Buhari defends $1.9bn Nigeria-Niger Republic railway project

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday defended his decision to construct railways and roads extending into Niger Republic.

He said this during an interview on Arise Television.

The President said borders were arbitrarily drawn by the French colonialists without taking into cognisance the cultural similarities of the people of Niger and Nigeria even as he revealed that he has first cousins in Niger Republic.

He argued that the people of the southwest similarly have cousins in neighbouring Benin Republic.

The president said another reason the railway is being constructed is to boost the friendly relationship with Niger that has helped Nigeria to prevent Boko Haram terrorists from gaining unfettered access into Nigeria.

“If you recall, when I came, I went to Chad, I went to Niger, I went to Cameroon. Look at what happened with Boko Haram. If we were not in a good relationship with Niger, Chad and Cameroon, Boko Haram would have done worse things to us and you say I am going to Niger.

“I told you the border between us and Niger is 1, 500km. And Niger (sic). I spoke to one French man and I had to tell him this. He spoke nonsense and I told him look, in 1885, you sat down and drew lines (boundaries). I said I have first cousins in Niger. There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in Niger Republic just as there are Yorubas in Benin. You can’t absolutely cut them off,” he added.

He argued that the new rail would help Nigeria to compete with Benin Republic which has cornered entrepot trade in the region.

Buhari said Niger, which is a landlocked nation, has discovered oil, and Nigeria does not want them to do trade through Benin Republic.

“We want them to come through Nigeria. We want them to send their exports through Nigeria,” the president said.

Punch

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