• Sunday, December 10, 2023
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The diplomatic ties between Nigeria and Niger: Why we must restore democracy to Niger

Military (mis)rule and socio-economic tragedy in Niger

In an era when conflict’s dire consequences are well understood, it’s imperative to emphasize that the prospect of war is scarcely appealing to anyone. Notably, the Nigerian Senate recently rejected the President’s proposal to deploy Nigerian Military troops in support of the ECOWAS mission aimed at restoring democracy to Niger. Amid these considerations, it’s essential to begin by examining the objective facts and cogent arguments at hand.

The profound interrelation between neighbouring nations plays a decisive role in shaping not only their individual trajectories but also the broader regional dynamics they jointly contribute to. We both have a lot in common as Nations and its okay to say Niger is a young brother to Nigeria. These two West African nations share not just a geographical border but a complex tapestry of socio-economic and political linkages. This is where I choose to bring my thoughts on why we need to work harder to restore democracy to Niger- this should be our mission now.

Central to this understanding is the recognition that the destinies of these two neighbours are intertwined; any destabilization of democracy in Niger reverberates detrimentally within Nigeria. Disruptive military coups often give rise to authoritarian regimes, leading to far-reaching consequences. Such scenarios deter international investors from engaging with countries marred by uncertainty. Niger’s trajectory is already on a course towards progress, albeit gradually.

Evidently, Niger’s foreign direct investment in 2021 soared to $0.75 billion, marking an impressive 109.22% increase from the preceding year. The question arises: who would be inclined to invest in a nation lacking clearly defined democratic governance and transparent processes? Should the economic trajectory of Niger devolve due to the repercussions of an irresponsible coup, Northern Nigeria could potentially witness an influx of migrants, thereby exerting immense pressure on shared resources and public infrastructure.
Niger’s journey toward progress is underscored by a tangible Real GDP growth of 7.2% in 2022, buoyed by robust performances across various sectors, particularly primary and tertiary services, and substantial infrastructure projects. It’s essential to consider the historical evidence that underscores the dire consequences of toppling democratic institutions in a nation.

The discourse has yielded varied perspectives. Some argue that Nigeria should maintain a detached stance concerning Niger’s internal affairs, while others emphasize the importance of adhering to ECOWAS’ directives. While these viewpoints carry weight, a more comprehensive understanding necessitates a deeper exploration of these arguments.

The Nigeria-Niger border stretches across approximately 1,500 kilometers, traversing diverse terrains from arid deserts to fertile plains. This border delineation, established in the late 19th century during the European scramble for Africa, has significantly influenced demographic distributions, trade routes, and cross-border engagements. Nigeria stands as the most susceptible entity to any instability within Niger, considering the projected disruption’s potential to hinder the latter’s economic growth.

Diplomatically, Nigeria and Niger share bilateral relations that transcend geographical proximity. Membership in key regional organizations, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU), underscores their commitment to collaboration, spanning security and economic development agendas.

Economically, the Nigeria-Niger relationship holds palpable significance. Trade statistics offer a compelling narrative: in 2021, Nigerian exports to Niger reached approximately $539 million, while imports stood at around $13 million. These figures illuminate Nigeria’s trade surplus with its northern counterpart. The commodities exchanged encompass petroleum products, machinery, grains, and livestock. The current government’s drive to bolster trade and exports amplifies the economic implications. Despite modest numbers at present, the potential for growth has been curtailed.

Infrastructure initiatives serve as tangible markers of bilateral cooperation. For instance, the ongoing Katsina-Maradi railway project exemplifies commitment to bolstering connectivity and trade. Yet, amidst the prevailing uncertainty, the viability of deepening such investments is questionable.

Ultimately, the prevailing situation seems to have regressed both nations, propelling them toward an unsettling trajectory of potential impoverishment. The aspiration for stability through the rule of law and democratic processes stands as a fervent desire, but regrettably, the prospects for this transformation in Niger appear dimmed.

.Eyitayo is the CEO of Utiva