Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has sought the cooperation of the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom in the investigation of fugitives from Nigeria finding accommodation in that country.
In a statement yesterday, presidential spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, said Buhari made the call during a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London.
The two leaders met on the sidelines of the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020.
Buhari said the ongoing anti-graft war needed the cooperation of the Agency.
Former minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and other Nigerian fugitives in the UK had fled into exile since 2015 when the current administration of Buhari came on board.
In 2017, a Federal High Court in Lagos, presided over by Justice Abdulazeez Anka, had ordered the final forfeiture of N7.6 billion alleged loot recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from Alison-Madueke.
Buhari also updated Johnson on the positive developments in Nigeria in different areas of national endeavour.
He told Johnson of strides in agriculture, leading almost to self-sufficiency in rice and other grains, which is saving the country billions in foreign exchange, which are now deployed to other areas of development.
On the war against insurgency, he said things were a lot better, with the disabuse of the minds of the people on the true philosophy of Boko Haram.
He said the though there were challenges in the area of resettling displaced people, it was being tackled frontally.
“We have a long history with the British military, and we are collaborating,” Buhari added.
On Climate change, the President said it was a challenge to Nigeria and neighbouring African countries, especially with the shrinkage of the Lake Chad.
He also said the country was making progress on education, particularly that of the girl child.
Meanwhile, five months after the closure of the nation’s borders, the president has said that the partial closure is not solely because food products, particularly rice, were being smuggled into Nigeria, but also because arms and ammunition, as well as hard drugs were being ferried into the country.
Land borders with countries including Benin and Niger have been partially closed since August 20th, 2019 in a move meant to curb the smuggling of large quantities of rice and other commodities. President Buhari had approved the extension of border closure to achieve more strategic objectives till January 31, 2020.
Buhari gave this explanation while holding a bilateral meeting Monday in London at the sidelines of UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020 with President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana. Buhari said he could not keep his eyes open, and watch youths being destroyed through cheap hard drugs, and compromised security caused by unbridled influx of small arms.
“When most of the vehicles carrying rice and other food products through our land borders are intercepted, you find cheap hard drugs, and small arms, under the food products. This has terrible consequences for any country,” he told his Ghanaian counterpart.
The President said it was regrettable that the partial border closure was having “negative economic impact on our neighbours,” but added that “we cannot leave our country, particularly the youths, endangered.”
He said the Sahel region was awash with small arms, which accounts for severe security challenges in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
“We are in fact the biggest victims,” he lamented.
On time frame for reopening the borders, President Buhari said it would not happen till the final report of a committee set up on the matter was submitted and considered.
“We will get things sorted out. Our farmers, especially those who grow rice, now have a market, and are happy, and we are also concerned about hard drugs and weapons. Once the committee comes up with its recommendations, we will sit and consider them,” the President said.
President Akufo-Addo, while showing understanding of the need for Nigeria to protect her citizens, pleaded for “an expedited process, because the Nigerian market is significant for certain categories of business people in Ghana.”