President Bola Tinubu, on Friday in Abuja, thanked France for returning $150 million of the money stolen by the late General Sani Abacha, who was Nigeria’s military ruler from 1993 to 1998.
Presidential spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said in a statement on Friday night that the President also welcomed the signing of a €100 million agreement between Nigeria and France to support the i-DICE programme, which aims to boost investment in ICT and creative arts industries.
The agreement was signed by the Nigerian Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Technology, Dr. Bosun Tijani, and the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, at an earlier event at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
President Tinubu praised the growing bilateral relations between Nigeria and France, saying that they had improved since his visit to Paris after his inauguration.
“Thank you for the good news on the return of Abacha loot. We appreciate your effective cooperation concerning the return of Nigeria’s money. It will be judiciously applied in attaining our development objectives,” the President told the French Minister, who delivered the news.
The President also discussed the need to strengthen collaboration on political and economic issues and expressed his interest in working with France on areas such as climate change, economic integration, education, and culture.
On the situation in the Niger Republic, President Tinubu, who is the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, said Nigeria was watching the situation in the neighbouring country and using diplomatic means to prevent violence.
“Leadership is about responding to the needs of the people, their cries, and their frustrations. Nigeria shares a border with Niger across the expanse of seven Nigerian states, and most of these states are very populated. Therefore, I need to guide ECOWAS carefully and steadily so that we manage our anger carefully.
”We have a colleague and a democratically-elected leader, President Bazoum, being used as a human shield. If we are not careful, he and his family can be endangered.
”I am deploying all appropriate back-channel strategies to avoid bloodshed in the Niger Republic. We recognise the wishes of our people; they do not want war, but that does not mean we cannot take bold and decisive action,” the president stated.
President Tinubu said Nigeria will continue to work with international partners to find a peaceful solution to the situation in the Niger Republic.
The French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs conveyed the goodwill of President Emmanuel Macron and said that France was ready to expand cooperation with Nigeria in various sectors.
She also invited President Bola Tinubu to attend the upcoming Paris Peace Forum.
Speaking on the Abacha loot, the French Presidential Envoy said the repatriation was the result of a long legal process.
“It was a long process, but we are glad that it was concluded. Sometimes, justice may be slow, but this is a very good achievement,” she said.
Ms. Colonna also applauded President Tinubu’s leadership in ECOWAS, saying, “We support your efforts at ECOWAS. We are behind you because we believe that constitutional order is a treasure for all countries, and democracy must be a reality.”