*As Tinubu meets French Presidential envoy
President Bola Tinubu, on Friday in Abuja, expressed his appreciation to France for the return of $150 million stolen from Nigeria by former Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
In addition to the recovery of another tranche of Abacha loot, the President acknowledged the signing of a €100 million agreement between Nigeria and France to support the i-DICE programme — a Federal Government initiative to promote investment in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Creative Arts Industries.
The agreement was signed by Dr. ‘Bosun Tijani, the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Technology, and the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, at an earlier event at Tafawa Balewa House, the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
President Tinubu commended the strengthening of bilateral relations between Nigeria and France, noting that this progress followed 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 Catherine Colonna, the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, who delivered the news.
The President, while emphasizing the need to reinforce collaboration on both political and economic fronts, welcomed the growing cooperation between the two countries in areas of shared interest, such as climate change, economic integration, education, and culture. On the situation in Niger Republic, President Tinubu, who is the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, said Nigeria is monitoring the situation in the neighbouring country, and exploring diplomatic channels to avoid bloodshed.
“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 Niger Republic. We recognize the wishes of our people; they do not want war, but that does not mean we can not take bold and decisive action,” the President affirmed.
President Tinubu said Nigeria will continue to galvanize international partners in the determined pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the situation in Niger Republic.
The French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs conveyed the goodwill of President Emmanuel Macron and expressed the readiness of France to expand mutually beneficial collaboration with Nigeria across multiple sectors.
She proceeded to extend a formal invitation to President Bola Tinubu to attend the forthcoming Paris Peace Forum.
Speaking on the Abacha loot, the French Presidential Envoy said the repatriation followed the completion of legal processes.
“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 commended 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.”