President Mahamadou Issoufu of Niger Republic recently extended a hand of friendship to Nigerian investors willing to do business with his country: they should avail themselves of an opportunity in Niger's newly discovered oil wealth.
Nigeria, said the president, is a "strategic neighbour" they would always be willing to do business with. Not long after President Issoufu's offer, Nigeria has begun the importation of refined petroleum products from our next-door neighbour, heralding a new business relationship between the two sister countries.
This is clearly a relief to fuel importers that had to import these products from distant countries such as Brazil, India and the Netherlands at huge cost to the country's foreign reserves.
Niger should be commended for doing what its oil-rich neighbour has failed to do. With the often dysfunctional refineries or low-capacity production of this needed energy in Nigeria, Niger's oil may as well turn out to be of immense blessing to states near our border with Niger.
As a matter of fact, the four ageing federal government-owned refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna have, over the years, failed to satisfy our domestic energy needs, hence the need to source other avenues to cover the shortfall, preferably at a cheaper cost which Niger Republic is apparently willing to offer.
Nothing becomes more enticing than a business environment that holds the hope of bringing good bargain and a congenial atmosphere to operate businesses. Nigeria should, therefore, cash in on this opportunity to bring succour to its people since the system has, ironically, failed to do so domestically, despite the nation's huge crude oil potential.
In the circumstance, however, we can't but aim at deriving maximum gains. This will be achieveable if our oil marketers weigh all available options.
For instance, Nigeria must consider how the importation of these products from Niger can effectively translate into reviving the hundreds of shut industries, especially in the north, due to lack of or inadequate energy supply. This will generate more employment opportunities in the region where joblessness and poverty have become endemic.
Creating more wealth through such business for the nation and opening up more frontiers for investments that will see to the diversification of the economy should be done in such a way that, in the final analysis, it touches the lives of the wider spectrum of the Nigerian populace.
Whoever crippled the nation's refineries can now see that it pays to run refineries well.