All over the world, economic interests have been the driving force behind foreign policies in the last two decades, except ofcourse in Nigeria.
Sometime in 2016, in a presentation, I made a simple statement that if Nigeria fails to show leadership, the situation in Ethiopia where Egypt and Sudan may go to war over the Nile waters may repeat itself in Nigeria.
Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Burkina Faso entered into an agreement at the Conference of the Riparian States of the River Niger, its tributaries and sub-tributaries, held at Niamey from the 24th to the 26th October, 1963, an Act regarding the navigation and economic co-operation between the States of the River Niger Basin.
Key part of that agreement was that with the construction of hydroelectric dams in Jebba and Kainji by Nigeria, the other countries would not embark on damming the river again so as not to hurt water quantity that may affect the reservoirs in Nigeria.
And that Nigeria will provide electricity to Niger and other neighbours. Later in 1980, the River Niger Commission was created without major changes to the existing agreement.
But in 2018, Niger stealthily started the construction of a dam at Kandaji without discussing with member states of the River Niger Basin. That was in contravention of existing treaty (United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 587, No. 8507). Because Nigeria had a leader who had double allegiance both to Niger, and Nigeria, nothing was done to counter that contravention except few mumbled press statements from Aso Rock.
The project located near the small town of Kandadji in Tillaberi region about 189 km northwest of the capital city Niamey is designed to provide 130 megawatts of electricity.
Faced with no opposition, or formal protest from Nigeria, Niger went ahead to create the, the Kandadji Ecosystems Regeneration and Niger Valley Development Programme, and had the temerity to get the World Bank, Africa Development Bank, the French development Agency, and the Islamic Development Bank, to fund the project.
Sadly , Nigeria being a member of all these development finance institutions couldn’t even muster a whimper of protest as such project contravenes existing UN supervised and implemented agreement between the two countries.
This was not the first time Niger wanted to contravene the letters of the agreement, under President Mammadou Issoufo, they tried to get the Russian company Zaroubegevodstroï (ZVS) to start the project before contract was transferred to Gezhouba Group Company Limited (CGGC) of China, but Nigeria had semblance of leadership that thwarted those efforts.
Then Buhari happened, they saw a great opportunity. Even the ousted President Bazoum was quoted as saying that “all the obstacles have been lifted (…) and all the funding problems have been resolved. In a few months you will see the project taking shape.”
The narrative that Nigeria has thrown Niamey into darkness by cutting electricity supply should not be the news peg. Niamey should have been in darkness long time ago when Niger failed to abide by the dictates of the 1964 agreement.
That we had a weak leader who couldn’t activate the clause of the agreement few years ago doesn’t invalidate that clause. Now a new government has done it, I wish this was done as early as June, maybe it could have prevented the stvpid coup.
That’s why leadership should be proactive
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