Buhari Opens New Nigeria-France Relations | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Buhari Opens New Nigeria-France Relations

Posted: Sep 23, 2015 at 12:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Chesa Chesa


For a while now, France has shown a kind of interest in the affairs of Nigeria, which watchers have seen as the beginning of a partnership that will strengthen the existing bi-lateral and economic relationship between the two countries. The recent visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to France at the invitation of its president, Francois Hollande, goes a long way to stress the point.

That Buhari has been pre-occupied with internal issues affecting the nation has not been left in doubt at any time during his campaigns and since he assumed office as president. Top on the list of these issues include corruption, insecurity, problems of the power sector, job creation, among many others internal issues. It is the desire to tackle some of those internal issues that informed the president’s visits to some heads of foreign governments, France being the most recent.

The President’s three-day visit to France is part of a deliberate plan by his administration to seek global support to the fight against the terror unleashed on Nigerians by the Boko Haram sect in the North East. This is against the backdrop that France is a member of the Group of Seven (G7) major advanced economies that have pledged to assist Nigeria in prosecuting the war against terror.

On July 13, 2011 France had promised to partner Nigeria and deal with the many insecurity situations threatening the stability of the country. France’s ambassador to Nigeria, Jean Michel Dumond, in a meeting with the former Senate President, David Mark, had noted that France was concerned about the insecurity in Nigeria, and assured that his country will partner Nigeria in the area of peacekeeping, security and stability of the West African sub-region.

France had offered a two-pronged partnership; the first specified collaboration in peacekeeping, security and stability of the West African sub-region – a task that entails a stable and secure Nigeria, and the second specified collaboration with the Nigerian government in dealing with insecurity within Nigeria.

Considering the assurances given by President Hollande while Buhari was on his 3-day visit to the country, one can therefore say that this plan by the French government to render Nigeria and the region support appears to be picking up momentum. He reiterated his government’s resolve to curb the increasing spate of insecurity in Nigeria and the West African region in general. Of course the French government should have those concerns about the region because Nigeria is surrounded by some of its former colonies and whatever insecurity builds up in Nigeria will naturally spill into those countries.

It has also been behind the push for better collaboration between Nigeria and its neighbours of Chad, Cameroun, Niger and Benin Republic in the fight to crush insurgency and in 2014, facilitated a meeting of the five countries in Paris.

A call for further collaboration was a key point in the meeting that held between Buhari and his French counterpart in Paris a few days ago as they discussed new strategies of partnership that would enable Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Benin Republic through the action of the Multi Joint Task Force to successfully fight the insurgency and restore peace in the region.

Buhari, on his part, was happy with the assurance given by the French Government, and has undertaken to secure the support of other members of the G7. For him, the encouraging response of the French Government is an inspiration.

According to him; “We have to depended on France and the other G7 countries for support to fight piracy. Our next shopping list is going to G7 in terms of intelligence and training. “Another problem is the problem in the Gulf of Guinea, from Senegal to Angola, that area is endowed with resources like petroleum and other minerals but surrounded by piracy and theft.”

Security was, however, not the only thing on President Buhari’s mind while he was in Paris, commerce was also a strong factor. Presently, the volume of trade between Nigeria and France is over five billion dollars ($5bn) annually and the two presidents are interested in seeing this figure triple within the next four years.

After the meeting with the French President, Muhammadu Buhari joined a high-level business forum of entrepreneurs in France. The forum, organized by the Mouvement des Enterprises de France (MEDEF) at its headquarters in Paris had more than 120 chief executives of France’s leading companies in attendance. These CEO assembled to listen to the Nigerian president present his government’s vision. He also assured the French businessmen that his administration plans to embrace big businesses and ensure they  thrive in the country. 

“Our ongoing economic reforms are designed to restore business confidence and block leakages and wastage of public resources. We are also focused on the recovery of stolen wealth belonging to the country,” President Buhari told them in his address.

The president of MDEF, Pierre Gattaz, speaking at the forum, noted at that a delegation made up of members of the organisation delegation would embark on a trade mission to Nigeria in October. According to him, the will consist of prospective investors with varieties of interests in areas like agriculture, mining, automobile, energy, skills development, light manufacturing, food processing, military and civilian transportation services and “ business to consumer” products among many others areas.

Describing Nigeria as an interesting business environment, Gattaz said, “in that light, Mr. President you can count on the French private sector to be your ally. This is the reason why as chairman of MEDEF, I have decided to lead my first business delegation on African continent to Nigeria from the 4th and 7th of October in order to broaden our relationship.”

The meeting also drew a commitment from France to invest over 0ne hundred and thirty million Euros (€130m) on infrastructural development in Nigeria, especially since Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa and is surrounded by its former colonies.

Underscoring the importance of the president’s recent visit to France, Mallam Shehu who also accompanied Buhari to France wrote: “The camaraderie between the two leaders (Buhari and Hollande) at the Élysées Palace as they stepped forward before the television cameras showed tremendous personal chemistry, a factor that stood to be a great interest and assistance to the two countries as they chart a new path in the relationship between them”.

Obviously, the hope of Nigerians is that this chemistry transcends the two leaders and metamorphoses into concrete measures for the benefit of Nigerians who should one day look back at this visit and remember the good Buhari did for them.