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Nigeria’s President Visits France Monday

FILE - Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari gives an interview to Agence France-presse at his hotel during the 25th African Summit.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari begins a three-day visit to France Monday.

Femi Adesina, special adviser to Buhari on media and publicity, told VOA the visit is at the invitation of French President Francois Hollande and will focus on further strengthening bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and France in the areas of defense, security, trade and investments.

“The president is responding to an invitation extended to him by president Hollande of France. Nigeria and France have been allies for a while. You have plenty of French companies doing business in Nigeria and vice versa. So, it’s an opportunity to strengthen the bonds of brotherliness,” he said.

The visit comes at a time that Nigeria and its mostly French-speaking regional allies are waging an intense battle against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Adesina said President Buhari will be appealing to France for support in the areas of defense and security.

“The president will specifically be asking the French government to assist Nigeria in the area of intelligence and equipment, intelligence to use possibly in the recovery of the abducted Chibok girls and to also win the war against the insurgency conclusively,” Adesina said.

He said even though Nigeria is not a French-speaking country, the French government is well-disposed toward helping Nigeria because France knows that if Nigeria is at peace, the whole of Africa is at peace, including French-speaking Africa.

The Islamist extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 girls from the Chibok boarding school in northern Nigeria in April 2014.

Adesina said President Buhari has made the rescue of the Chibok girls a priority of his administration.

“As long as those girls are alive, Nigeria is determined to get them back. It is something that touches the heart of the president that touches the heart of the administration and in whatever way it lies in its power, the government will want to get those girls back,” he said.

Adesina said President Buhari will also meet with the French business community, including heads of French oil major Total and concrete manufacturer Lafarge, both of which have operations in Nigeria.