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Father Christmas In Town Early, By Kazeem Akintunde

But for the exposè by Sahara Reporters, the purchase of 10 brand new SUVs by President Muhammadu Buhari for his Fulani brothers in Niger Republic would have remained a secret, without Nigerians getting to know that their President has decided to become Father Christmas to our neigbour, again.

For a government to approve N1.145 billion to buy the latest Land Cruiser jeep for senior government officials in neigbouring West African countries when millions of Nigerians go to bed hungry most nights due to no fault of theirs – with many no longer able to afford a loaf of bread at N1, 000 – goes to shows that we have a very clueless government in power.

Forget the fact that some Nigerians are defending the purchase. This is a government that does not care whether its citizens survive the harsh economic downturn after going through serious mental ordeal of surviving daily from marauding kidnappers who have turned kidnapping for ransom to business.

The Federal Government, as far back as February 2022, through the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, approved N1, 145,000,000 for the purchase of 10 Toyota Land Cruiser V8 vehicles, for government officials in Niger Republic. The contract was awarded to Messrs Kaura Motors Nigeria Limited and approved by President Buhari on February 25, 2022. In order to cover up the fraudulent transaction and provide justification for the act, the government obtained Due Process Certificate of No Objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for a Direct Procurement Method.

The contract was funded from the Ministry of Finance’s 2022 Appropriation sum of N282 billion. A document titled: “Approval For The Award Of Contract For The Procurement Of Vehicles For The Republic Of Niger For Logistic Support” was raised by the ministry and presented at the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting after the President has given approval.

It reads, “The purpose of this memorandum is to seek Council’s ratification of the President’s approval for the award of Contract for the Supply and delivery of 10 Toyota Land Cruiser V8 vehicles, for the Republic of Niger, as logistic support, in favour of Messrs Kaura Motors Nigeria Limited, in the sum of N1,145,000,000.00 inclusive of 7.5% VAT, with a delivery period of one week as indicated in the table below: 2021 Model, V8 Toyota Land Cruiser: Specification: V8 Engine, Automatic Transmission, Alloy Rims, Power Steering, Power Windows, Power Door Locks, Keyless Entry, Air-Conditioner, Push Start, Airbags, High Mount Stop Light, Radio/MP3. Three (3) years or 100,000km Warranty. Delivery to Niger Republic, Flight, Logistic, Insurance & Foreign Customs Duties.

“Unit Price (N) N80,600,000.00
Total Amount (AD) (for 10 units) N806,000,000.00
Delivery to Niger Republic, Flight, Logistics, Insurance and Foreign Customs Duties – Unit Price N33,900,000.00 —(10 units) N339,000,000.00
Grand Total-N1,145,000,000.00.

What brought about the Father Christmas spree to our neigbour? The President of the Republic of Niger had requested for logistic support from the Presidency via a letter with Ref. 000104/PRN/DIRCAB, dated 20 January, 2022. And as big brother, President Buhari, on February 25, gave approval for the purchase of the jeep without FEC approval. If not for Sahara Reporters that exposed the transaction, the reckless nature of this government in the face of its citizens unmet needs would have been covered up forever. But the June 15, 2022 report by the online medium forced the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to address the media last week to explain to Nigerians why the government took those steps. According to Ahmed, the president has the power to extend such favour to our neigbours in the interest of African solidarity and to be a good neigbour to our sister African countries. She however did not stop at that but added that the vehicles would be used for security purposes. In the Ministry’s memo to FEC, Ahmed wrote: “It is noteworthy that Nigeria and Niger have enjoyed close and long-standing diplomatic relations as captured in several Bilateral Trade and Economic Agreements, as well as various memoranda of understandings (MOUS) ranging from migration and human trafficking, to drug trafficking, and infrastructural development in line with integration policies of ECOWAS. The rise of insurgency in the shared borders has also led to deeper ties between both countries’ Presidents significant and strong role in the promotion of peace in Africa warrant this gesture.

”The request supports bilateral relations between the two countries. The vehicles will be used to assist the country in the transportation and movement of VIPs, high-ranking officials, top government functionaries and visitors scheduled for official visits to Niger at this time of its nascent democracy, with all its attendant consequences on their collective and individual security and safety of lives and property.

But in her media brief, Ahmed tried to justify the purchase by saying that it would aid the country in its fight against Boko Haram insurgents in the region.

