Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari has sealed a $475 million bilateral deal with France President Emmanuel Macron to aid a number of infrastructural projects cutting across three states.
The initial beneficiaries will include Lagos, Kano and Ogun states. The agreement was sealed while Buhari played host to Macron in Abuja on Tuesday.
Lagos aspect of the deal is encapsulated in a letter of intent for the financing of urban mobility improvement project via a loan of $200 million. This will involve development of eight priority bus corridors connected to the Lagos mass transit network.
In Ogun State, a French firm in conjunction with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority is to mobilise from investors about $200 million for land reclamation to correct the massive degradation of arable land being witnessed in the state.
The project aims to reforest 108,000 hectares of depleting forest in Ogun, which the state governor, Ibikunle Amosun, hailed as very vital to not only addressing climate change challenges and recreating the forest, but also providing employment to the people of the state, among other benefits.
France, through its foreign development agency, Whence Francaise de Development (AFD), will also extend a credit facility of $75 million towards improving water supply in Kano city.
The concessional loan is expected to help Kano State government ensure more residents of the city have access to drinking water while improving the financial viability of the state water board to increase its revenues.
After the agreements signing formalities, Buhari and Macron addressed a joint press conference at the forecourt of the Aso Rock Villa, and pledged to increase the cooperation between Nigeria and France in tackling security challenges occasioned by Boko Haram and ISIS jihadists in Nigeria and the Sahel region of Africa.
While Macron pointed out that France could not do much to assist Nigeria solve the raging crisis of killings by herdsmen, he said he was more concerned about how African governments organised themselves to effectively tackle the challenges posed by jihadist terrorists on the continent.
Macron said, “The main plan is an African plan and France is not the one to solve or fix African situations. So what we want to do is that we will intervene and maintain our presence in Africa and Sahel to fight against terrorism, especially in Mali and in the region.
“What is important to me is how the different African governments organise themselves to fight against terrorism and get rid of these people and especially, jihadism. That’s why I do promote the G5/Sahel Initiatives.
“As far as we are organised, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon is also very important, it is Boko Haram. I think first we have to increase the operations and the pressure against these jihadists. We can fix the situation in the coming months and obviously France will remain present in Africa for as long as they want it”.
He noted that many people are convinced to join these jihadists largely because of economic and ethnic crisis, adding that it is why it’s very important to build not just the security approach but the stabilisation approach at the same time, to prove new opportunities to these people and convey two massages.
He said, “Your governments will take care of you, I mean provide security and secondly your governments can provide opportunities for you. And the best support is not to join crazy people and buy a bunch of guns and do crazy things. It is not opportunity to have any more opportunities, I think is very important.
“That is why I want to accompany different governments and leaders whose main objective is precisely to provide economic projects. I would say inclusive economic and cultural projects, where you provide the way for your young people to get education, jobs as well as to be proud of what you are.
“I think is extremely important. Because in a certain way, what we are experiencing today in Europe is also threatened by terrorism, that is moral crisis, that is cultural crisis. So not just issue about security, that for me is the way to proceed”.
Both leaders also agreed to strengthen economic, sporting and cultural ties between their countries; as well as encouraging youth empowerment in a bid to check poverty that causes many of the social vices rearing their heads.
Macron recalled his days in Nigeria about 15 years ago, noting that it was an emotional come-back, especially as he never imagined he would return to Abuja one day as President of France.
On why Macron decided to visit Afrika Shrine, he said the Kuti family has been a strong force in France, adding that it was to provide opportunity for him to relax in Nigeria as well.
“It’s a good opportunity to return there. It’s an iconic place for African people and culture. The Kutis are famous even in France. Apart from a personal pleasure for me that the shrine serves, I recognise the importance of African culture”.
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