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What’s with Buhari’s extreme romance with Niger Republic?- By Israel Ojoko

Every right-thinking Nigerian would no doubt be concerned to read that President Muhammadu Buhari approved N1.4 billion to a neighbouring country the Niger Republic for the procurement of vehicles.

I still find it hard to understand what Buhari’s relationship with Niger is other than the fact that both countries are neighbours, they share the same security challenges, and Buhari’s ancestral origin could be traced to the West African country. If there is anything more, I really wish to know.

Buhari’s body language and actions have proved far more than the above-mentioned points. Nigeria is bordered by Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon. All these countries have come under terror attacks which have attracted the presence of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) made up of a combined multinational formation, comprising units, mostly military from the affected countries.

The MNJTF is mostly funded by Nigeria. And Nigeria, being the epicentre of terrorist attacks in the region and a haven harbouring these criminal elements, should be the country needing financial help the most.

Nigeria has received financial and military support from countries like Turkey, China and the US to mention a few, to fight Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers and other perpetrators of terror, with the expectation that such support will be utilized judiciously and wisely.

But when a president, who himself needs help, goes ahead to approve N1.4 billion for the procurement of 10 luxurious SUVs out of its own scarce resources, to another country, such action is believed to be nothing but thoughtless, wasteful and misplacement of priority.

Why the priority on the Niger Republic? Chad, Cameroon and the Benin Republic are suffering the same fate as Niger, did Buhari also share the money round?

No doubt, the President has the right of office to give help to another country, but such a decision must not be taken out of emotional reasoning, especially in the face of a crumbling economy and heavy debt deficit which the nation finds itself in. It must go through the request, scrutiny and final approval of the national assembly.

President Buhari has evidently shown his bias, soft spot and weakness for Niger Republic, and it’s high time he tells Nigerians what his mission and interests are in all of this.

Buhari’s administration allows Nigeria’s four refineries that have a combined capacity of over 445,000 barrels per day to corrode but embrace Niger Republic’s 20,000 barrels daily capacity.

And come to think of it, the oil refinery in Niger is owned by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), not even the Nigerien government. Buhari’s administration agreed and signed an MoU worth two billion dollars to transport crude oil from Niger to his state in Katsina where he is building a new refinery.

Buhari has the resources to run pipelines from Nigeria through the thick forests to Niger, but cannot afford to provide the resources needed to revamp and maintain Nigeria’s pre-existing refineries. NO BE JUJU BE DAT?

What’s with Buhari’s extreme romance with Niger Republic?

In 2021, Buhari’s administration revealed its plan to construct a 284km rail line from Kano to Niger Republic and according to then minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi, the project will cost the country about $2 billion and will be funded by Nigeria through borrowing from external sources.

Why the rush and desperation to link the two countries even in the middle of security challenges in the region?

This project is premature, untimely and a waste of borrowed funds when similar projects within the country are yet to be completed and maintained. Since March 2022, the Abuja-Kaduna rail line has been suspended following the attack by terrorists who killed and abducted many. Only this week, the Nigeria Railway Corporation announced the indefinite suspension of the Lagos-Kano rail line for security reasons.

Out of the 13 billion dollars being invested on the railway system in Nigeria, the Lagos-Ibadan train route seems to be the only functional line for now. Who knows, it could also be suspended sooner than we think.

So why delve into a white elephant project when the ‘little’ ones in your hands have not been completed?

We need to know what Buhari’s extreme romance with Niger Republic is all about. Buhari gave a whooping N1.4 billion to Niger Republic to buy SUVs. How do you combat Boko Haram terrorists, banditry and kidnapping with luxury vehicles? Are these gunmen a kind of joke or are they hosting a party?

I still need to be educated by an automobile expert for a better understanding of how a luxurious SUV now has the strength and capacity to perform the same function as an armoured vehicle. I also need financial experts to educate me on how 10 vehicles will cost 1.4 billion naira. That is approximately 140 million naira for just one.

This is a country whose public debt grew to N41 trillion as of March 2022 from N39.556 trillion in December 2021.

Where did Buhari even get the money to throw around? Why did he continue to sink the country deeper and deeper into the depth of debt?

Nigerians want to know why after all these ‘freebies’, the only way Niger could pay back is to honour six Nigerians with national honours in recognition of their roles in the promotion of better relations between both countries. This is a big insult and a slap on our faces.

What is it for an average Nigerian to gain from these huge projects Buhari is planting in Niger Republic with state funds? If the overall interest is truly for Nigerians, Buhari should throw more light for our understanding.

Since Niger is now the biblical heaven where Buhari has gone to prepare a place for his children, he needs to tell Nigerians about other projects he is doing in the Republic behind our back, so that someday, if we find ourselves in that country, we will confidently walk into our father’s house where there are many mansions.

Israel Ojoko, a writer and content editor, can be reached via israelojoko14@gmail.com

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