By Engr Ahmadu Bello Salagun
I am not a diplomat, I am a career engineer, but I don’t need a career in foreign affairs or diplomatic relations to know that the government of Mahamadou Issoufou has undermined Nigeria’s business interest in the Niger Republic more than ten dozen times in the last few years.
Whether it is sabotaging the endeavors of Nigeria’s businessmen in their efforts to do legitimate business over there, or awarding Nigerian companies contracts that are not genuine to seem on board with the Niger/Nigeria bi-lateral business agreement.
Therefore, it was less of a surprise to me when I stumbled upon a story in the media on Tuesday that another Nigerian company, Architeam Group Niaport SA, which was awarded the contract of expansion of the airport in Niamey, has been played and deceived by President Issoufou after the contract was revoked and given to another company.
According to the story, President Issoufou has issued some contracts to several Nigerian companies including the Airport construction contract to Architeam Group, headed by Alhaji Muttaka Tijjani, a well-known figure within the power circle in Niger, which seem like a good hand in solidifying the Nigeria/Niger business relationship.
But alas, many months later President Issoufou even with the knowledge that Architeam Group has spent over seven million dollars in feasibility studies, environmental impact analysis, payment to technical partners from Germany, salaries, air tickets, revoked the contract and went behind their backs to give out the contract to a Turkish company, Summa.
And even though the terms of the contract clearly stated that three letters of warning must be served the Nigerian company in the event of any breach of the contract on its part, no such letter was written or served, not even once.
Even when such letters are written, the agreement clearly states that compensation must be paid to the Nigerian company. But like several other such cases before and after it, none of that was adhered to by the government of Niger Republic.
It is worthy of note that it is as a result of this wrongful contract termination and revoke, the Architeam Group referred the matter to Nigeria’s legal authorities and they have been several communications between the two contracting parties but no headway yet because of the continuous postponement of meetings and negotiations by the Niger Republic.
A different source also reported that as a result for this wrongful termination, another company, Fraport, a reputable German company, partnering with Alhaji Muttaka on the project had dragged Architeam Group to court because every project analysis, survey, and fieldwork Fraport did was fraudulently used by Summa in the construction, the only change was the face of the project.
A vivid delineation of the disdain with which the current government of Niger Republic holds the Buhari Administration of Nigeria can be seen in the fact that all entreaties on the part of the ministers of justice and foreign affairs of Nigeria since last year have fallen on deaf ears.
At a time around July last year, even President Buhari personally intervened, appealing to his Nigerien counterpart to respect convention and ensure justice to the Nigerian company.
President Issofou pretended to have heard and promised to act accordingly, but nothing was done. Under the Issofou Administration, disregarding lawfully-established institutions in Nigeria has been the norm, rather than the exception.
These are issues our diplomatic services should pick up to ensure Nigeria doesn’t get undermined by the Niger Republic or any other country for that matter. No country should be allowed to treat out business entities like that because if this is not the most disrespectful and disregarded act of business sabotage by the Issoufou administration on Nigeria’s business interest, then I don’t know what the Niger Republic will do to hurt Nigeria bigger than this in business.
It is on this note, I wish to call on the government of Nigeria to send a strong delegation to Niger on this issue as this is enough is enough with a warning to severe diplomatic relations, if the Architeam Group contract termination is not resolved immediately and a laid-out consequences of such should it happen again in the future.
I rest my case.
Ahmadu Bello Salagun writes from Abuja and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org