Have you ever imagined that perhaps, the Republic of Niger could be Nigeria’s 37th state unknown to majority of our citizens?
Have you also imagined that key persons in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration may not be Nigerians afterall, but Niger-ians?
This may be happening before your very eyes. How?
The Federal Government had barely 6 weeks ago commenced the construction of a 284-kilometer Kano-Maradi rail line to connect the states of Kano, Jigawa, and Katsina, with Maradi, the second-largest city in the Republic of Niger is expected at the cost of $1.959billion.
According to the President, “the project, when completed, would serve import and export of goods for Niger Republic and other countries in the sub-region through Nigerian ports. The country would earn revenue through expansion of trade and commerce, while the people of Niger Republic will benefit from ease of transportation logistics at affordable cost in their import and export business.”
Two weeks later, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) would award the contract of N9.5 billion for a 47-kilometer road from Balle Kurdella in Sokoto to the border in Niger Republic. This is aside a second contract for the construction of 50-kilometer road from Kunya in Jigawa to the country at the cost of N19.76 billion under the guise of promoting trade among African countries.
Our burning enquiries must begin by asking what the volume of trade is between both countries and of what economic importance are these projects to us a people as compared with the East-West Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Second Niger Bridge and even the Lagos-Kano Rail line?
In June 2020, the Federal Government awarded a contract for the construction of 614-km gas pipeline from Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano with eventual termination in Morocco through Niger Republic worth $2.8bn.
By November 2020, the Federal Government proceeded to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the Republic of Niger for the transportation (via pipeline) of what it described as “excess petroleum products” from the Soraz Refinery in Zinder (Niger) into the most proximate Nigerian city. This the government says will lead to the development of a depot.
How can we forget that two governors from Niger Republic, Issa Moussa of Zinder State (where the “refinery is situated) and Zakiri Umar of Maradi State (where the Kano rail line is headed), participated in the APC 2019 Presidential campaign rally in Kano?
To crown it, the Presidency Wednesday, announced the first phase of the on-going Outer Southern Expressway (OSEX) in Abuja has been named the outgoing President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou. The same leader who had in 2016 (alongside other politicians in their country) used Buhari’s pictures as a sign of their integrity to convince voters.
Of course, President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday, 16th March, been honoured with Niger Republic’s highest national award, Grand Croix Des Ordre National Du Niger, by their President. Guess why he deserved it?
President Mahamadou Issoufou said the highest national award of his country was bestowed on Buhari because of his “fraternity, vigour, patriotism and determination to move Africa forward, starting from the West Coast.”
The Republic of Niger is known to be one of the landlocked countries in West Africa and no one needs a soothsayer to spell out the economic implications for such a territory.
It’s obvious that President Buhari’s mission is to help them but should this be at the expense of our own economy? And to those around the President, is it still Nigeria first or anything goes under the guise of loyalty and name of politicking?
How buoyant is Nigeria to play a ‘Big Brother Africa’ role at this time when it is yet to liberate its peoples across the federation from the shackles of poverty and underdevelopment (especially in the same Northern Nigeria where these projects are being carried out?
It has become confounding to even the wise how we can hardly pinpoint if we are in a military dictatorship or democratic dispensation Don’t ‘we the people’ have a say in how this commonwealth should be expended? Where is the National Assembly?
This unholy obsession with the Niger Republic must stop now!
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.