Notre Dame University



The Lebanese Community in Nigeria: The Glue that Bonds the two Countries
LERC attends Nigeria Week in Lebanon

28 July to 2 August 2008
By Marie-José Tayah (University of Kent/LERC Research Affiliate)
With contribution from Basma Abdul Khalek (LERC Research Assistant)

The Embassy of Nigeria in Lebanon, H.E. the Ambassador Hameed Opeloyeru and the Lebanese Nigerian Friendship Association (LENIFRA) organized the Nigeria Week and the visit of the Nigerian Trade Delegation to Lebanon. The Directorate of Emigrants and the Lebanese Emigration Research Center helped organize the event, which took place during the week of July 28th-August 2nd 2008. The Lebanese Emigration Research Center (LERC) of Notre Dame University (NDU) was represented by Director Ms. Guita Hourani, Research Affiliate Ms. Marie-José Tayah-Hicks and Research Assistant Ms. Basma Abdul Khalek.

The Nigeria Week in Lebanon is meant to create an awareness of Nigeria among the various segments of the Lebanese population, including students, sportsmen, business executives and public administrators. The visit of the Nigerian Trade Delegation is intended to help the Nigerian business and executive communities interact with their Lebanese counterparts. The Trade Delegation consisted of the Nigerian Association of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) accompanied by representatives of the Ministries of Trade and Foreign Affairs. The Nigeria Week is poised to becoming an annual event.

LERC was the only academic institution invited to attend the event and the LERC Director was solicited by the Ambassador of Nigeria to moderate the Symposium on “The Role of the Lebanese Diaspora in the Socio-Economic Development of Nigeria and Lebanon” on Friday August 1st at the UNESCO Palace. Dr. Peter Folorunsho Adebayo, Nigerian national and Research Associate at LERC, was a guest speaker at the symposium.

On Monday July 28th, the Nigeria Week opened with a visit of to the Bekaa Chamber of Commerce. The Delegation was later invited to a luncheon at the residence of Honorable Anwar El-Khalil, MP, in Hasbaya (LERC was unable to attend the events of this day).

On Tuesday July 29th, the Delegation visited Southern Lebanon. On the program was a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Sidon and South Lebanon, lunch at Lebanese-Nigerian businessman Hani Safieddine’s residence and a visit to Jwaya. The tour ended with a visit to the Cana Galilee Grotto.

In his speech to the Delegation, Mr. Mohamad Al-Zaatari, President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Sidon and South Lebanon (CCIAS), expressed the interest of the association he represents in “planning a partnership agreement between NACCIMA and CCIAS, that aims to encourage the mutual investments and creates new frames for human interaction and economic cooperation.” Mr. Karim Hammoud, responsible for the development projects at the Chamber, talked about the South Business Innovation Center (SBIC) and escorted the Delegation on a tour of the laboratories of the SBIC. Following the meeting at CCIAS, Mr. Mohamed Ghaddar, member of CCIAS, invited the Delegation to a tour of his factory. The tour ended with a visit to Saleh Establishments, wheat industry.

LERC Director Ms. Guita Hourani posing with (left to right) First Deputy National President of NACCIMA Dr. Simon Chukwuemeka Okolo, National President of NACCIMA Dr. Ignatius Ijegwa Adaji, and National Vice President of NACCIMA Brig. Gen. Garba Abubakar Mohamed. (July 2008)


Ms. Hourani and Ms. Tayah with H.E. Ambassador Hameed Opeloyeru. (July 2008)

Group Picture in front of the Sidon and South Lebanon Chamber of Commerce Building in Sidon. (July 2008)

Ms. Hourani with Lebanese-Nigerian businessman, Hassib Moukarem, and other members of the Delegation visiting Ghaddar’s machinery factory. (July 2008)

The receiving party at Mr. Hani Safieddine’s residence in Tyre. (July 2008)

LERC Director with Mr. Safieddine at his residence in Tyre. (July 2008)

The Mayor of Jwaya, Mr. Sari Fadlallah, receiving H.E. Mr. Opeloyeru and Lebanese-Nigerian Mr. Hajaig in front of his residence in Jwaya. (July 2008)

