The decision of Nigeria’s federal government to buy SUVs worth N1.14 billion for Niger Republic has continued to elicit condemnations from Nigerians who insist that the Muhammadu Buhari government had no right to use the country’s money fund purchase of luxury cars for a foreign government.
“Nigeria has an obligation to support her neighbours namely Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon for regional security and our own National security interest,” said Shehu Sani, former Kaduna Central senator. “The Federal Government Purchase and donations of luxury Toyota SUVs to Niger Republic doesn’t fall in line with the above.”
It had emerged on Wednesday that the Buhari administration used N1.14 billion to purchase and supply of 10 Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles to Niger Republic.
The revelation was first made by an investigative journalist, David Hundeyin, who tweeted that he obtained a document from the Budget Office in Nigeria which showed that the President made the approval for the purchase of the vehicles to the neighbouring country.
Hundeyin also attached a picture of the document to validate the claim that the President approved the release of the money to a company, Kaura Motors Nigeria Limited, on February 28, 2022.
The document read in part, “Being release of funds in the sum of N1,145,000,000 to the office of the Accountant General of the Federation IFO Kaura Motors Nig. Limited for supply of 10 numbers Toyota Land Cruiser V8 Vehicles to Republic of Nigeria vide Mr. President approval on page 83 dated 28/02/2022.”
However, the federal government, through the minister of finance and national planning, Zainab Ahmed, defended the purchase on Wednesday, noting that the move was to enable the country to safeguard its territory in the best interest of Nigeria’s security.
Ahmed who fielded questions from journalists after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, said it was not the first time Nigeria was supporting her neighbours.
She explained the Buhari had a responsibility to take such decisions in the best interest of the country.
“This is not the first time that Nigeria has supported Niger, Cameroon or Chad, and the President makes an assessment as to what is required, based on the request of their President and such requests are approved and the interventions provided is to enhance their capacity to protect their own territory as it relates to security also to Nigeria,” Ahmed said.
But her explanation did not impress many who have spoken out against the move.
The Country Director, Transparency International, Auwal Rafsanjani, said the gesture showed that the current political leaders were not sensitive to the plights of Nigerians.
“It shows a lack of priority for development in Nigeria. Otherwise, our universities have been closed down for months, how much is ASUU asking for to stop the strike, how much is needed to modernise our health sector and also improve the lives of Nigerians? But the current leaders just want to accumulate tax payers’ money for personal use,” he said.
Also reacting, the chairman, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, Olanrewaju Suraju, said the amount the vehicles were purchased was outrageous.
He said, “With the level of insecurity and the lack of resources in the country, the next thing we could think of is to purchase vehicles for the Niger Republic. There is nothing bad assisting sister countries in their time of need but this is wrongly conceived.
“Also, it is nearly impossible that those vehicles would cost that amount,that deserves to be investigated. The anti-corruption agencies should investigate this.”
On its part, rights group, SERAP, @SERAPNigeria, asked Buhari to demand refund of the money from Niger.
“The Buhari administration must immediately ask Niger Republic authorities to refund the N1.4 billion approved for them to buy vehicles, and use the money to offset the funding for ASUU, so that poor children can go back to school,” the group said.
In his own intervention, Farooq Kperogi, @farooqkperogi, US based professor of journalism, says Buhari is more loyal to Niger Republic than Nigeria.
“It has come to light that Muhammadu Buhari has approved N1.4 billion from Nigeria’s coffers (without the approval of the National Assembly!) to help the Republic of Niger buy vehicles for its government officials to fight insecurity while insecurity engulfs Nigeria and while ASUU is still on strike,” he said.
“Many Nigerians are understandably angry and are asking why Buhari seems to have more loyalty to Niger Republic than he does to Nigeria. Well, here is what I wrote about that in my June 12, 2021, column titled “Making Sense of Buhari’s Nonsense Now Senseless” (https://farooqkperogi.com/2021/06/making-sense-of-buharis-nonsense-now.html)
“Or take his justification for building a railway in Niger Republic while most parts of Nigeria are devoid of basic transportational infrastructure. “I have first cousins in Niger,” he said.
““There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in Niger Republic just as there are Yorubas in Benin Republic and so on. You can’t absolutely cut them off.” In which world does this make sense? So, he isn’t building infrastructure in Benin Republic, Cameroon, and Chad because he has no cousins there? And, perhaps, he hasn’t built infrastructure in other parts of Nigeria because he has no cousins there? Buhari is supposed to be “president” of Nigeria. It is to Nigeria and its constituents that he owes allegiance, not his cousins and kinfolk in another country.
“It is borderline treasonable to deprive a country you lead of its resources and wealth in order to develop another in which you’re not even a legal citizen just because a part of your ancestry is traceable to that country. Yes, colonialists arbitrarily imposed unnatural borders on the African continent and created nation-states without regard to pre-existing polities. I also come from a border community. Borgu, where I am from, used to be a confederacy that stretched from parts of what is now Kwara State, Niger State, Kebbi State to what is now northern and central Benin Republic. More than 80 percent of the people who speak my native Baatonu language live in northern and central Benin Republic. Most people from the border states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Niger, and Kebbi have relatives in Benin Republic
“Just like people from the border states of Cross River, Taraba, and Adamawa have relatives in Cameroon. People from Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kebbi have relatives in Niger Republic, and Borno also shares borders with the Republic of Chad. But our nation-states have existed for more than five decades and have acquired independent identities in spite of their unnaturalness. Niger Republic is a Westphalian sovereign state like Nigeria is. Buhari’s emotions can’t override that fact. If everyone from Nigeria’s border states becomes president and decides to divert resources from Nigeria to develop their kinfolk in a neighboring country, what will become of Nigeria? This is particularly concerning because Buhari has shown time and again that he has more emotional investment in Niger Republic (because his father migrated from there to Dumurkul in the Daura Emirate of Katsina State) than he has in Nigeria which he leads. (He might as well go the whole hog and build infrastructure in Senegal since it’s the ancestral home of the Fulani, his paternal relatives).
“He talks about Igbo people, his Westphalian compatriots, with unconcealed animosity & genocidal fury but builds infrastructure for his kinfolk in a foreign country using resources derived from a part of the country his openly disdains supposedly because they gave him only “5 percent” of their vote. That’s not the way to run a modern state.” Farouq noted.
On his part, Femi Aribasala, veteran columnist, said, “In the 1985 election of the OAU Secretary-General, Buhari voted against Nigeria’s Peter Onu and voted instead for Ide Oumarou, a Fulani from Niger. Now he again donates N1.14 billion of our money to Niger. This is criminal; a tribalistic APC waste of Nigeria’s scarce resources.”