On Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, confirmed widespread speculations/allegations that the Federal Government of Nigeria, under a directive from the President, had approved money for the supply of vehicles to the Niger Republic. This confirmation came off the backdrop of a Nigerian Journalist, David Hundeyin’s post on Twitter which showed a document that the President indeed approved N1.145 billion for the “supply of 10 Toyota Land Cruiser V8 vehicles to the Republic of Niger”.
The Minister defended this action by saying that the President reserved the right to take decisions in the interest of Nigeria, adding that “this was not the first time the country is providing such interventions to her neighbours”. She also said that this decision was also to help Niger bolster its efforts in the fight against insecurity, which will help both nations maintain their territorial integrity.
Like other well-meaning Nigerians, I am confused, perturbed, concerned, disgruntled, and distressed by this news. I have many questions; here are a few: How do Luxury Toyota Land cruisers help fight insecurity? Is this an intervention for Niger or a gift to its government officials? Why is a country like Nigeria doling out hard cash to other countries? What is the obsession with Niger? What is the point of helping other nations with resources to fight insecurity while our own country’s security is significantly compromised?
The provision of aid and financial intervention by one country to another is nothing new. But from a country whose own government officials have alleged it is on the brink of bankruptcy; this is economically irresponsible. Nigeria, as it is, has enough problems that require financial intervention, most of which are not being met. So why are you helping to patch someone else’s roof when you have no roof?
In February, the President flagged off a $1.96 billion railway project. He said, “The project, when completed, would serve import and export of goods for the Niger Republic and other countries in the sub-region through Nigerian ports. The country would earn revenue through the expansion of trade and commerce. At the same time, the people of Niger Republic will benefit from the ease of transportation logistics at affordable cost in their import and export business,” the President said. Our major Imports from Niger are agricultural produce. This money could have been judiciously sown into the Nation’s poorly industrialized agricultural sector or used to solve the unending educational crisis afflicting the Nation.
The questions are unending. However, I refuse to give into the numerous theories of our President’s rather unusual affection towards the Niger Republic. One thing is clear, a massive disconnect between the Presidency and the people exists. The flagrant disregard of our present-day realities by the government is grossly insensitive and must bother anyone with the Nation’s best interest at heart. Next year, we shall be in the market for new leaders. God help us to make it count.