Recent reports in the media indicating that authorities in Nigeria’s neighbour, Niger, are shortchanging Nigerians doing business in its shores are, to say the least, disturbing.
Several reports have been cited of this unexpected behaviour, but the one that readily comes to mind, and which has been most reported about, is that of a Nigerian company, Architeam Group Niaport SA, which was assigned the contract of airport expansion in Niamey, the capital of Niger Republic.
The company, believing the government of Niger Republic was acting in good faith, spent over $10 million in feasibility studies, environmental impact analysis, soil tests, payment to technical partners from Germany, salaries, air tickets, etc.
No sooner had it accomplished that major task than the administration of Mahamadou Issoufou suddenly, and without prior notice, revoked the contract and awarded it to another company.
Although the terms of the contract clearly stated that three letters of warning must be served the Nigerian company in the event of any breach of the contract on its part, no such letter was served. Even when such letters are written, the agreement clearly states that compensation must be paid to the Nigerian company, but none of that was adhered to by the government of Niger Republic.
A clear indication that all is not well in the way and manner the country treats Nigeria is the seeming disdain with which the current government of that country holds the Buhari administration.
Thus far, all entreaties on the part of the ministers of justice and foreign affairs of Nigeria since last year have fallen on deaf ears. At one time around July last year, even President Muhammadu Buhari personally intervened and appealed to his Nigerien counterpart but to no avail.
Though President Buhari has almost always honoured all invitations extended to him by the Issoufou administration and has been very forthcoming in extending all diplomatic courtesies and assistance to that nation, there are elements within that government who allegedly feel Nigeria under Buhari is not being as generous as it used to be under its predecessors in terms of the financial assistance to their country.
Whereas, for example, other administrations will use such aid as a pretext for self-enrichment, the era of accountability and probity enthroned by President Buhari has ensured that all such monies earmarked for assistance diplomatically extended to neighbouring countries reach their destination in full, with no kickbacks. Notably, too, the resources available to the Buhari administration to engage in such doleouts are incomparable to those before him, with the country not fully recovered from an economic recession. Sadly, some elements in the Issoufou administration seem to misconstrue that as meanness.
We call on the government of Nigeria to investigate these claims and take the necessary steps to protect its national interest and those of its citizens legitimately earning their livelihood in Niger Republic and in other countries of the world.
We wish to point out that Niger Republic is not the only West African country where Nigerian businessmen have suffered unfair treatment. In September 2018, Nigerian traders in Ghana staged a protest at the ECOWAS headquarters following their host country’s strange law which shut hundreds of their businesses and threatened their livelihoods. Timely intervention from Nigeria saved the day.
The Issoufou administration should take urgent measures to ensure an immediate stop to situations where legitimate foreign investors of Nigerian origin are short-changed after lawfully spending huge resources partnering with his government in execution of mega projects, only for them to be ditched midway.
Nigerien authorities should be reminded that their country and Nigeria have been enjoying a special relationship over the decades, such that when officials of Niger Republic travel to countries where they do not have an embassy, Nigeria always plays the good neighbour by extending all diplomatic and protocol services to them. So, the present administration in Niger will be counted on the wrong side of history if it should act in a manner that undermines such relationship.
For Nigeria and, particularly, the Buhari administration, it is time to assertively apply the full range of the nation’s diplomatic influence to protect the rights and legitimate endeavours of its citizens, especially in countries that have benefited from our generosity in the past or present.
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