachelor’s degree in hand.

“Dear guests, today witnesses a joyous moment, as we are not only celebrating the achievements of these students, but also the spirit of international cooperation and collaboration. It is through this joint effort between CCECC, the government and the universities that we have changed the lives of these young people and enhanced their capabilities.

“For these students, their journey has been filled with countless hours of study, overcoming cultural barriers, and embracing new experiences. However, they have not only excelled academically but have also learned the values of resilience, adaptability, and a global perspective.”

Also at the event, representatives of Nigerian students delivered speeches, reviewing their study in China. They appreciated the Chinese and Nigerian governments for their support, CSU and Chang’an University for providing quality education, and CCECC Nigeria Limited for promoting and bankrolling the programme.

According to them, they not only learned professional knowledge and skills in China, but also experienced Chinese culture and enhanced their understanding and friendship with China. They expressed their wish to contribute to the infrastructure construction and socio-economic development of Nigeria.

One of the returning graduates, a fruit of the collaboration between ABU, Zaria, during the tenure of its immediate past Vice Chancellor, Professor Ibrahim Garba, and CSU, China, Iliyas Yushau, who spoke to Education Monitor, said it had been a mixed grill of experiences but awesome on the whole.

“It has all been a mixture of experiences. It’s a good experience having been in a different culture, different tradition, and meeting people with different way of life, as well as having the opportunity to learn, especially what took us to China – railway engineering and associated courses. So it’s been a wonderful experience,” he said.

He avowed that he and the others were prepared to give their best to the country, even as he stressed the need for them have their hands on the plough outside the classroom for practical experience.

“Yeah, we’re prepared to give our best. As you know, learning is a continuous process, so we are ever ready to advance our knowledge by acquiring more practical experiences that would make us better in the railway sector,” he said.

He also shed light on how he emerged one of the beneficiaries saying, “Prior to my going to China, I was a student of civil engineering at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. After completing my three years programme, I was among the beneficiaries of this scholarship collaboration between ABU Zaria China Civil Engineer Construction Company CCECC who we were selected 45 of us to go to Central South University in China to complete our remaining two years of degree programme, whereby we acquired certificates from both ABU Zaria and China’s Central South University. We acquired a first degree certificate first from ABU, and then another degree certificate from China.”

Speaking further, Yushau said, “I’d like to express my deepest appreciation to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that of the People’s Republic of China for their unwavering support to ensure that the programme was successful. Though it was not without its challenges, but overall, it had been a wonderful experience and we are most grateful for the experience and honour.”

It would be recalled that the 3+2 Joint-Double degree programme at ABU was conceived in 2017 under a 5 year MoU signed by then Vice Chancellor Ibrahim Garba with China Central South University, where China’ railway technology was invented with facilitation of the CCECC. The joint programme which has involved 105 students of the university and 15 staff, has produced over 80 first degree holders, and 40 masters and PhD degrees.

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