President Muhammadu Buhari has insisted that the $1.9 billion Nigeria-Niger Republic railway project is in the economic interest of the country.
President Buhari said this in a wide-ranging interview broadcast on Arise TV on Thursday.
According to the president, the colonialists arbitrarily drew border lines separating both countries despite the cultural similarities of the people, noting that he has first cousins in Niger Republic.
He explained that the railway is being constructed in order to boost the friendly relationship with Niger Republic, which, he said, has helped Nigeria to prevent Boko Haram terrorists from gaining unfettered access into the country.
He said: “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.”
President Buhari also stated that the railway would help the country compete favourably with Benin Republic when Niger Republic, a landlocked country, begins channelling its exports via Nigeria.
“We want them to come through Nigeria. We want them to send their exports through Nigeria,” the President said.