Expel and Lure
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz presses Nigeria to supply Germany with liquefied natural gas and accelerate refugee repatriation. Austerity measures threaten to plunge Nigeria into severe poverty.
ABUJA/BERLIN (Own report) –Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants Nigeria to increase LNG supplies to Germany and is demanding that Nigerian refugees be accepted back swiftly. Scholz, who held talks on Sunday and Monday in Nigeria's capital Abuja and subsequently in its commercial capital Lagos, is thus continuing his efforts to increase LNG imports from African countries to replace Russian gas – a step that last year had already raised a few eyebrows. The German government had repeatedly urged African countries to abandon fossil fuel extraction. While increasing deportation of Nigerians, Berlin – according to Scholz – is trying to lure more “talents” from the country to work for German companies –a contribution to the brain drain depriving developing countries of urgently needed and expensively trained skilled labor. In Nigeria, Scholz also held talks on the developments in Niger. Last summer, with Nigeria's help, the EU sought to overthrow the military government in Niger that previously had ousted a pro-Western president and is seeking to lead the country to genuine independence from the former colonial powers.
Scholz in Africa
This is Chancellor Olaf Scholz's third trip to Africa and his second to West Africa. In May 2022, Scholz had traveled to Senegal and then on to Niger; where he visited the German troops deployed in that country, before going on to meet with pro-Western President Mohamed Bazoum. Bazoum has since been overthrown by putschists, who can rely on a widespread popular rejection of French dominance in West Africa. This rejection is also growing in Senegal. The two countries Scholz is visiting this time – Nigeria and Ghana – are, like Senegal and Niger, members of the West African regional organization ECOWAS, but they are not former French colonies. Their foreign relations are therefore less affected by the current anti-colonial wave in West Africa’s Francophonie. Moreover, both countries have been Germany’s long-standing cooperation partners of, albeit at a relatively modest level: The bilateral trade volume with Nigeria, Africa's strongest economic power by volume, amounts to just three billion euros, that with Ghana to a mere 700 million.
Oil and Gas
With his visit in Nigeria on Sunday and Monday, Scholz was seeking to expand bilateral economic relations with a focus on energy resources. German oil imports from Nigeria currently account for around half of the total trade volume. Now the German government also wants to import gas from the country – just as it did from Senegal, where Chancellor Scholz had also negotiated gas supplies in May 2022. This had already raised some eyebrows at the time. Berlin had long been prominent in making the demand that the African continent should abandon its use of fossil fuels. However, subsequent to its decision to halt Russian oil and gas imports, it began to promote tapping new deposits in Africa, for example in Senegal, and is now seeking supplies from the new sources. Nigeria has long been extracting gas and is already supplying it to Europe in the form of LNG. In 2021, with 14 percent of the EU’s imports, Nigeria was the EU's fourth largest supplier after the USA, Qatar and Russia, with most of it sold to Spain and Portugal. Just before his trip, Scholz had already stated in an interview with the Nigerian newspaper Punch that German corporations were also interested in LNG supplies from Nigeria.
To accelerate the repatriation of Nigerians from Germany was Scholz’s second important objective on his visit to Nigeria. Nigerians are rarely granted asylum in Germany. Between January and September of this year, of the 1,850 persons who applied for asylum in Germany only 118 have been granted a reliable right to remain. However, it is currently not easy for Berlin to deport Nigerians, whose bid for asylum has been rejected. The Nigerian authorities only allow those into the country, who have valid original documents. Substitute papers, provided by German authorities to those Nigerians, who have lost their passports, are not recognized in Abuja. That has resulted in around 14,000 Nigerians living in Germany, who, in principle are obliged to leave the country. This year only 262 have actually been deported. Scholz was insisting that Abuja make their repatriation easier. Only “talents from Nigeria,” needed in the labor market, should be allowed to come, says the chancellor. This is Berlin’s admission to lure well, and expensively-trained personnel – the so-called brain drain that inflicts serious damage to developing countries and is regularly criticized by experts.
Scholz used his stay in Nigeria to also discuss the situation in Nigeria’s northern neighbor, Niger. Following the putsch in that country, Nigeria had been one of those countries, that had been particularly advocating for a military intervention in Niger, to restore the overthrown President Bazoum to power. For that purpose, several of the ECOWAS countries, besides Nigeria, for example both Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire wanted to provide the necessary troops. In addition, there was also the prospect of French military assistance. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) Ultimately the plan was abandoned – also due to the strong resistance from Northern Nigeria, which would have borne the brunt of the extensive damage in the case of a war with the neighboring country. Meanwhile, French troops have begun their withdrawal from Niger. Backing down from the threat of an intervention, supported by Paris and the EU, has cost ECOWAS credibility and weakened its position in West Africa, where it was already widely considered a French and Western lackey. In Abuja, Scholz met with ECOWAS Commission President, Omar Touray, exchanged views on the situation in Niger and praised ECOWAS – in a very odd choice of words – as “a powerful and functioning [!] organization.”
Berlin’s attempt to expand cooperation with Nigeria under President Bola Tinubu is not free of risks. Tinubu came to power in late May – following a quite contested election, winning with around 37 percent of the votes, ahead of two strong opponents (Atiku Abubakar with 29 percent, and Peter Obi, 25 percent). Both opponents alleged the presidential election had been marred by irregularities and challenged the results, but lost their bid a few days ago before the country’s highest court. However, Tinabu is still far from out of the woods. From the beginning of his administration, he imposed stringent austerity measures, such as halting the subventions on gasoline, meaning that many ordinary car owners no longer could afford to drive their cars, and with daily living costs skyrocketing. Whereas Tinubu is praised for his cuts in the West, Germany included – the government owned Germany Trade and Invest (gtai) foreign business agency speaks of “important reforms,” – inside that country, there is great resentment. The number of Nigerians, forced to live on less than US $1/day, could grow from a current 83 million to 120 million and in the worst-case, to as many as 140 to 150 million in a population of 220 million, according to experts. There are already warnings of possible unrest. The supporters of the defeated presidential candidate Obi, who feels cheated out of the victory, are are primarily young, rebellious Nigerians.
 Heiner Hoffmann, Carmen Abd Ali: „Wir müssen uns vom Würgegriff Frankreichs lösen”. spiegel.de 27.08.2023.
 See also The African Union’s Travel Mandate.
 Francesco Sassi: Nigeria’s Gas Ambitions in the European Energy Crisis: High Goals and Practical Realities. ispionline.it 28.10.2022.
 Germany reviewing procedures to speed up visa process – Chancellor Scholz. punchng.com 29.10.2023.
,  Helene Bubrowski, Jochen Buchsteiner: Die zarten Pflänzchen der Migrationspolitik. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 31.10.2023.
 Pressestatement im Rahmen der Pressekonferenz von Bundeskanzler Scholz und dem Präsidenten der Kommission der Westafrikanischen Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft, Touray, am 29. Oktober 2023 in Abuja.
 Chris Ewokor, Wedaeli Chibelushi: Nigeria Supreme Court dismisses election challenges by Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. bbc.co.uk 26.10.2023.
 Corinna Päffgen: Neuer Präsident treibt Wirtschaftsreformen voran. gtai.de 08.08.2023.
 Nathaniel Bivan, Hauwa Saleh Abubakar: Now Many Nigerians Will Be In Poverty Because Of Cost Of Living Crisis? humanglemedia.com 13.09.2023.