From left to right: Senior members of the Nigerian Delegation, Mr. Borodo, Dr. Adaji, Mr. Mike, and Dr. Albasu posing next to the Nigeria Street sign in Jwaya. (July 2008)

On Wednesday July 30th, 2008, the Delegation visited Northern Lebanon. The trip started with a visit to Holcim, the cement factory of Chekka, followed by a visit to a factory of explosives and then to a factory specializing in the manufacture of mattresses and pillows. The Delegation later attended a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Tripoli and North Lebanon (CCIAT), where its President, Mr. Abdallah Ghandour, similarly to his CCIAS counterpart, expressed the desire of CCIAT in signing an agreement with NACCIMA. CCIAT offered the Delegation members products manufactured in Tripoli and an informative CD about CCIAT.

The Delegation at the Chamber of Commerce of the North in Tripoli. (July 2008)

After the meetings at CCIAT, a folklore troupe welcomed the Nigerian Delegation at the gates of the Meziara Club, where lunch was convened. Hundreds of Lebanese, who were born in Nigeria or are migrants to Nigeria and their offspring, attended the luncheon. The meal was prepared by Lebanese-Nigerian women of Meziara. Honorable Mr. William Zard Abou Jaoude, LENIFRA Chairman, welcomed the Delegation in a speech where he spoke of Nigeria as a place in the hearts of the Lebanese who made it their home. He so eloquently showed the will of developing the historical relationship between Nigeria and Lebanon, not only on the economic side, but also in the domains of culture and education.

El-Mir Troup presenting a folklore ritual at the entrance of Meziara Youth Club to welcome the delegation (July 2008)

Honorable Mr. Abou Jaoude welcoming the Delegation. (July 2008)

From left to right: Mr. and Mrs. Michael and Jenny Katrib, Nigerian Ambassador Mr. Opeloyeru, NACCIMA National President Dr. Adaji, and Mr. Issam Makarem, cutting the cake after the luncheon reception in Meziara. (July 2008)

Meziara also went out of its way to emphasize that the Nigeria Week was not just a nostalgic reminder of past generations but also a bold step into the future. In keeping with the theme of culture and trade, Mr. Karim Chaghoury, President of the Meziara Youth Club, stated in his welcome address the appreciation and indebtedness of all of Meziara’s sons and daughters, many of whom were born and bred in Nigeria, for the fertile and beautiful land that their parents once sought.

He pointed out that, over the years, the ties between Meziara and Nigeria had grown stronger, Nigerian colloquialisms had become part of everyday Arabic, Nigerian fashion a normal way of dress and Nigerian cuisine enjoyed regularly.

“Be it through friendships, marriages or partnerships, the children of Meziara have come to see Nigeria as an inseparable part of our lives,” he said.

“Our mutual hopes, ambitions and aspirations have paved the way for many projects, enterprises and developments in Nigeria. We pray that these mutual interests, businesses and ventures continue to develop and flourish well into the future,” he added.

Ambassador of Nigeria and his wife, the Head of the Nigerian Delegation and other members joined in to perform the Dabke. (July 2008)

On July 31, 2008, the Nigerian Trade Delegation, Nigerian Ambassador to Lebanon H.E. Mr. Hameed Opeloyeru, and the General Director of the Directorate of Emigrants Mr. Haitham Jumaa met with members of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists at the latters’ offices in Beirut.

In his welcoming note to the Nigerian Trade Delegation, the President of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists Mr. Fadi Abboud, referred to ongoing talks about a possible Lebanese-Nigerian joint venture exhibition in Nigeria. The objective of such an initiative would be to foster strong economic relations between the two countries through the identification of businessmen and of potential investment opportunities. Mr. Abboud did not exclude the possibility of launching such a process through the signing of a trade agreement between Lebanon and Nigeria to increase the existing trade relations, and to assess the real potential of the Nigerian market for manufacturing and investment.

Mr. Fadi Abboud addressing the audience.

In his speech, the President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Alhaji Bashir Borodo, insisted on the establishment of a partnership between the manufacturers of Nigeria and those of Lebanon. He also identified common problems in both countries (i.e. the relative deficit in exports of manufactured products, the high costs of production and the unfair competition). The meeting was concluded by the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Association of Lebanese Industrialists and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.

