By Deji Elumoye
President Muhammadu Buhari was yesterday conferred with the highest national award of Niger Republic, Grand Croix Des Ordre National Du Niger, by the country’s President Mahamadou Issoufou.
This is just as President Buhari congratulated the outgoing President Issoufou of Niger Republic for a successful completion of his second tenure, and wining the prestigious 2020 Mo Ibrahim prize for Achievement in African Leadership, describing him as a worthy African leader.
President Issoufou, who was on a courtesy visit to Buhari at the State House in Abuja, thanked President Buhari and all Nigerians for the support he received as leader of his country for ten years, particularly during his time as chairman of ECOWAS, describing Nigeria as a “second home.”
He explained that the highest national award of his country was bestowed on President Buhari because of his “fraternity, vigour, patriotism and determination to move Africa forward, starting from the west coast.’’
In his response, President Buhari felicitated with the outgoing leader for ‘upholding the tenets of democracy, improving the economy of his country and consolidating the good relations that existed between both countries’.
According to Buhari, “Mr. President, let me start by congratulating you on the successful completion of your second term as president of our sister country, the Republic of Niger. I also congratulate the good people of Niger Republic for the successful conduct of a free, fair and credible election.
“The achievements during your tenure as president have been widely acclaimed, including through your recent award of the Mo Ibrahim Prize. You have earned the respect and affection of your people at home and your brothers across the border in Nigeria.”
Buhari said his first visit after swearing-in in 2015 was to Niger Republic, noting that the choice of a neighbouring country underscored the value and quality of relations between both countries.
He added that “Nigeria-Niger Republic relations are based on a long common border and shared cultural and historical roots. Relations between the two countries have over the years been very cordial and fraternal. There is a spirit of good neighbourliness between us.
“Nigeria’s borders with Niger Republic have always been largely peaceful. There have been no serious border conflicts between the two countries. Each country has based its diplomatic relations upon non-interference in the internal affairs of the other. It is therefore gratifying to state that Niger Republic has remained one of the most trusted and reliable neighbours of Nigeria.”
He congratulated the President-elect, Mohamed Bazoum, for winning the elections, urging him to build on the achievements of his predecessor in office.
He said: “Many landmark projects were initiated and successfully executed, among which was the successful border re-demarcation exercise without any incident. The socio-economic partnership resulted in the ground-breaking ceremony of a railway project from the Northwest of Nigeria to Maradi in Niger Republic, which is in furtherance of regional and continental integration, joint venture and inter-state trade.
“The military cooperation that has availed the Nigerian intelligence community information on the activities of terrorists is additional evidence of this solidarity. It was against this backdrop that Niger Republic agreed to become part of the multinational effort to tackle insurgents’ activities across the borders of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad Republics.
“As you know, this culminated in the establishment of the Multi-National Joint Task Force under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, with Sector 4 based in Diffa, Republic of Niger.”