President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has expressed appreciation to France over its move to return $150million stolen from Nigeria by a former military head of state, General Sani Abacha.
The president spoke on Friday while receiving the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, who conveyed the goodwill of President Emmanuel Macron at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Tinubu also acknowledged the signing of a €100million agreement between Nigeria and France to support the i-DICE programme – a federal government initiative to promote investment in information and communication technology (ICT) and creative art industries after appreciating the recovery of another tranche of the Abacha loot.
The agreement was signed by Dr ‘Bosun Tijani, the Minister of Communication, 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.
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The president, who commended the strengthening of bilateral relations between Nigeria and France, said this progress followed his visit to Paris after his inauguration.
On the situation in Niger Republic, President Tinubu, who is the chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, said Nigeria was 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 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 democratically elected leader, President Bazoum, being used as a human shield. If we are not careful, he and his family could be endangered.
“I am deploying all appropriate back-channel strategies to avoid bloodshed in Niger Republic. We recognise the wishes of our people, they do not want war, but that does not mean we cannot take a bold and decisive action,” the president said.
President Tinubu, in a statement by his spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, said Nigeria would continue to galvanise international partners in the determined pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the situation in Niger Republic.
The French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs expressed the readiness of France to expand mutually beneficial collaboration with Nigeria across multiple sectors.