The signing of the agreement. From Left to right: Mr. Fadi Abboud, Mr. Borodo, Mr. Mike, and H.E. Mr. Opeloyeru. (July 2008)

Following the meeting at the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, the Nigerian Trade Delegation visited the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

View of the Delegation at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Beirut. (July 2008)

From left to right: H.E. Mr. Opeloyeru, Mr. Kraytem, Dr. Adaji, and Mr. Jumaa. (July 2008)

There, the President of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Lebanon Mr. Ghazi Kraytem, welcomed the Delegation and underlined the outstanding efforts of the Nigerian Ambassador to increase economic cooperation between Lebanon and Nigeria.

LERC Director Ms. Guita Hourani with Lebanese-Nigerian businessman Mr. George Nabhan who is also a member of LENIFRA. (July 2008)

In his speech, the National President of NACCIMA Dr. Ignatius Ijegwa Adaji, stated NACCIMA’s goal to contribute to the socio-economic growth and development of Nigeria. As leader of the Nigerian Delegation, Mr. Adaji expressed the need and desire for cooperation between the private sectors of both countries, especially after the visit to the three main Chambers of Commerce in Lebanon. He invited more members from the Lebanese community to invest in Nigeria and focused on the willingness of the Association to provide support and directives for serious Lebanese investors. The Federation and NACCIMA signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

The Nigerian Delegation also paid a visit to the Beirut Central District where its members were introduced to Solidere’s reconstruction plan.

Mr. Rashed (sixth from left) presenting to members of the Nigerian Delegation Solidere's reconstruction plan for Beirut Central District. (July 2008)

The trip to Beirut ended with a visit to the Investment and Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) in Beirut. The Nigerian Delegation expressed its interest in maintaining the relations with this main government organism in Lebanon in view of its role in the economic development and growth of the country. The Nigerian Trade Delegation and IDAL met over lunch, when the IDAL representative gave a quick presentation about its achievements and future projects.

Members of the Nigerian Delegation at IDAL offices in Beirut. (July 2008)

Following a quick afternoon break, the Nigerian Trade Delegation resumed its activities at a dinner reception at Le Royal Hotel in Dbaye where the Lebanese-Nigerian friendship was celebrated. Ambassador Mr. Opeloyeru gave the welcoming speech. Present were many Nigerian-Lebanese and Lebanese friends of Nigeria.

LERC Director with LENIFRA President Honorable Mr. William Zard Abou Jaoude. (July 2008)

From Left to Right: Ms. Salam Matraji, Mr. William Zard Abou Jaoude, Ms. Marie-Jose Tayah, and Mr. Georges Nabhan. (July 2008)

Honorable Mr. Abou Jaoude, Ambassador Mr. Opeloyeru and Mr. Chawki Bou Nassar cutting the Lebanon-Nigeria friendship cake. (July 2008)

On Friday July 1st, 2008, LENIFRA’s Chairman, Honorable William Zard Abou Jaoude, hosted a luncheon at his residence in Shalimar, Baabdat. Present at the reception were LENIFRA members, NACCIMA, government dignitaries, members of the Chambers of Commerce, businessmen, bankers, investors and financiers.

(Left to Right) LERC Director Ms. Guita Hourani posing with Mr. Safieddine, host Mr. Abou Jaoude, Mr. Taktouk, and Mr. Safieddine’s son Haitham. (August 2008)

In the evening of Friday August 1st, LENIFRA and NACCIMA convened at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut for a Symposium on “The Role of the Lebanese Diaspora in the Socio-economic Development of Nigeria and Lebanon” followed by a Nigerian Cultural evening with music and cuisine.

Sitting on the panel of “The Role of the Lebanese Diaspora in the Socio-economic Development of Nigeria and Lebanon” were Hon. Mr. William Zard Abou Jaoude, Chairman of LENIFRA; Dr. Sabo Abdullah Albasu, author of the book The Lebanese in Kano and Dr. Peter Folorunsho Adebayo from the University of Ilorin in Nigeria. The Director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center Ms. Guita Hourani was the moderator. LERC Research Assistants Ms. Basma Abdul Khalek, Mr. Ali Hijazi, and Mr. Elie Nabhan, and Research Affiliates Dr. Salwa Karam and Ms. Marie-Jose Tayah represented LERC.