There was nowhere in the memo sent to FEC where it was stated that the SUVs would be used in the fight against insurgents in that country. Indeed, how can Toyota Land Cruiser V8 Engine jeep be used for the fight against insurgents except that we have a set of lying government officials who think that Nigerians don’t have brains?

This latest misadventure in Niger is not the first and definitely won’t be the last of President Buhari’s miscalculated move of using Nigeria’s money and resources to take care of his supporters outside the shores of Nigeria. It began in 2018, when the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria and Niger Republic for the establishment of a refinery in Niger Republic.

The then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, who led a Nigerian government delegation to Niamey, the Nigerien capital, said the refinery would be strategically located at a border town between the two countries. The move, he said, is in line with the commitment to collaboratively work across the region to ensure definitive solutions to the petroleum sector challenges. Upon the completion of the refinery, Nigerian crude would be piped to the new refinery, Kachikwu stated. The refined products would be sold to Nigerians at international rate. Asides that, don’t forget that the Buhari regime promised to establish new refineries in Nigeria while campaigning for power in 2015 and almost eight years later, we are yet to have any refinery built in the country, but Buhari was at home, establishing one in a foreign country.

Again, the Nigerian government took a loan from China to rehabilitate and modernize our rail line and one of the route that received instant attention is the Kano-Maradi rail line – train network between Nigeria and the same Niger Republic.

According to Buhari, while speaking at the virtual groundbreaking ceremony of the project, ‘the $1.96 billion project will serve the import and export of goods for Niger Republic and other countries in the sub-region through Nigerian ports”. He believes that Nigeria “would earn revenue through expansion of trade and commerce, while the people of Niger Republic will benefit from the ease of transportation logistics at affordable cost in their import and export business.”  The rail line traverses the major commercial and administrative centre of Kano and passes through other economic hubs of the country, including Kazaure, Daura, Katsina and up to the border town of Jibiya and the Niger Republic city of Maradi.

In Nigeria, we do not have a rail network that links Lagos to Abuja; we are not considering Port Harcourt to Lagos, neither are we thinking of linking Lagos to Maiduguri. But to our President, it is important that a rail line be a priority to link his brothers in Niger to their brothers in Nigeria.

Do not get me wrong. I know the importance of foreign relations to any country. One foreign policy that I would continue to applaud is the decision by the Federal Government to sell electricity cheaply to some of our neigbouring countries with an agreement that they would also not mine the Kainji Dam so that electricity generation through the dam won’t be affected.

In any foreign policy decision, you must ask the critical question- what is in it for my people? Of what benefit is the latest missteps by the Buhari Government for the purchase and donation of 10 Land Cruiser Jeeps to Niger Republic except that it would be used by senior government officials in that country? It is therefore not surprising when the country’s leader decided to honour six Nigerians for their contribution to the republic.

President Mohammed Bazoum used the 62nd Independence anniversary of Niger Republic to honour two state governors in Nigeria- Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa State, and his Zamfara colleague, Bello Matawalle, Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, Chairman of BUA Group, Abdulsamad Rabiu, State Chief of Protocol, Lawan Kazaure and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Matters, Saiki Abba for their contributions. Are those jeeps meant for the movement of those ‘big Nigerians’ honoured in Niger Republic recently?

Before the latest honour, Buhari himself has been decorated with the highest honour that could be given to any foreigner by the President of Niger Republic. Buhari was honoured with Niger Republic’s highest national award, Grand Croix Des Ordre National Du Niger. President Mahamadou Issoufou had to personally decorate Buhari in Abuja where said he would continue to cherish the good relationship between the two countries. Buhari, on that occasion, also revealed his deep love for Niger Republic, saying that his first visit after his swearing-in in 2015 was to Niger Republic.

Since a pattern has been established, it won’t be a bad idea then if Atiku Abubakar, another Fulani man with a link to Cameroon, continues the tradition in 2023 if he is elected to office. In the same vein, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu can open our treasury to the Republic of Benin if he succeeds in his quest for power next year, as there are millions of Yoruba in our neigbouring Benin Republic while Peter Obi can as well throw open the Nigeria border to his fellow Jews as our Igbo brothers have established a strong link to them. We indeed, have our third eleven ruling us in Nigeria instead of our First eleven.

See you next week.

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