Prerogative of 1.4 billion naira, President Buhari’s bias for the Niger Republic in the face of security breach and economic collapse in Nigeria.
Akintayo Balogun Esq.
President Muhammadu Buhari has over the years expressed his affection and undying love for the Republic of Niger to the detriment of his country of which he is the number one citizen. Mr. President’s latest action lends credence to that fact. I always hoped that this news that Mr. President would donate the sum of 1.4 billion naira to the Republic of Niger, to help fight against insecurity, was one of the many fake news or reports diluted peddled on social networks. However, I was stunned when the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning confirmed that the Federal Government had procured vehicles worth N1.4 billion to help combat insecurity in Republic of Niger.
The fascinating aspect of the information from the minister, no doubt in an attempt to exculpate herself, says that it is the prerogative of the president, whose action she cannot question. I strongly disagree with the minister that Mr. President has the prerogative to create and execute such a bilateral relationship between two countries without the consent or knowledge of his cabinet and/or the National Assembly. This statement is not correct with all due respect. He has no prerogative to do so. Moreover, unconfirmed reports also state that the said vehicles were not even armories but luxury cars. We would leave that talk for another day.
It is out of this world to know that at this time when the situation in Nigeria is on the brink, the President has seen fit to distribute such funds to an independent republic with little or no socio-economic benefits for the Nigeria. Is the unrest in the country not enough for the president to cope with and at least keep the promise to restore Nigeria’s security architecture which has deteriorated in recent days? For the avoidance of doubt, these are just a few of the recent reports that show Nigeria is literally on its knees.
- In July 2022, the Minister of Finance indicated that debt service in Nigeria to date now exceeds the country’s total income. In other words, Nigeria is operating at a loss.
- There has been an astronomical rise in the prices of goods and services and a galactic fall in the value of the Nigerian currency. It was also reported that external reserves fell to $15 billion as opposed to the $36 billion alleged by the CBN.
- Queues at fuel outlets over the past 6 months can best be described in the first line of John Pepper Clark’s poem, Abiku, “Coming and Going These Many Seasons”.
- The closure of several airlines and the massive increase in airfares. It has been comically said that it is now cheaper to travel by air than by road, because when you travel by road, you also have to prepare funds to pay a ransom.
- The closure of public higher education institutions for more than 5 months with no hope in sight.
- In recent times, the nation’s capital along with several other Nigerian cities have been besieged by terrorist attacks with repeated attacks on correctional centers, military posts, places of worship, private homes, remote communities, etc.
Isn’t that already enough burdens in the hands of the government? Why should giving 1.4 billion naira to an independent nation be a priority for Nigeria at this desperate time? I am beginning to wonder if Mr. President has been elected co-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Niger. Don’t we need financial, economic and security interventions more than the Republic of Niger? The more you try to understand the decisions of this government, the further you get from clarity. Is it in the face of the easy invasion of the territory of the federal capital and the threat of kidnapping of the president and a governor in office by armed men that our president is sending cars to the Republic of Niger? Without forgetting that the threatened Governor said that the President was not aware of the threat to kidnap him.
Mr. President has never hidden his love for the Republic of Niger and has been ready to do everything in his power to favor the country. Some of these actions by Mr. President include, but are not limited to, the following:
- In January 2021, the Nigerian government signed a memorandum of understanding with a construction company, Mota-Engil Group, worth $1.9 billion for the construction of a state railway. Kano to the Republic of Niger. The President, during an exclusive interview broadcast on Arise TV, explained that his regime’s decision to build railway lines from Kano to the country was to allow his Nigerien relatives easy access to Nigeria. He further stated that “I have cousins, family members, etc., in the Republic of Niger. I shouldn’t just cut them off,” It is regrettable that Mr. President, in his answer to this question, could not give an economically advantageous answer or a satisfactory answer to the reason for the construction of a railway across the border. We can say conclusively that it was the bias that the President has for the Republic of Niger that prompted him to embark on the project of building a railway line and to offer an independent Republic a colossal sum of 1.4 billion naira worth of cars as his own country lies in ruins nearby. With the greatest respect to the Republic of Niger, it is a country that has little or no economic or socio-political value to the Nigerian system. It is a country so separated from Nigeria even by our linguistic franca?
- It was also reported in Vanguard on February 3, 2015 that in 1983, when Mr. President was dominating as head of state, he elected a Nigerien as OAU Secretary General rather than a Nigerian. He became the first and only head of a country in modern international history in the world at that time to vote against his country’s candidate in favor of another.
- Now we have a third scenario in which the president hands out up to 1.4 billion naira to his beloved second country to tackle the same monster that is already sinking his home country.
I am compelled to ask at this point, where does Mr. President’s allegiance lie? Would he prefer to be the president of the Republic of Niger rather than imposing himself on us as president? Does international collaboration and bilateral relations extend to the purchase of vehicles for another country worth 1.4 billion naira without the prerogative or consent and authorization of the presidential cabinet or other branches of government? Can such a decision be made without the consent of the legislative arm of government? Has there been an official request to Nigeria by the government of the Republic of Niger requesting financial assistance for vehicles to deal with the security crisis? Or has Christmas arrived long before the end of the year and Santa has started distributing precious gifts from his flying sleigh, which is being dragged by a troop of flying reindeer? The president seems out of touch with what is happening on the front lines in Nigeria, but is always quick to respond to the needs and desires of neighboring Niger.
Do you know what 1.4 Billion Naira will do to the families of all soldiers and uniformed personnel already lost this year to the cold hands of death? Do you know the boost in morale and personnel that 1.4 billion naira paid directly into the bank accounts of Nigerian soldiers on the battlefield can bring? Does the government need 1.4 billion naira to hire foreign snipers who would enter the lair of all kidnappers and terrorists in Nigeria and rescue innocent citizens in custody as well as dislodge them from their enclaves? It is in recent reports that America has scored another victory in its war against terrorists with the use of a device that does not explode, it has no warhead, instead it slices and chops his target into pieces to minimize collateral damage. This device was used in the launch against the leader of al-Qaeda, who was killed with no harm done to any other resident of the building. Has the US government spent so much to save their national who was abducted in the Niger Republic but rescued in Nigeria by US Special Forces on Saturday 31st October 2020, exactly 5 days after his abduction? 1.4 billion naira would have gone a long way towards restructuring Nigeria’s security system and boosting the morale of its personnel on the ground if Mr. President had cared more about it.
Where is the heart and passion of Mr. President? It’s obviously not in Nigeria, it’s in the Republic of Niger. With the greatest respect to Mr. President, the judgment of the President and his bias for the Republic of Niger at the expense of Nigeria are wrong and detrimental to the peace and stability of the country. The President cannot, because he has relatives and cousins in the Republic of Niger, use the prerogative of his office to command public funds to meet the needs of the land of others. Nigeria’s debt profile at present does not allow for such preposterous and misguided spending.
In conclusion, among the gladiators fighting for power in 2023, I pity whoever wins the seat because the “gbese” to inherit is not what can be happily explained. I just pray and hope that our leaders can get their priorities straight, I just pray.
May the good light shine again in the dark places of Nigeria.
Akintayo Balogun Esq., LL.B (Hons), BL, LL.M, is an attorney in private practice and based in Abuja, FCT. Prolific writer, public affairs analyst and commentator on national issues. [email protected]
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