By Reno Omokri
Any follower of Nigeria’s federal budget since May 29, 2015, may be forgiven if they thought that Nigeria, under General Buhari, had performed a Hitler style Anschluss, and had annexed Niger Republic as part of Nigeria, because of Buhari’s huge spending (of Nigeria’s money), to improve infrastructure in Niger Republic.
While Seme Border-Badagry express road, the only road currently linking Nigeria to other West African coastal nations, remains in ruins and looks as if it has been bombed, General Buhari had spent huge resources developing road networks between Nigeria and Niger Republic.
On February 26, 2020, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, announced that the government had awarded a contract for the construction of two roads from Sokoto and Jigawa States up to Niger Republic, at the cost of $81 million dollars.
Ironically, Mr Fashola is the former Governor of Lagos state, who once publicly stated that he was ashamed of the Seme Border-Badagry. That road is of immense economic importance to Nigeria. In terms of revenue, more than 55% of Nigeria’s intra West African trade passes through that border, compared with less than 5% for the border with Niger Republic. So, it is curious, very curious, that General Buhari is so focused on the Niger Republic.
Let us examine some more facts.
In 2015, while he was campaigning, General Buhari promised not only to get Nigeria’s refineries working again but to build new ones.
Today, after five years, none of Nigeria’s refineries are working. Even worse, fuel importation into Nigeria has worsened under this administration. They have not built any of the modular refineries they promised to build.
Yet, this same government that has abandoned the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry to rot, very curiously announced on April 24, 2018, that it was collaborating with Niger Republic, and providing most of the funding, for a new $2 billion refinery, to be built in, wait for it, Niger Republic!
What is going on here? This beggars belief! Nigeria is the largest oil and gas exporter in Africa, with a comparative advantage over any West African nation to build a refinery. Yet, she chooses to build a refinery in a country with less comparative advantage than her in the refinery business?
I could not make this up if I were a writer of fiction!
And then the icing on the cake is the recent announcement by the Buhari administration that they have awarded a contract to build a $1.9 billion railway from Nigeria to Niger Republic.
I am saying what I am about to say with all seriousness. General Buhari should please tell Nigerians what is so special to him about Niger Republic, that in this time of dwindling resources, when our foreign debt has risen from $7 billion in 2015, to $31 billion in 2020 (because of his knack for borrowing), that he must award a $1.9 billion contract to build a railway from Katsina to Niger Republic.
What is the economic necessity and urgency? Nigerians remember how, as military head of state, General Buhari in 1985, voted against Peter Onu, an Igbo man, who was Nigeria’s candidate for the post of Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity, in favour of Ide Oumarou, a Fulani from Niger Republic. Is Buhari from Niger Republic as has been rumoured?
For those who do not know or have forgotten about this incident, I urge you to read up about it in the book titled ‘The OAU: Reality Or Fiction’ by Ibrahim Dagash.
Mr Dagash wrote about how his fellow African leaders were stunned by the bizarre action of General Muhammadu Buhari, who could not hide his glee and began publicly celebrating the victory of Oumarou, over his own nation’s candidate, a victory that he engineered.
The late Tanzanian leader, Julius Nyerere, was so outraged that he approached Buhari and upbraided him. It was a show of shame. This was more so as Dr. Onu was much more qualified and competent than Ide Oumarou. He had been Nigeria’s ambassador to Germany and had worked as a diplomat in Moscow, and had advised Nigeria’s previous governments.
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