President Muhammadu Buhari is eyeing closer ties with France, including on security, as Nigeria and its neighbours fight back against Boko Haram, his office said on Sunday.
The 72-year-old will spend three days in Paris from Monday following an invitation from his French counterpart Francois Hollande, Buhari’s spokesman Femi Adesina said in an emailed statement.
His entourage on the official visit includes the country’s national security advisor, retired major-general Babagana Monguno, plus senior officials in the defence, finance and foreign ministries.
Buhari will meet Hollande on Monday evening and also hold talks with Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and other senior government figures, Adesina said.
The trip “will focus on the further strengthening and consolidation of ongoing bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and France in the areas of defence, security, trade and investments”, he added.
Meetings with the heads of French oil major Total and concrete manufacturer Lafarge, both of which have operations in Nigeria, are also planned, as is a meeting with African ambassadors in Paris.
Buhari has made defeating Boko Haram a priority since he came to power in May, after six years of bloodshed that has left at least 15,000 dead and made more than two million others homeless.
Anglophone Nigeria is in a coalition with Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin, and overcoming historically suspicious ties with its French-speaking neighbours is seen as key to defeating the Islamist militants.
France has a strong military presence in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, for operations against jihadists in the Sahel region.