Sunday, 10th December 2023

Reconnecting to the global radar – Part 2

By Eric Teniola
21 November 2023   |   3:39 am
In 1972, Nigeria granted an interest free N1 million loan to Dahomey to rehabilitate the Idiroko-Porto Novo road. By the time the road was opened in 1973, the Federal Government had spent a total of N2.7 million on it.

Eric Teniola

In 1972, Nigeria granted an interest free N1 million loan to Dahomey to rehabilitate the Idiroko-Porto Novo road. By the time the road was opened in 1973, the Federal Government had spent a total of N2.7 million on it. The Federal Government also undertook the construction of the 92-kilometre Sokoto-Illela and Birnin Konni (both in Niger Republic) roads at the cost of N2.2 million.

On February 24, 1975, at the ministerial meeting of the Economic Commission for Africa in Nairobi, Nigeria announced that it would make crude petroleum available to any African country that required it, at concessionary rates. The leader of the Nigerian government delegation, Mr. Victor Adeyeye Adegoroye from Akure in Ondo state who made the announcement spelt out two conditions for this: such countries must have their own refineries; and the crude oil sold to them must not be re-exported to third world countries.

Nigeria also played an active role in the funding of African Development Bank (ADB). The Renowned economist, Dr. Pius Nwabufo Charles Okigbo (February 6, 1924 —September 13,2000) from Ojoto in Idemili South local government of Anambra state, was the head of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) team that carried out the feasibility study on it in 1961.

On November 4, 1964, the Nigerian Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa (December 1912 –15 January 1966) presided over its inaugural board of governors’ meeting in Lagos. Nigeria’s major on-going multilateral assistance involved the bank. It has the highest block of shares in the bank.
This comes to 159,751 shares, about 15.6% of the total shares and some 10.5% of the weighted voting power.

Nigeria contributes 32.5% annually to the ECOWAS budget (multilateral assistance). In June 1980, it settled the outstanding rent of the Community’s secretariat amounting to N80million.

In 1970-1971, Nigeria increased its contributions to the OAU budget to N150,000, 47% over the 1968-1969 contributions, making it the third largest contributor to the organisation’s annual budget. In 1978, the Federal Government gave Mozambique N5million to cope with problems associated with the closure of its borders with Sothern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe.

Nigeria played a major role in the establishment of River Niger Basin Commission and the Chad Basin Commission. Both of which have potentials as investment. In 1979, Nigerian contributed N30,000,000 million to the Lake Chad Basin Development Fund.

Nigeria’s military assistance to other countries has generally taken the form of contributions to troops and equipment to peacekeeping missions in countries having internal conflicts. The country was yet to become independent when it became involved in the UN Congo mission.

Its generally effective and widely acclaimed participation in that peacekeeping mission laid a foundation for later involvements in several other peacekeeping missions since then, including those in Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia. Apart from the Congo mission, Nigeria has been the player in the Liberian peacekeeping operations.

Nigerian troops served in Sierra Leone as part of the peace agreement to end that country’s civil war. They also served in Tanzania to restore order following army mutiny of January 20, 1964. Military officers of a number of African countries undergo training in some Nigerian military schools and colleges.

Shortly after Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (December 1912 – 15 January 1966) the then Prime Minister proposed that a fact finding mission be sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo where open rebellion had broken out, the UN on November 5, 1960, set up the Congo Conciliation Commission made up of 15 Afro-Asian states. Nigeria’s foreign Minister, Mr. Jaja Nwachukwu was elected chairman of the commission. Before independence, Nigeria had put the Kano airport at the disposal of the UN for the transport of troops and materials to the Congo.

Two platoons of the fifth Battalion of the Royal Nigerian Army were detailed to work with UN troops during their stopover in Kano. Later, at the request of the UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjord, Nigeria agreed one month to its independence to contribute troops to the UN force in the Congo and immediately dispatched the general officer commanding the RNA to conduct a reconnaissance mission in the troubled republic.

The full Nigerian contingent itself left for the Congo between November18 and 22, 1960. It involved five battalions deployed in four of the country’s six provinces, namely Kassai, Kivu, North Katanga and Leopoldville.

The contingent was assigned the primary duty of assisting the Congolese authorities in maintaining law and order and preventing minor clashes and large-scale war among the various factions.

Among other things, the Nigerians contingent helped to reduce inter-ethnic and inter-factional clashes; protected Congolese and foreign administrators as well as public utilities workers: and performed guard duties at installations such as power stations, airstrips, mines, factories, waterworks, railway stations and public buildings.

Nigeria troops helped with the distribution of food and medicine to schools, refugee centres and hospitals. They participated effectively in the UN operation that led to the complete liquidation of Katanga rebels and the termination of the secession of the province. The Nigerian contingent was also instrumental in the completion of the UN military disengagement from the Congo.

Nigeria troops were part of the 3,000 UN troops that remained in the country until June 1964. Brigadier Babafemi Olatunde Ogundipe(September 8, 1924-November 20, 1979) from Ago Iwoye in Ogun state was the Chief of Staff of the remaining UN forces that stayed until December 31, 1963. Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi GCFR (March 3, 1924 – July 29, 1966) from Umuahia in Abia state then took over as the commander of the Congo. Among his accomplishments was persuading 3,500 Kassai natives to return to their homes abandoned as a result of terrorists activities.

The Nigerian Police Force was itself part of the Congo peacekeeping operations. Its involvement followed an urgent request from the UN Secretary General to the Nigerian government for 300 policemen to assist the UN force to maintain law and order.

December 21, 1960, a contingent of 400 officers and men left Nigeria under the command of Mr. Louis O. Edet(1914-1979) from the famous Edet Essien and Gerald Orok family in Calabar then a Deputy Commissioner and later became the first indigenous Inspector General of Police, to replace a detachment of the Ghanaian police which had withdrawn after a six-month service.

The Nigerian contingent was stationed in Leopoldville, Luluabourg, Stanleyville, Bukavu and Kindu. Apart from regular patrol duties, the contingent carried out the administrative re-organisation of the Congolese police force, and organised a refresher course for Congolese’s police officers and a long-term comprehensive training programme for recruits at the police college in Leopoldville. It spent a total of five years in the Congo.
To be continued tomorrow
Teniola, a former director at the Presidency, wrote from Lagos.