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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Nigeria
Switzerland recognized the Federal Republic of Nigeria on October 1, 1960. The two countries established diplomatic relations shortly afterwards and Switzerland opened an Embassy already one year later. Before the Second World War, only a few Swiss citizens used to live in Nigeria. In the 1960s, the Swiss community grew to over 300 persons and had its peak in 1977 – when the Swiss multinational company Union Trading Company (UTC) and its local branch, UTC Nigeria, employed more than 5000 persons in Nigeria - with around 800 Swiss citizens living in the country. Currently, there are around 250 Swiss citizens resident in Nigeria, most of them in Lagos.
On the diplomatic level, Swiss-Nigerian relations also grew stronger: The countries negotiated three bilateral agreements – on air services, on immigration matters and on investment promotion and protection. The close relationship between the two countries is also reflected in the high-ranking visits of the past few years: The Swiss Foreign Minister, Mrs Micheline Calmy-Rey, visited Abuja in 2009, and she and her counterpart, Mr Henry Odein Ajumogobia, met in New York in May 2010. On May 14, 2010, the Deputy State Secretary of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs met the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if Nigeria for political consultations. They agreed to hold the next round of consultations in Bern, Switzerland, in 2011.
In the framework of the bilateral relationship, Switzerland and Nigeria are working on priority areas: both administrations are constantly undertaking efforts to promote their commercial and economic cooperation. The two governments, which have been enjoying an excellent cooperation in migration issues in the past, are negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding for a Migration partnership. By supporting small scale projects in the field of human rights and good governance, Switzerland contributes to the implementation of the development policy of the Nigerian government.
As a major international financial centre, Switzerland has a fundamental interest in ensuring that illicitly acquired assets do not find a safe haven in its banks. Among the countries where assets stolen by the Abacha clan have been identified, Switzerland has been the first country to start returning them to Nigeria and has returned by far the highest amount (USD 700 millions).