Nigeria: Buhari’s $2.7m car gift to Niger Republic despite rising poverty causes uproar

By Akin Irede
Posted on Thursday, 4 August 2022 11:15

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari arrives for the Leaders' Retreat, in Kigali, Rwanda June 25, 2022. Dan Kitwood/Pool via REUTERS

The decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to supply 10 Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs to neighbouring Niger Republic is causing uproar in Nigeria, a country facing an unprecedented debt and poverty level.

A document detailing the transfer was shared by journalist, David Hundeyin, on Twitter

Justifying the decision to spend over N1.14bn ($2.7m) finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, said the vehicles were purchased for the government of Niger for security purposes.

However, it remains unclear how such SUVs could boost the security of Niger Republic which borders Nigeria’s troubled northwest.

Back to school?

The development comes barely months after Buhari approved the transfer of $1m to Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes in the wake of the takeover of the Taliban.

Pro-transparency group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a tweet called on Buhari to withdraw the gift from Niger.

SERAP argued that the gift amounted to waste coming amid a five-month strike embarked on by university lecturers over poor funding among others.

Security sources tell The Africa Report that such gifts to poorer neighbouring countries was not new in Nigeria,which is Africa’s largest economy.

An official in Nigeria’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), told The Africa Report that there is a budget in the Foreign Affairs Ministry for such gifts while the President also has an emergency fund approved by the National Assembly for such.

I have first cousins in Niger. There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in the Niger Republic. The same way there are Yorubas in Benin.

“Nigeria has been playing the big brother role in Africa for over 50 years. These car gifts are not new. We have given to Central African Republic and Mali in the past. These things are done to foster friendly relationships with them because we are wealthier than them and we sometimes rely on them for security intelligence,” an assistant director at the agency said.

‘Worrisome’ closeness

Critics, however, say Buhari’s closeness to Niger in particular is worrisome. During his re-election campaign in 2019, two governors from Niger attended his Presidential rally in Kano State, a move which attracted criticisms from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Buhari’s administration is also constructing a $1.9bn railway that will extend into Niger despite the countries dwindling resources and rising debt. The amount spent on debt servicing has now surpassed the country’s income.

Defending his decision last year, Buhari stated that he had first cousins in Niger and that borders were mere artificial lines drawn by colonialists.

“I have first cousins in Niger. There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in the Niger Republic. The same way there are Yorubas in Benin,” he said.

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