Two prominent businessmen, Alhajis Aliko Dangote, Abdul-samad Rabiu; two governors – Alhajis Bello Matawalle of Zamfara and Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa – two presidential aides – Sarki Abba, Senior Special Assistant (Household and Domestic Affairs) and the State Chief of Protocol, Amb. Lawal Kazaure, have been honoured with the Republic of Niger’s highest national awards as part of activities to mark the country’s Independence Day on 3rd August.
The honours came as the Twitter social media platform was agog with reactions over the Federal Government’s decision to purchase 10 Sports Utility Vans (SUVs) for the neighbouring country, which stretches 1, 608 kilometers across seven states from Kebbi to Borno.
The businessmen, governors and presidential aides were awarded the “Order of Merit of Niger’’ and “Great Master of National Awards’’.
Presenting the awards, President Mohammed Bazoum said his country cherished Nigeria as one of its closest neighbours and friends.
Bazoum praised the efforts of “Brother Nigerians’’ who had made great strides in increasing understanding between the two nations and for acting as agents of social and economic development.
Malam Garba Shehu, spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari stated in Abuja on Wednesday that the awards were in recognition of the recipients’ roles in the promotion of better relations between the two countries.
On the purchase of the SUVs, a Nigerian journalist, David Hundeyin, started the storm on Twitter when he disclosed and questioned the purchase.
Explaining the controversial purchase of the 10 SUVs valued at N1.15bn for the Republic of Niger, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed told journalists after the Federal Executive Council meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari:
“Let me just say that, over time, Nigeria has had to support its neighbours, especially immediate neighbours, to enhance their capacity to secure their countries as it relates to us.
“This is not the first time that Nigeria has supported Niger, Cameroon or Chad, and the President makes an assessment as to what is required, based on the request of their president and such requests are approved and the interventions provided is to enhance their capacity to protect their own territory as it relates to security also to Nigeria.
“Nigerians have a right to ask questions, but also the President has a responsibility to make an assessment of what is in the best interests of the country. And I cannot question that decision.”