President Muhammadu Buhari was in Niger Republic on Wednesday, his first trip outside the country since his inauguration less than a week ago.
Buhari was accompanied on the trip by the governors of Sokoto, Katsina, Yobe and Borno.
In Niger, the Nigerian delegation was received by the president of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou and bilateral discussions held.
Buhari commended President Issoufou and Niger Republic for their warm hospitality as well as their cooperation with Nigeria over the years.
He said that Niger has over the years, “proven to be a reliable ally to Nigeria both at bilateral and multilateral levels”, and expressed “hope and aspiration that this special relationship would be further consolidated” during his administration.
Buhari mentioned four areas in which he would like the two nations to cooperate even further.
The first was in the area of tackling insecurity and the menace of Boko Haram.
He said that his administration will bring “new impetus and a renewed commitment to the efforts to wipe out the menace of the Boko Haram insurgents. As a first step, we have directed the relocation of the command post of the counter-insurgency operations to Maiduguri until such a time that the insurgency is completely defeated.”
He therefore called for closer collaboration with not just Niger, but the other neighbouring countries of Chad and Cameroun in order to defeat Boko Haram.
The second area Buhari sought cooperation on is the influx of refugees and other displaced persons into Niger as a result of the insurgency in Nigeria.
“We are aware that currently, there are over one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) displaced persons comprising refugees and returnees taking refuge in various parts of Niger.
“We appreciate the untiring efforts and the huge burden being shouldered by the Government of Niger, International Humanitarian Agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as well as host communities.
“In the same vein, we wish to reassure that our administration will work closely with governments of the affected States to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced persons and their host communities. The ultimate objective however, remains to end the insurgency and facilitate their return to their homes,” he said.
The third area of cooperation, according to Buhari is in tackling the “menace of Illegal Migration and Human Trafficking. Niger as a major transit point, has had to commit huge resources to curb the trend. Nigeria would support the new initiatives by the European Union (EU) and other stakeholders aimed at combatting the menace of illegal migration and human trafficking.”
Finally, Buhari said he would work closely with Niger Republic in tackling another major Trans National Organized Crime (TNOC), which is the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).
“Niger is geographically located in the centre of armed conflict zones with the attendant security challenges. We shall endeavour to improve surveillance and initiate joint patrols of our common borders with a view to curtailing the activities of the perpetrators of this crime,” he said.
The next stop for the president is Chad where he is expected to harp on similar themes like those discussed in Niger today. He is expected back in the country tomorrow evening.