In 1963, the Government of Finland opened the first Finnish Embassy in Sub-Saharan Africa in Lagos, Nigeria. Only three years earlier, Nigeria had gained independence from Great Britain. One week after Nigeria had become the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on 7 October 1960 Finland recognized the country.
The diplomatic relations between Finland and Nigeria were established on 18 January, 1963. Soon after, Finland opened its Embassy in the capital of Nigeria. The Embassy was situated on the tenth floor in the Western Union Building at Broad Street, Lagos Island. The Embassy had its offices on Broad Street until the 1980s.
On 26 January, 1981 the Embassy signed a land property lease with the State of Lagos. New office premises were constructed at 13 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island. The office building was finalized in 1983. The Embassy functioned at these premises until it was moved to the new capital of Abuja on 1 March, 2004. The property in Lagos was sold. Currently, the Embassy is located at 9 Iro Dan Musa Street, in the district of Asokoro, Abuja.
In September 1963, Mr. Jaakko Lyytinen, the first Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria represented his credentials to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Governor-General of Nigeria. After the official ceremony, Mr. Lyytinen and Dr. Azikiwe started to discuss long-distance running and amateur boxing as Dr. Azikiwe had visited Finland during the Summer Olympic Games of 1952.
During the first year of operations, the Ambassador and two diplomats focused on consolidating the functions of the Embassy. The starting point for nurturing relations between Finland and Nigeria was extraordinary, because both countries followed the policy of non-alignment. Another important factor for our good bilateral relations was the fact that Finland had opened its first Embassy in Sub-Saharan Africa specifically in Nigeria.
The exchange of visits was rather modest at the beginning. However, some Nigerian students received grants from the Ministry of Education in Finland and travelled to study at the University of Helsinki. There were some occasional visits, such as the football match trip to Lagos, in 1964, by football players from a local Finnish team called Lahden Reipas.
In the 1960s, most of Nigerian trade was still under the old colonial trade chambers, however, Finland, managed to get a share of the developing markets of Nigeria. In the autumn of 1965, a paperbag factory of Rosenlew was opened in Lagos. At the inauguration ceremony, the Minister of Financial Planning of Nigeria gave a statement emphasizing the interest of Nigeria to increase its cooperation with countries like Finland and hoped to increase Finnish investments in Nigeria.
In 1966, a group of military officers rose into power in Nigeria. The following summer, Mr. Olavi Saikku, the second Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria arrived to represent his credentials to Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi. Some days after the credential ceremony, there was a new military coup d'état and the Biafran war started. In those difficult circumstances, the Embassy concentrated on carrying out only its basic duties.
In 1973, Finland decided to appoint Nigeria as one of the main countries to receive Finnish development aid. The development cooperation agreement was adopted in 1975. Unfortunately, the unstable political situation in Nigeria had an impact on the development aid categories which were consequently changed. Yet, development cooperation continued for some time through UNICEF and FAO with the aim to conclude the unfinished projects in the health care sector and in forest industry.
In 1978, Nigeria returned back to civilian rule. This resulted in the revitalization of the bilateral relations between Finland and Nigeria and that time period was full of optimism. The Finnish community had grown tenfold in 1960s and contacts at all levels between Finland and Nigeria had increased. This was a conducive environment to develop trade relations. An agreement on economic, industrial, scientific and technologial cooperation was signed in 1981. To a large extent, the agreement remained unimplemented, because in Nigeria the time period from 1983 onwards was characterized by serious political challenges and the military government. The European Union and Finland as one of its Member States imposed sanctions on Nigeria starting in 1995. These sanctions were lifted once Nigeria moved to democracy in 1999.
In recent years, the bilateral relations between Finland and Nigeria have been re-energized. H.E. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria paid a state visit to Finland on 16 - 19 November, 2004. H. E. Madame Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland visited Nigeria on 8 - 10 March, 2009.
The investment protection agreement between Finland and Nigeria was signed on 21 June, 2005.
Text: Antti Vuojolainen/ MoFA
|Mr. Jaakko Lyytinen, Ambassador||1963-1966|
|Mr. Olavi Saikku, Ambassador||1966-1969|
|Mr. Olli Auero, Ambassador||1969-1971|
|Mr. Ensio Helaniemi, Ambassador||1971-1973|
|Mr. Erkki Hedmansson, Ambassador||1973-1976|
|Mr. Aarno Arola, Ambassador||1976-1981|
|Mr. Bo Ådahl, Ambassador||1981-1985|
|Mr. Vilho Koiranen, Ambassador||1985-1989|
|Mr. Esko Kunnamo, Ambassador||1989-1992|
|Mr. Heikki Latvanen, Ambassador||1992-1995|
|Mr. Hannu Ripatti, Chargé d'Affaires a.i.||1996-1998|
|Mr. Eero Saarikoski, Ambassador||1999-2003|
|Ms. Anna-Liisa Korhonen, Ambassador||2003-2007|
|Mr. Erik Ulfstedt, Ambassador||2007-2008|
|Ms. Anneli Vuorinen, Ambassador||2008-2011|
|Ms. Riitta Korpivaara, Ambassador||2011-2014|
|Ms. Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury, Ambassador||2014-|