Udoma, Eminent Statesman, Earns Japan’s Highest National Honour

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Eminent Statesman, distinguished legal expert and former Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma has emerged as the first Nigerian to bag the highest honour available in Japan: The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver star. The announcement which was made on Sunday by the Japanese embassy in Nigeria, stated that the medal was on account of the numerous and significant  contributions made over the years by Udoma which had shored up relations, including bilateral trade and investments between the people and government of Japan and Nigeria.

It is to Udoma’s credit, while serving as Minister of Budget and National Planning during President Buhari’s first term that Japan to become the third highest donor to Nigeria in terms of statistical number of developmental projects in 2015, a statement made available by the Japanese embassy on its website had said while commending the the former minister for his outstanding accomplishments and nobility.

Born on 26th February, 1954 to the legendary family of late Sir(Dr) Egbert Udo Udoma (a former Chief Justice of Uganda, former Governor-General of Uganda, former Justice of the Supreme Court, first black man to earn a PhD in Law from Oxford University, first Nigerian to bag a PhD in Law in 1944, former pre-independence federal parliamentarian, Knight of the British Empire, Chairman of the 1978 Constituent Assembly, among others ) Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, after receiving his secondary education at  Kings College in Lagos, proceeded to the Oxford University, UK, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Law degree in 1976; B.C.L degree in Jurisprudence in 1977 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978. In 1983, he founded the Law firm Udo Udoma and Belo-Osagie, which grew professionally and most rapidly to become one of the top ten leading law firms in contemporary Nigeria. Highly respected on account of his towering professional accomplishments, excellent background and pioneering role in the special field of Commercial Law in Nigeria, Udoma has held many top-level positions in both the private and public sectors. According to many, his records have been most outstanding. He chaired the Board of many blue-chip companies, including Union Bank, UAC, etc.

Before he was appointed in the last administration as a cabinet minister, Udoma had previously served as a Senator representing Akwa-Ibom South Senatorial District between 1999 and 2003, following Nigeria’s return to democratic rule. At the on-set of Buhari’s first term, The New Diplomat recalls that the provision of stable power supply was a key component of the Economic and Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020), a blueprint conceived and formulated under the former minister’s supervision. In 2018, Udoma’s leadership foresight led to Nigeria and Japan signing a grant aid project for Rehabilitation and Reinforcement of the Lagos power Transmission Substation.

Senator Udoma, who signed the pact on behalf of the federal government had hinted at the time that the project was donated by the Japanese Government at the cost of $21.088 million. Also, his interventions made the country to sign an Exchange of Note for Emergency Improvement of Electricity Supply in Abuja with the government of Japan, a project that has been completed and now contributing to power supply in Abuja. Japan had also played a role in the design of a master plan study on National Power System Development in Nigeria.

Also, while seeking for the speedy implementation of the ERGP — and an improved healthcare system as one of the key drivers of it — Udoma’s tactfulness  made Nigeria and Japan to sign an agreement on a project involving $14.2 million grant to strengthen the diagnostic capacity of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The key investment opportunities drawn to the country with notable contributions coming from the former minister were in the area of Power, Health, Agriculture, Infrastructures and Education through Japan’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) programmes.

Udoma, who has distinguished himself as an astute lawyer and a boardroom think-tank was named alongside other foreign recipients of the 2019 Autumn Imperial Decorations awarded in the name of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. While eulogizing Senator Udoma for his beneficence dating back to years, the Japanese embassy in the citation for the award had said: “Senator Udoma Udo Udoma has played an important role for many years in improving the Japan-Nigeria relationship. In his role as the Minister of Budget and National Planning of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 2015 to 2019, Senator Udoma has been a strong proponent of Japan’s official development assistance to Nigeria.

“In 2015, Japan was the 3rd largest donor in Nigeria, and a number of development cooperation projects related to health and infrastructure were implemented during his tenure. Udoma’s contributions also extended to the promotion of bilateral trade and Japanese investment in Nigeria as a way to create jobs and generate wealth for both economies.Senator Udoma’s role in deepening the economic and social ties between Japan and Nigeria was also prominent when he served as the Honorary Consul of Japan at Lagos from 2011 to 2015. He supported the economic relationship through closer business-to-business ties. This role contributed to the advancement and expansion of Japanese companies’ presence and investment in Nigeria,” the Japanese Government said.

The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star to be given to the former Minister is one of the Orders under the Order of the Rising Sun, established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji. The Order is only awarded to those who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in their field and development in the welfare or preservation of the environment.

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