Presidents Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday hosted his French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja where they held bilateral talks during which agreements for French assistance, totalling $475 million for some projects in Lagos, Kano and Ogun states.
The Renaissance reports that Macron is in Nigeria in his latest attempt to forge closer ties with English-speaking Africa.
His plane touched down in Abuja from Mauritania, where he had attended the final day of the African Union summit dominated by security issues in the restive Sahel region.
He was met on the tarmac by Nigeria’s foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama before the presidential convoy left for Buhari’s Aso Rock residence on the edge of the capital.
During the bilateral talks between the two leaders, Macron remarked that only the provision of security and good economic base by the African leaders could solve the problems of African continents.
He also said that he was concerned about the problem of terrorism in the country and that he was committed to having strong bilateral relations with Nigeria in the areas of fighting terrorism, improving the economy, sports and cultural development.
Under the bilateral agreement signed in Abuja, France, through its foreign development agency, Whence Francaise de Development (AFD), will extend a credit facility of $75 million towards improving water supply in Kano city.
In Ogun State, a French firm, in conjunction with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, will mobilise from investors about $200 million for land reclamation to correct the degradation of arable land being witnessed in the state.
The project aims to reforest 108,000 hectares of depleting forest in Ogun, which the Gov. Ibikunle Amosun, hailed as very vital to addressing climate change challenges and recreating the forest as well as providing employment to the people of the state.
The Lagos deal is a letter of intent for the financing of urban mobility improvement project via a loan of $200 million.
This will involve the development of eight priority bus corridors connected to the Lagos mass transit network.
Before going into the bilateral talks with President Buhari, the 40-year-old former investment banker, who speaks fluent English, told reporters “I like Nigeria a lot. It’s an appealing country. I’ve got a lot of memories… that hasn’t left me.”
Macron also said he was “really emotional” to be back in the city where he spent six months as an intern at the French embassy in the early 2000s.
“I’m extremely delighted to be back,” he told a joint news conference at the presidential villa, joking that he had never expected to return as head of state.
He visited Ghana last year and Nigeria — Africa’s economic powerhouse and the continent’s leading oil producer — was the next logical step.
Nigeria, a country home to over 180 million people, produces nearly two million barrels of crude oil per day and is a key economic partner for France.
“France wants to do much more with Nigeria,” he told Buhari, promising France’s “full support”.
Since coming to power, the French number one citizen had made a point of boosting ties with France’s former colonies but also improving trade with anglophone countries.