Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed. Photo/Twitter/FinMinNigeria
The Federal Government, yesterday, justified approval of N1,145,000,000 for the purchase of vehicles for the government of Niger Republic. This came after Nigerians expressed outrage over the action exposed by a popular social media influencer, David Hundeyin.
President Muhammadu Buhari approved release of the fund on February 22, this year. Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, justifying the decision, said while Nigerians have the right to ask questions, President Buhari, who approved the purchase, also has the right to make his own assessment on situations and act on them accordingly.
Fielding questions after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister noted that she understood the concerns of Nigerians about the matter since it became public, but said Nigeria has a policy of assisting her neighbours, a development, which goes a long way to strengthening capacity to deal with insecurity.
The leaked document from the Budget Office showed the release of N1.145 billion to the office of the Accountant General of the Federal. The funds were to be made to Kaura Motors Nigeria Limited, supplier of the 10 Toyota Land Cruisers V8 vehicles to the Nigerien Government via its Fidelity Bank Account.
Reports have it that the Presidency of the Republic of Niger had requested logistic support from the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vide a letter with Ref. 000104/PRN/DIRCAB, dated January 20, 2022.
The Finance Minister also noted that it is the President’s prerogative to take such decisions after a careful assessment of the situation.
“Let me just say that overtime, Nigeria has had to support its neighbours, especially, immediate neighbours, to enhance their capacity to secure their countries as it relates to us. This is not the first time that Nigeria had assisted Niger Republic, Cameroon or Chad.
“The President makes an assessment as to what is required based on the request of their Presidents. Such requests are approved and interventions are provided.”
She added: “Nigerians have the right to ask questions, but also the President has the responsibility to make an assessment of what is in the best interest of the country and I cannot question the decision myself. It is to enhance their capacity to protect their countries, as it relates to security and also to Nigeria. So, it is in the best interest of Nigeria to do so for our neighbours.”
The news had sparked outrage among Nigerians, many of who argued that funding a foreign entity should not be the government’s priority amid harsh economic realities.
RECALL that President Mohammed Bazoum of Niger Republic had months back expressed appreciation to President Buhari for approving the $1.96 billion Kano-Katsina-Maradi railway project during his state visit to Nigeria.
President Buhari had, in February 2021, performed the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kano–Dutse–Katsina–Maradi 284km rail project connecting Kano in Nigeria to Maradi in Niger Republic.
The project, approved by the Federal Executive Council in September 2020, was believed to be crucial to rail development in Nigeria and in the West African sub-region. It is being executed by Mota-Engil Group, a multinational engineering, and construction company.
Government said the project, with 15 stations along the corridor, would boost socio-economic activities in Kano, Katsina, and Jigawa states in Nigeria, as well as Maradi in Niger Republic.
Commending President Buhari for the project, Bazoum had said: “This project is an infrastructure that will integrate the economies of Nigeria and Niger. And so, I’m here to thank President Buhari for his efforts at ensuring that this project has taken off and I hope that it will be sustained because this project will radically change the trading exchange between the two countries.
“We also spoke about the gas pipeline in the sense that gas and oil have now become an issue in world politics, in the world economy.”
Nigerians yesterday took to social media to express their displeasure. @Im_sandybelle wrote: “Nigeria is where it is today mainly because of poorly planned expenditures. Nigeria should stop acting like the sugar daddy to Niger Republic.”
@timi_omi wrote: “So, President Buhari indeed approved N1.4 billion to buy vehicles for Niger Republic! ASUU has been on strike since February 14, their demands are yet to be met but the President can sign out N1.4 billion for Niger Republic. Haaaa! Who did we offend in Nigeria please???”
@tochizkc wrote: “President Buhari approved N1.2 billion to aid Niger Republic buy cars to tackle security situation in that country. I feel violated, I feel insulted and I feel hurt badly.”
@classic_buddie wrote: “Is this true? A nation borrowing to pay salaries is buying vehicles worth N1.4 billion to buy vehicles for Niger Republic and also donate to Afghanistan! Waste in governance, yet the masses are put through hardship with increased cost of living. Make it make sense… Latest Land Cruisers ooo!”