- There is a growing controversy over the federal government's attitude towards its scale of preference in the implementation of reforms
- Nigeria at present is going through one of the most turbulent times since the beginning of the post-military era
- Despite all the shortcomings in economy, security and foreign exchange, the Nigerian government still renders aid to Niger Republic
News has emerged this week of the release of N1.4 billion dollars to purchase vehicles for the Republic of Benin by the Nigerian government.
A popular social media influencer, David Hundeyin had initially exposed the gesture on social media.
Nigerian govt confirms report on SUV to Niger
While the report was still generating outrage across the country, the nation's minister of finance, Budget, and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed admitted that Niger was supported by Nigeria through the provision of some SUVs worth 1.4 billion.
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According to her, the 15 vehicles supplied would support the fight against insecurity in that country.
Niger is a neighbouring country that shares boundaries with the president's hometown, Katsina State.
Nigerians kick over purchase of SUV for Niger Republic
Many had argued in the past that President Buhari's relationship with the country is beyond just being an ordinary neighbour, stating that the president may have a more direct or blood relationship with the country. The presidency has since dismissed this allegation.
Buhari and Niger Republic
A retired army colonel, Tony Nyiam, had revealed earlier in the year that President Muhammadu Buhari had never dismissed his Niger Republic origin.
Nyiam said this in a recorded interview with Arise TV, in which a snippet was shared by a former presidential aide, Reno Omokri in March.
Similarly, a former aviation minister, Femi Fani Kayode had alleged that Buhari may have another country of origin.
The former aviation boss had in a tweet, claimed that “When a non-Nigerian (Buhari) accuses a bona fide Nigerian of being a foreigner, you begin to appreciate why those that have insisted on calling Nigeria a zoo may have a point." Fani Kayode who is currently a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was at the time defending Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after Buhari alleged the former vice president was from Cameroon.
Nigeria supplies electricity to Niger
Legit.ng recalls that this would not be the first gesture of President Buhari to the Republic of Niger. The country had in the past enjoyed infrastructures built for them by the Nigerian leader.
Our finding reveals that Nigeria supplies electricity to the Republic of Benin, though with the claim that the country pays for the supply.
However, our correspondent gathered that the energy consumed by the country in 2021 was not paid for. The authority said the country was one of the West African countries that could not pay their bills due to the effect of COVID-19 on their economy.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission in December 2021 said that:
"No payment was made by these customers during the quarter under review. It is hoped that as the economy of these customers improves post-COVID-19 lockdown so that they will resume the settlement of their bills in full.”
Special consideration for Nigeriens, hardship for Nigerians
But Nigerians within the period never stopped paying their bills even as there was no such effort to support citizens in the payment of their electricity bills. Consequently, many had considered the gesture to the Niger Republic and other African countries without special consideration for Nigerian citizens as unjust.
Tariffs on electricity had doubled since the end of the COVID-19 era. In May, payment on electricity was again reviewed upwardly. Despite the continuous increment in tariff, power remains unstable.
But a source told Legit.ng that the lines supplying power to the Niger Republic from Nigeria never go off. Comparing the power situation in Nigeria to that of Niger, the source said there is no comparison as the country's major cities enjoy stable power supply despite that they derive their energy source from Nigeria.
Nigeria constructing railway lines to Niger Republic
There are also reports that the Nigerian government is constructing a railway line from Kano State to the Niger Republic. The report claims the construction work which is ongoing is a 284-kilometer railway line linking Kano-Katsina with Maradi, the second-largest city in Niger.
Justifying the construction being undertaken by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi said the essence was to boost business in West Africa and Nigeria.
According to the minister at an event in Kano:
“It is simple, currently, the Niger Republic is exporting through the Benin Republic. All the countries that are landlocked in the West African region are exporting through Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. Why are they not exporting through Nigeria?” the minister said.
Nigeria/Niger Oil pipeline
In 2018, Nigeria and Niger signed a pact on the construction of oil pipelines and a refinery. The budget for the project gulps 2 billion United States dollars.
Currently, Nigeria's refineries are down. Despite Buhari's promise of reviving Nigeria's abandoned refineries, the nation has continued to import refined products to date, causing more hardship for Nigerians. The pump price of petrol has just been increased.
Poor infrastructure making commerce difficult in Nigeria
Nigeria's mainstay of the economy apart from oil is agriculture. And the majority of Nigerian farmers and traders have lamented the poor state of the country's roads as well as dilapidated and abandoned railway lines. This has further raised the suspicion that rather than for economic reasons, the construction of railway lines to the Niger Republic was for political reasons.
Nigerians believe that the country needs internal economic growth through interstate business against trade within the sub-region.
An economist, Anthony Achogwa told Legit.ng that:
"For an economy to survive, it must take care of loopholes l internally before thinking of regional economy. Nigerians must succeed first. We know that Africa is the central piece of Nigeria's foreign policy, but Nigeria must take care of Nigerians first.
"I don't see why we should be constructing railway lines to other African countries, buying them SUVs for security reasons, while our roads are in terrible states and our internal security is zero. How do you justify that?" he said.
Similarly, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, while condemning the gesture said:
"The relationship between Nigeria and the Niger Republic is rather fueling terrorism. Someone told me that the monies being paid as ransom to terrorists in Nigeria are being used to develop Niger as new houses are emerging in the country."
Onwubiko was lamenting that the government's support to Niger where it purchased some SUVs for the country.
The only reward for Nigeria's support
The only reward to Nigeria for its selfless support of Niger was the awards doled out to prominent Nigerians, including those in president Buhari's cabinet.
Six Nigerians, on Wednesday, received the Niger Republic’s highest civilian awards, the Order of Merit of Niger and Great Master of National Awards. The award was for their roles in the promotion of better relations between Nigeria and the Niger Republic.
Those awarded were the President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote; and the President of BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabi’u; Governors Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State.
Also awarded were Senior Special Assistant (Household and Domestic Affairs) to the President, Sarki Abba, and the State Chief of Protocol, Lawal Kazaure.
As controversy continues to trail the recent gesture by the Nigerian government amid the current hardship, it's yet to be seen how the government will respond with a similar gesture in support of suffering Nigerians.
Meanwhile, the Buhari government has claimed that several programs are in place to support vulnerable Nigerians.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, food and other items were distributed to Nigerians, though some had claimed they were stored away from Nigerians.
Lamido Sanusi lambasts President Buhari’s govt over poor state of economy
In another development, ex-CBN governor and ex-Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II has criticised politicians for their failure to salvage the current state of Nigeria.
Sanusi said political office holders at the helm of affairs are to be blamed for the terrible state of the country.
He stated that the challenges facing Nigeria are more than what the country faced back in 2015.