Thursday, August 25, 2005

NIGERIA COMES TO THE RESCUE OF NIGER


Picture: African refugees on the move.

It is good news to see that Nigeria is going to help Niger.
Well, they are actually neighbours and have a common river, the Niger from which they draw their source of power supply and the river Niger provides drinking water and other things of which the most common is fishing.

The only difference are their different languages. Niger is French speaking, because it was a French colony whilst Nigeria was a British colony and English is the official language of Nigeria. They are what I will call unidentical twins.

When Nigeria Rallies for Niger Republic

Daily Trust (Abuja)
OPINION
August 24, 2005
Posted to the web August 24, 2005.

By Salisu Na'inna Dambatta
The establishment and actual inauguration of a highly visible and active National Committee on Famine Relief for the Republic of Niger by President Olusegun Obasanjo and his directive that each member of the Federal Executive Council should donate N20, 000 to the Famine Relief Fund is both a diplomatic masterstroke and a genuine move of coming to the aid of a friendly and brotherly nation and its populace.
The resultant food scarcity and its devastating impact are visible on the frail bodies of malnourished children, emaciated adults and the remains of thousands of livestock. It is manifested in a massive social dislocation and agony among the estimated 3.6 million people caught in its painful web.

Reports from parts of Niger Republic, especially the densely populated Sahe1ian southern part that shares border with Nigeria, and the central areas in the inhospitable Sahara desert, indicate that nearly 800,000 children are especially vulnerable, even as hundreds of them have already died of starvation. More are in danger of dying from starvation, hence the need for Nigeria to rally for them, to assist them and contribute in saving those that could be rescued by a small, worthy sacrifice.

Nigeria and Niger Republic are cooperating closely at multi-lateral and bilateral levels. Both countries are in the ECOW AS, the African Union, the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the River Niger Joint Commission, the United Nations Organisation, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), the Non-Aligned Movement and a dozen other regional and global organizations.

In fact, Niger Republic has cooperated and consequently developed a unique understanding with Nigeria over the utilization of the waters of River Niger by foregoing an option to dam it upstream, which would have eroded the opportunity for Nigeria to develop the strategic hydropower generating stations at Kainji and Jebba. A percentage of the power generated from the hydropower station at Kainji is sold at a preferential rate to Niger Republic.

Majority of the people of Niger Republic have strong ties and affinities with the peoples in Nigerian states sharing border with that country.

At least 90.8 per cent of the people of Niger are Hausa, Zabarmawa, Fulani, Kanuri or Shuwa Arabs, just like the people on the Nigerian side of the border in Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi states. There are countless socio-economic contacts on daily basis, in shared markets and festivities such as Argungu fishing festival, in mosques during marriage, child naming or funeral rites. Herdsmen from both sides of the border often share grazing reserves. Inter-marriages across the border are regarded as normal and very common.

The facts stated in the preceding paragraph and the natural tendency of Nigerians to be their brothers' keepers are some of the reasons for the swift and generous response to aid the famine victims of Niger Republic. In Kano, a private radio station is mobilizing individual donors and it seems to be serving as a collector of donations. The Government of Kebbi State has dispatched 33 trailers laden with rice, millet, sorghum and maize to Niger Republic for those in need. Governor Muhammad Adamu Aliero also sent drugs and medical personnel for the sick in the areas affected by famine. It would be appropriate for the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to consider mobilizing volunteers from its ranks to go to Niger Republic and assist. The Nigerian Red Cross, according to its Chairman, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir, has sent a team there. But what are the two main Islamic Aid Groups planning? If Non-Governmental Organizations from Europe and as far off as the United States of America could move into Niger Republic to assist, those in Nigeria are morally bound to also act appropriately.

It is significant that, despite the propensity of the dominant Western media to focus largely on the token doled out to the people of Niger Republic by Western countries and their NGOs, Nigeria has for long provided succour to its neighbour without making much noise or claiming credit, even though doing so would not be improper.

As stated earlier, consumers from Niger Republic attend markets in Nigerian towns and cities, including Lagos, Onitsha and Aba, to purchase foodstuff and other goods. So, when Nigeria officially sold grains to the World Food Programme (WFP) for delivery to Niger a few weeks ago, this writer regarded it as just a complex extension of the daily simple commercial transactions between the citizens of the two countries.

The Nigerien community in Nigeria is one of the largest on earth. Some members of that community have much confidence and trust in our country and have invested heavily in Nigeria, thereby creating employment for Nigerians to the extent that the question of their nationality is no longer an Issue.

So, if people from Niger Republic would sell to and buy from Nigerians or invest their hard-earned money in our country when the going was good for them, it is only proper for Nigeria and Nigerians to come together and assist them in their hour of need. This is one element of a special relationship. One other factor that contributed in making the relationship between Niger Republic and Nigeria so special is that the 1,497 kilometre-Iong borders we share is probably the most peaceful of all our international borders. There is no serious, peace-threatening border dispute between Nigeria and Niger Republic.

It is rare for criminals or bandits, cattle rustlers or invading soldiers from Niger Republic to cross into Nigeria and cause havoc. This cannot be said of some of our neighbours that seem to be spoiling for war with our country over a boundary dispute.

In the final analysis, given the positive role Nigeria plays in Africa and across the world in peace keeping operations, facilitating conciliation between or among disputants and giving leadership among peers, it is only natural for President Olusegun Obasanjo to set up the Masari Committee in the belief that Nigerians would show compassion, solidarity and generousity to the famine victims in Niger Republic.
As stated earlier, the spirit of compassion, giving and solidarity was demonstrated for the Asian tsunami victims, for the Russians when they had a disaster and for countless other causes. It can be repeated for the benefit of our special friends and neighbours.

Indeed, rallying for Niger Republic would be a historic continuation of our good neighbourliness, which was extended to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and other countries. It is also a practical manifestation of our concern for the welfare of fellow human beings.

Copyright © 2005 Daily Trust. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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