PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has been conferred with Niger Republic’s highest national award the Grand Croix Des Ordre National Du Niger in recognition of his services to the country by the outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou.
Rather controversially, President Buhari’s six years in office in office have been dogged with an unwholly romance with Niger that has included him building a railway line to the remote town of Maradi. Apart from this inexplicable $2m investment, two regional governors from Niger Republic, Governor Issa Moussa of Zinder Province and Governor Zakiri Umar of Maradi Province attended a Nigerian presidential rally in 2019, fully decked in All Progressive Congress regalia.
In addition, during President Buhari’s tenure, Nigeria signed a memorandum of understanding with Niger Republic for the transportation and storage of petrol. Under the terms of the agreement, Niger Republic’s Soraz Refinery in Zinder, some 260km from the Nigerian border, which has an installed refining capacity of 20,000 barrels per day, will supply Nigeria with petrol.
Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina, revealed that President Buhari congratulated President Issoufou for the successful completion of his second tenure and winning the prestigious 2020 Mo Ibrahim prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Describing him as a worthy African leader, Mr Adesina said that President Buhari felicitated with the outgoing leader for upholding the tenets of democracy, improving the economy of his country and consolidating the good relations that existed between both countries.
President Buhari said: “I also congratulate the good people of Niger for the successful conduct of a free, fair and credible election. The achievements during your tenure as president have been widely acclaimed including through your recent award of the Mo Ibrahim Prize.
“You have earned the respect and affection of your people at home and your brethren across the border in Nigeria. Also, Nigeria-Niger relations are based on a long common border and shared cultural and historical roots and relations between the two countries have, over the years, been very cordial and fraternal, there is a spirit of good neighbourliness between us.
“Nigeria’s borders with Niger have always been largely peaceful and there have been no serious border conflicts between the two countries. Each country has based its diplomatic relations upon non-interference in the internal affairs of the other. It is therefore gratifying to state that Niger has remained one of the most trusted and reliable neighbours of Nigeria.”
According to President Buhari, the cultural similarity between both countries, which include common languages such as Hausa, Kanuri and Fulfude and a common border of one 1,500 kilometres, further strengthened good relations. He added that Nigeria and Niger refused to be divided and alienated by the artificial borders imposed by the former colonial powers.
He said the emergence of President Issoufou in 2011 marked a watershed in the relationship between the two countries as the frontier of cooperation expanded and mutual trust further strengthened. While congratulating the president-elect, Mohamed Bazoum, for winning the elections, President Buhari also said some of Nigeria’s prestigious military institutions like the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, the National War College, Abuja and the Police Academy in Gwoza and Kano have provided training for the security officers of the neigbouring country.
President Issoufou thanked President Buhari and all Nigerians for the support he received as leader of his country for 10 years, particularly during his time as Ecowas chairman, describing Nigeria as a second home. He said the highest national award of his country was bestowed on President Buhari because of his fraternity, vigour, patriotism and determination to move Africa forward.