Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
French President Emmanuel Macron has said his country could not help Nigeria, in particular, and Africa in general, to solve its insecurity problems, insisting the solution was for African governments to organise themselves and get rid of those he called ‘Jihadists’.
President Macron was speaking at a joint press conference with Presidents Muhammadu Buhari after the bilateral talks held at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, during which agreements for French assistance totaling $475 million for some projects in Lagos, Kano and Ogun states were signed.
Macron, at the joint press conference at the forecourt of the Aso Rock Villa, pledged to increase the cooperation between Nigeria and France in tackling security challenges occasioned by Boko Haram and ISIS jihadists in Nigeria and the Sahel region of Africa.
When asked how France planned to curb terrorism in Africa and more specifically curb herdsmen and farmers crisis in Nigeria, Macron said, “Well is just that you have all these several issues correlated and your question is related to this event.
“First of all I think the main plan is an African plan and France is not the one to solve or fix African situations.
So, what we want to do is that we will intervene and maintain our presence in Africa and Sahel to fight against terrorism especially in Mali and in the region.
“And we will stay as long as it is requested by our friends especially Mali we discussed yesterday (Monday) about this issue.
“But what is important to me is how the difference African governments organised themselves to fight against terrorism and get rid of these people and especially jihadism.
“That is why I do accompany and do promote the G5/Sahel Initiatives and I think as far as we are organized, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon is very important it’s Boko Haram.
“I think first we have to increase the pressure. Yesterday at G5/Sahel we worked very hard on the different operations to come and I think we have to increase the operations and the pressure against this Jihadists.
“We can fix the situation in the coming month and obviously France will remain present in France for as long as they want it.
“But when I look at the past months, we have increased our resource and delivered concrete results in north and west Mali with for me positive outcomes.
“Now, what we have to do to better understand is, why many people are convinced to join these jihadists and these terrorists, that is what we discussed and this is the second part of your question, because of some times economic and ethnic crisis.
“And that is why it is very important to build not just the security approach but the stabilisation approach at the same time, to provide new opportunities to these people and convoy two massages: your governments will take care of you, I mean provide security and secondly your governments can provide opportunities to you.
“And the best support is not to join crazy people and buy a bunch of guns and do crazy things. It is not opportunity to have any more opportunities, I think is very important.
“That is why I want to accompany different governments and leaders whose main objectives is precisely to provide economic projects.
“I would say inclusive economic and cultural projects, where you provide the way for your young people to get education, jobs as well as to be proud of what you are. I think is is extremely important.
“Because, in a certain way, what we are experiencing today in Europe is also threatened by terrorism, that is moral crisis, that is cultural crisis. So is not just issue about security, that for me is the way to proceed.”
Meanwhile the two leaders witnessed the signing of agreements for French assistance totaling $475 million for some projects in Lagos, Kano and Ogun states.
The Lagos deal is a letter of intent for the financing of urban mobility improvement project via a loan of $200 million. This will involve development of eight priority bus corridors connected to the Lagos mass transit network.
In Ogun State, a French firm, in conjunction with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, would mobilise from investors about $200 million for land reclamation to correct the massive degradation of arable land being witnessed in the state.
The project aims to reforest 108,000 hectares of depleting forest in Ogun, which the State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, hailed as very vital to not only addressing climate change challenges and recreating the forest, but also providing employment to the people of the state, among other benefits.
France, through its foreign development agency, Whence Francaise de Development (AFD), would also extend a credit facility of $75 million towards improving water supply in Kano city.
The concessional loan is expected to help Kano State government ensure more residents of the city have access to drinking water while improving the financial viability of the state water board to increase its revenues.
Both leaders also agreed to strengthen economic, sporting and cultural ties between their countries; as well as encouraging youth empowerment in a bid to check poverty that causes many of the social vices rearing their heads.
Macron recalled his days in Nigeria about 15 years ago, noting that it was an emotional comeback, especially as he never imagined he would return to Abuja one day as President of France.
On his part, President Buhari said their discussion centered around security in the Sahel and economic integration. He said they both talked about inter-basin transfer for Lake Chad.
The Nigerian leader also explained that one of the reasons he toured the neighbouring countries on assumption of office, which are ex-French colonies , was because it makes sense and cheaper to maintain security.
He thanked the French President for his support on the fight against corruption.
He said, “I’m grateful to the French President for commitment and understanding as it concerns Nigeria and this region.”