The French government has ruled out any support for those agitating for the secession of any part of the country, particularly Biafra. France’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Denys Gauer in an interview with The Guardian, noted that his home country would not in anyway work with any group agitating for the dismemberment of the nation, saying his country is working with Nigeria and supporting it as a country.
Speaking against the backdrop of France’s previous support for Biafra during Nigeria’s civil war, Gauer pointed out that Nigeria has evolved since the civil war and that France has been cooperating with the country to overcome its challenges, especially the fight against insurgency.
However, Leader of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu told The Guardian that the struggle for Biafra “is real and cannot be stopped by any man created by God”
He added: “We in MASSOB do not believe what he said because that does not represent the position of France. France is a friend of Biafra and even during the Nigeria/Biafra war, they assisted us so much. In this current agitation for Biafra, France has sympathy for us. We advise our people to disregard what he said. We think that the Nigeria media misinterpreted what the French envoy said."
But the French envoy further pointed out that there is no future for Biafra and urged proponents of secession or Biafra to continue to be part of the country.
“We are working with Nigeria and we are supporting it as the only country. This is absolutely clear and I don’t think there is any kind of future for Biafra. They are part of Nigeria and Nigeria has to remain as the only country,” he said.
He disclosed that France is working with the country in its fight against insurgency, saying the fight against Boko Haram has brought the two countries together, more than before.
The Ambassador explained how France helped the former Goodluck Jonathan government to organise a regional meeting with neighbouring francophone countries, Chad Cameroon and republic of Benin, in Paris, in 2014, following which the Multinational Joint Task Force, MJTF was established to fight Boko Haram.
He added: “Apart from encouraging neighbouring African countries to cooperate with Nigeria we have also developed a strong bilateral relationship with the Nigerian Armed forces. In May 2015, the Defence Ministers of Nigeria and France signed a cooperation agreement between the two armed forces, which we did not have before. Since September last year, we have two French military officers who are liaison officers with the Nigerian Armed Forces to work on daily basis with them in furtherance of the cooperation. We are organising training activities for the Nigerian Armed Forces both in France, Senegal and here in Nigeria.
“I can confirm to you that we are now very close allies to the Nigerian Armed Forces in the fight against Boko Haram.” He disclosed that France is ready to sell ammunitions to the Nigerian Armed Forces, saying “We have no restrictions on that, we can sell any kind of equipment to the Nigerian government without any restrictions.”
In the economic sector, Gauer said the trade balance between the two countries has always been in favour of Nigeria. This he attributed to the fact that France buys a lot of oil from the country.
He also pointed out that France exports a lot of goods to the country, saying despite the unfavourable economic climate, “We still have more French companies interested to come to Nigeria.