Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, expressed the readiness of Nigeria to collaborate with France to degrade international criminal networks.
He also appreciated efforts of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, in expanding opportunities for business between Nigerians and their French counterparts.
The President, who spoke over lunch during a state visit to President Macron at Palais Elysee in Paris, emphasised that irregular migration and human trafficking were issues of concern to both Nigeria and France.
According to him, the transnational criminal networks operating in Africa and Europe were exploiting the vulnerable in the most dehumanising ways.
“We are committed to working with the relevant French authorities to dismantle these networks. Nigeria and France have a wide scope to expand and deepen their relations. This effort would be aided by closer engagement at the ministerial level,” he said.
President Buhari also commended France for its concern towards achieving appreciable peace in both the Sahel and the Lake Chad region.
His words :“On security, we commend France for its strong commitment to peace and security in the Sahel and the Lake Chad region. This has contributed significantly to the fight against terrorism and extremism in the region.”
He, however, noted that the visit of President Macron to Nigeria in 2018 had yielded fruits in renewed interest for entrepreneurship beyond local borders, with more businesses expanding their reach and scope in France, particularly, with establishment of French Nigeria Investment Club.
“On the business front, we welcome the personal efforts of President Macron to strengthen ties between Nigerian and French corporations. It was during your visit to Lagos in 2018 that the French Nigeria Investment Club was established.
“You were also instrumental to the establishment of the France-Nigeria Business Council more recently in June 2021. These efforts have brought together some of the largest corporations in Nigeria and France and the stage is set for expanded engagement by entrepreneurs in both countries,” he said.
The President affirmed that the French government has continued to share the vision of promoting stronger ties in health and education, even as he appreciated the French President for support in improving bilateral relations with Nigeria.
He said, “Mr. President, we are determined to take steps to further strengthen our bilateral relations and we look forward to working closely with the French government on this.
“France is a major development partner for Nigeria and we truly appreciate this. The contributions of the Agence France de Developpment (AFD) to development projects across Nigeria have been well documented. These projects are making a significant difference in communities across Nigeria.
“We welcome the collaboration of Campus France with Nigerian tertiary institutions. This is expanding the scope of Nigeria-France relations into the education sector and improving people – people contact especially, among young Nigerian and French citizens”.
The President further said the French government had also played a key role in ameliorating the challenge posed by COVID-19 since 2020, donating 10 million doses of vaccines to Africa, with more than 500,000 sent to Nigeria.
According to him: “France has played a vital role in the fight against COVID-19 in Africa. We appreciate the donation of 10 million doses of Astrazeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to the African Union by the French government.
“We acknowledge, with profound gratitude, the donation of over 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines we have received from France. This has gone a long way to support our national vaccination drive, a critical aspect of our fight against COVID-19″.
President Buhari noted that Nigeria and France had wide scope to expand and deepen their relations, adding that, “this effort would be aided by closer engagement at the ministerial level. We should therefore work towards more high-level official visits.”
He also told his host that his state visit was coming at a time “we have decided to hold the very first Nigeria International Partnership Forum, which is taking place here in Paris.
“We see the Forum as a strategic step towards strengthening ties between Nigeria and France. I thank President Macron for the support of the French government for the Forum. I am pleased with the cordial bilateral relations between Nigeria and France, which have grown deeper over the years with closer cooperation in political, economic, security and socio-cultural matters.”
In his remarks, the French President said there was a growing need for stronger partnership on security in the West Coast, taking into consideration threats in the Sahel.
Macron also urged more enabling environment for businesses to thrive, including smaller companies in France that wanted to stretch their markets into Nigeria.
Buhari and Macron, during the bilateral talks, discussed the need for successful elections in Libya to restore stability, regional intelligence sharing on security, maritime security, single monetary policy in West Africa and the situation in Chad and Mali.
Deji Elumoye in Paris