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Why Pres. BUHARI Is So Passionate About NIGER Republic

When the news of President Buhari’s allocation of funds, about N1.4b hit the newspapers and online blogs, Nigerians raised eyebrows and condemned the president for earmarking such an amount for a neighbouring country, when the economy of Nigeria is haemorrhaging.

About two weeks ago, it was reported that the Federal Government approved the purchase of 10 vehicles at N1,145,000,000 for the Niger Republic to boost the country’s security with Nigeria. While some financial analysts see the decision as a waste, others believe it’s a welcome development. The latter group insists that the first step in facing insecurity is to strengthen the borderline and build a strong relationship with all border countries. Understandably, many have expressed their reservations about the action of the president, pigeonholing the approval to cronyism for his foreign Fulani kinsmen across the border. However, many overlook the fact that what Buhari has done may have been in the country’s best interest; to wit, to keep brotherly relations with a neighbour.

President Buhari’s gesture to Niger could also be considered likewise, as Niger has a border of 1,608 kilometres with Nigeria. Niger is bordered by Libya to the North-East, Chad to the east, Nigeria to the south, Benin and Burkina Faso to the South-West, Mali to the west, and Algeria to the North-West. Also recall that in 2021, a retired army colonel, Tony Nyiam, said in an interview that President Muhammadu Buhari had publicly revealed he is from the Niger Republic.

In an interview he granted to Arise TV, he was quoted as; “In one of the briefings, when he was briefing us, he openly told us that most of his family are from Niger and that he is a Nigerian officer and that he owes allegiance to Nigeria.

“I admired Buhari then, that a man whose family is partially from the Niger Republic and yet is loyal to Nigeria, this was against all the pressure given by other people that Shagari should pull out and allow the Chadians have their way, General Buhari refused,” he said.

In November 2020, the Nigerian government, through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, headed by President Buhari himself, signed a $2b refinery project to import fuel from the Niger Republic, a country that only joined the league of oil-producing countries in 2011. The Ministry of Petroleum Resources, in justifying the MoU, stated that the Soraz Refinery in Zinder, Niger Republic, has an installed capacity to produce 20,000 barrels per day while the country’s domestic requirement was just 5000 barrels per day, thereby resulting in a surplus of 15,000 barrels per day.

This is not the first time that he’s been in the news for embarking on projects that are central to the development of the Niger Republic. Two years ago, the Federal Government said it approved the extension of rail construction from Lagos-Kano-Katsina to Marradi in the Niger Republic for economic and commercial benefits.

The Buhari-led government stated that the rail extension is intended for Nigeria to take economic advantage of imports and export to the Niger Republic, Chad and Burkina-Faso which are landlocked countries.

While there were also unconfirmed reports that President Buhari shares a cultural affinity with the Republic of Niger, some are of the opinion that he’s a native of the country. What many do not know is that President Buhari is not only close to the people of the Niger Republic, but he also shares a tremendous relationship with the people and government of Chad, Cameroun and the Republic of Benin, and that’s long before he even became the President.

Buhari started shaping himself in the arena of public and international recognition in the late seventies when General Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him as the Federal Commissioner For Petroleum, a position that opened him to the diplomatic circuit of the international Oil trade.

One of the most controversial acts many have attributed to Buhari as a military leader was the report that in 1985, he voted for Niger Republic’s Idi Oumarou to be Secretary-General of the defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU) against the Nigerian-born, Peter Onu who was then the acting scribe. These are actions of a man of strong convictions and beliefs. But whether Buhari’s beliefs and actions advance the interest of Nigeria or the Niger Republic is indiscernible to many.

Beyond the bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the Niger Republic, City People found that President Mohammadu Buhari and former Nigerien President, Mahamadou Issoufou share a more cordial relationship than the office they both hold in their respective countries. In 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari named a road in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) after President Issoufou Mahamadou.

According to President Buhari, naming a landmark project after former President Isssoufou Mahamadau is a mark of deep appreciation for the maintenance of the brotherly relationship between Nigeria and the Republic of Niger and in recognition of the Nigerien President’s significant role in the promotion of peace in Africa.

In a tweet, Mahamadou said the gesture shows that his relationship with Buhari and that of both countries is “excellent”.

“My brother and friend, @MBuhari, did me the honour to call an Abuja expressway ‘Mahamadou Issoufou expressway’,” he tweeted. “This testifies, beyond our personal relations, to the excellent relations that exist between #Nigeria and #Niger. His caring touches me. I thank him very much.”

The new president of the Niger Republic, Mohamed Bazoum, is also enjoying the benevolent gesture of the Nigerian government and President Mohammadu Buhari towards the government and the people of Niger. Within the first year of President Bazoum’s assumption of office, Buhari has met him four times to discuss the issue of insecurity and how both nations can join forces to end incessant attacks, banditry, and terrorism.

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