Hon. Mr. Abou Jaoude welcomed the audience and stressed that “Friendship between two states is not enough to support relations and to nurture them. The Friendship Association has to make an inevitable decision to submit constructive and effective suggestions by and to the two countries in order to promote social, cultural and economic relations”. Hon. Mr. Abou Jaoude then mentioned the suggestions made by LENIFRA that could help to develop the socio-economic situation in Nigeria.

In her note, Ms. Hourani thanked the Nigerian Ambassador and the embassy staff for organizing the week and took a few minutes to introduce the lecturers.

Dr. Albasu presented his book The Lebanese in Kano. This was issued in 1995 and is built on archival material available in Nigeria about Lebanese immigrants in Kano. Dr. Albasu referred to the significant impact of remittances on the development of the main sending areas of Lebanon, Meziara and Jwaya. He encouraged the Lebanese-Nigerian community to make similar contributions to Nigeria. In his speech, Dr. Adebayo presented his current research project on the ‘Lebanese returnees from Nigeria, social networks and development in Lebanon’. He called for the strengthening of relations between Lebanon and Nigeria. Mr. Adebayo mentioned academic exchange programs as a way to strengthen those relationships.

The attendance praised the Lebanese in Nigeria for discretely contributing to development programs that are intended to improve the living conditions of the local population and to increase the productivity of the Nigerian economy. The attendance echoed in its various interventions the idea that Lebanese are famous for their ‘flexibility in doing businesses’.

LERC’s team, staff and researchers, (left to right) Mr. Elie Nabhan, Ms. Salwa Karam, Dr. Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous, and Ms. Basma Abdul Khalek at the Nigeria Week Photo/Arts Gallery. (August 2008)

LERC Director Guita Hourani (third from left) moderating the panel at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut. (August 2008)

Interviews with Nigeria Week participants

LERC Research Affiliate, Ms. Tayah, conducted interviews with three members of the Delegation to learn about their impressions of the visit and to see whether and to what extent they benefited from their participation in the Nigeria Week.

Mr. Salman Jide Mohamed is the President of the Nigerian Community in Lebanon . The Nigerian Community Association is a corporate member of LENIFRA.

Mr. Mohamed is a graphic designer working for a printing and publishing office in Beirut. He has been working in Lebanon since 1991.

Mr. Mohamed is very happy to welcome ‘his people’, the Nigerian Trade Delegation, here in Lebanon, and thanks Ambassador Opeloyeru for fostering strong and lasting ties between the Lebanese and the Nigerians.

Mr. Mohamed is also very appreciative of the hospitality of the Lebanese people.

Mr. Mohamad Hachem El-Husseini, also a Nigeria Week participant, is a return Lebanese-Nigerian migrant. He was born in Nigeria and is keen to welcome ‘his people’ here in Lebanon. He thanked the Ambassador for this wonderful initiative and encourages a Lebanese trade delegation to reciprocate the visit.

Mr. El-Husseini is confident that Lebanon has a lot to offer through its tourism sector. With that in mind, he encouraged the Embassy to include a visit to the Grotto of Cana and to the Grotto of Jeita in the program.

Ms. Bisi Kuku, one of the two female NACCIMA participants, is the Executive Director of Gateway Mining Company Limited. She is a member of the Association of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and part of the Nigerian Trade Delegation.

Gateway Mining Company Limited wishes to partner with a Lebanese cement manufacturer ‘to gain from their experience in management’.

Ms. Kuku also wishes for her company, the Gateway Mining Company Limited, to become a contact point for Lebanese cement manufacturers in Nigeria. Ms. Kuku added that Lebanon produces 5.5 millions in cement every year. Lebanon consumes 2 millions of this cement and the rest is exported.

Gateway Mining can help export this cement to Nigeria’, Ms. Kuku suggested. Gateway Mining Company Limited extracts a variety of stones (i.e. bauxite, silicon, copper, dolomite marble, zircon sand, quartz and granite chips) that can be sold to Lebanon.