If it were not for the British breach of promise made to Sultan Attahiru II, the town Birnin Konni, in Niger Republic, which was part of Konni province of Sokoto Caliphate could have possibly today been a local government area headquarters in Sokoto State. Who knows, it could as well have been a district headquarter; with the district head on the membership of the prestigious State Council of Chiefs.
But alas, the British, once a colonial power, in the course of the Anglo-French boundary delimitation, reneged on this promise to Sultan Attahiru II and surrendered Konni, which is today the gateway into Niger Republic from Sokoto through Illela, to the French, who were then stationed at Zinder needed Konni and Maradi as corridor for easy access to the shores of Lake Chad. The French, on the other hand would give up their fishing rights in Newfoundland.
Consequently, at the conference on Boundary Delimitation held in London on May 27, 1906, Britain surrendered Konni and Maradi provinces to the French, facilitated by mutual accommodation which encouraged barter of areas of control, without consideration for local opinion.
Konni is one example of how former colonial powers created artificial boundaries between people who shared common culture, social set-up, language, topography and religion. It has therefore been the burden of successive administrations in Sokoto State to assist in complementing the efforts of the federal governments in retaining the cordiality, understanding and most significantly peace along the border.
The Wamakko Administration has been adding to the gains recorded by previous administrations, introducing policy actions and fine-tuning existing protocols which have been strengthening and moving this relationship to a much higher level. Gov. Wamakko has a number of times honoured invitation to be special guest of honour at their national wrestling competition.
Declaring open the 34th session of the Council of Members of Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission (NNJC) in Sokoto in November, 27th 2008, Gov. Wamakko noted, with the benefit of deep historical insight: “Despite all attempts by colonialists to tear us apart, we have remained ever inseparable, as we have been cooperating in many aspects of our developmental needs and aspirations”
Sokoto State is bordered by Dosso and Tahuoa Prefectures at the Niger Republic side of the border, with Illela, Isa, Sabon Birni, Gudu, Gada, and Tangaza Local Government Areas. The state has therefore formalized areas of agreement on contentious issues that have been mutually beneficial to both countries in areas relating to forestry, crop surveillance, desertification, animal health and security, among others.
Sokoto has, for instance, a standing committee with Dosso comprising traditional and community leaders to ensure peace between farmers in Nigeria and transhumance pastoralists, usually from Niger Republic, who in the seasonal trans-border south-wards movement in search of pasture for their livestock encroach on farmlands and are known for their incredible level of violence whenever they were challenged, which had lead to clashes, resulting in bloodshed. However, the Wamakko Administration has been stepping up the demarcation of cattle routes to guide herders and taking whatever necessary measures to prevent occurrences, like facilitating regular meetings between and among stakeholders.
To enhance relationship, particularly trade ties, the Wamakko Administration has been intervening in the road transport infrastructure, linking both countries. It, for instance, undertook the complete rehabilitation of the 82 kilometer Sokoto- Illela federal road, the main link between Nigeria and Niger Republic, at the north-west.
In the same vein, the 15 kilometer road link from Tsululu in Sabon Birni Local Government Area to Kuya junction in Niger Republic, constructed at a cost of 1,139,166,180 naira 47 kobo as well as the five-kilometer Ruwa Wuri-main road leading to Niamey, capital of Niger Repubic, at 333,000,000 naira are among the number of roads constructed by the Wamakko Administration which link parts of the state with communities in Niger Republic.
The administration also constructed the 45 kilometer Balle-Kurdulla- Niger-Border at the cost of 4.5 billion naira and the 36 kilometer Wauru-Kadadi-Rafin Duma-Galmi in Niger Republic at 2,767,450,527,naira 89 kobo.
The Wamakko Administration constructed the Silame Bridge, a project that remained abandoned for 17 years after its foundation was laid, with every successive administration in the state keeping it in view. The significance of this project is its international dimension. The bridge has access road links to four local governments in the state: Silame, Binji, Tangaza and Gudu; nationally, it links Sokoto with Kebbi State, while internationally; it joins all these areas with Dosso Prefecture in Niger Republic. The project was commissioned on May 24, 2010.
Some specialist institutions like the NOMA Children Hospital and Maryam Abacha Women and Children Hospital, both in Sokoto have been serving people from Niger Republic, where like Nigerians, they receive free medical treatment. The Wamakko Administration has sustained and even strengthened their operations. It is in fact adding to the list of critical institutions with the construction of Orthopedic Hospital, Wamakko, and the skills acquisition centres, with a potential number of Nigeriens undergoing courses in them.
In terms of economic diplomacy, an exhibition was jointly organized last year by Sokoto State Industrial/Artisanal Producers and Services Cooperative Union, Sokoto and the State Poverty Reduction Agency (SPORA) aimed at promoting trade, wealth creation and employment opportunities in union processing.
It was preceded by sponsoring of some members of this union on a ten-day capacity building workshop in Niamey-Niger Republic where they learnt the fabrication of machines used in union processing. Those sponsored returned with fabricated machines used in training others in the 23 local governments in the state.
In the area of commerce, the Wamakko Administration is attempting to build the achievements of Sarki Abdulrahman during whose reign as Sarkin Gobir of Gwadabawa, Illela, the border town grew into an urban and commercial centre, with the current effort to build a modern international market in Illela, which is 82 kilometers north of Sokoto, the state capital.
On completion, the market will further boost the socio economic ties among border communities. It is expected to consist of the main market complex, automobile market, building material market, cold rooms, restaurants, office block, public toilets, police station and fire stations, clinic, day care, drainage, various categories of roads etc. This market will in the end serve countries of the Maghreb, thus boosting the spirit of African Brotherhood.
The administration has been assisting agencies that have been contending with security challenges around border communities and far beyond. The agencies have to handle challenges such as smuggling, intra and inter communal conflicts, illicit drug trafficking, cattle rustling, insurgency and terrorism, human trafficking, among others.
However, cognizant of the existing and potential sticking-points among communities and even the two national governments, Gov. Wamakko, a recipient of Niger Republic’s highest national award, and who has consistently canvassed dialogue and understanding, expressed this optimism in an address to the closing of the 34th session of the Council of Members of Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission (NNJC) in Sokoto, with the words: “I have no doubt in my mind that the gathering of experts to jaw-jaw on the issues of agriculture and water, as they affect both Nigeria and Niger would, God willing, make us see the light at the end of the tunnel”.