Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
As Nigerians grapple with the reality of the visa ban slammed on the country and five others, the United States has donated an additional $40 million to assist humanitarian efforts in the northeast.
The United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced the donation at the end of the 5th Session of the Nigeria-United States of America Bi-national Commission held in Washington D.C, United States.
The United States added that the amount will help in the rehabilitation of victims of Boko Haram insurgency, including others who have suffered similar fate in the northeast.
Pompeo who spoke after a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, recalled that the United States had in 2019, provided nearly the sum of $350 million to assist the victims.
He disclosed that the meeting centred on how to continue to strengthen the economic and security ties between both countries, which he said, was a real priority for the Trump administration in Africa because Nigeria is Africa’s most populous democracy and its largest economy.
Pompeo added that Nigeria is already America’s second-largest trading partner in Africa as United States companies from Google to Chevron to KPMG, invested over a billion dollars in Nigeria in 2018 alone, creating over 18,000 jobs and indirectly supporting three million others.
He further disclosed that both countries discussed how to tighten trade ties even further, including in infrastructure investment and embracing free-market policies that attract capital – private capital, ensuring consistent enforcement of the law, stating that doubling down on anti-corruption efforts are the surest way to grow prosperity in Nigeria and all across the region.
Pompeo added that the United States was pleased that President Muhammadu Buhari had prioritized that fight against corruption in the country which was why the United States signed an agreement to return more than $308 million in assets stolen by former military head of state, late General Sani Abacha.
Pompeo who further spoke on the cooperation between the United States and Nigeria in the area of security, said the cooperation had been expanding.
“Case in point: Nigeria’s recent $500 million purchase of 12 U.S.-made A-29 aircraft. This supports President Buhari’s recently-stated goal of creating ‘a security force with the best training and modern weaponry.’
“He also pledged that those forces ‘will be held to the highest standards of… respect for human rights.’
“The United States will hold Nigeria to that pledge, and we’ll help you achieve it. The United States has already invested in the training of Nigeria’s military on human rights and the Law of Armed Conflict.
“Nigeria was one of the first African nations to join the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. America is now supporting the Nigerian fight against ISIS’s largest global affiliate, ISIS-West Africa – a dangerous threat to both of our countries.
“In part, due to this terrorism threat, on Friday, President Trump announced the suspension of immigrant visas for Nigerians because Nigeria has room to grow in sharing important national security information. I am optimistic that’s going to happen. In the proclamation, President Trump highlighted Nigeria’s importance as a strategic partner in the global fight against terrorism and recognized the government’s commitment to improving information sharing with us.
“The foreign minister and I also discussed today, the massive humanitarian crisis and the conflict with Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa and other religious and ethnic violence.
“We know that these issues are hard. We know that they’re complicated. But I strongly encouraged the Nigerian Government to do more to protect its civilians, including religious communities and the humanitarian organizations seeking to assist them.
“To aid in this effort, I’m pleased to announce today an additional $40 million in humanitarian assistance to Nigeria, adding to the nearly $350 million that we provided last year,” Pompeo said.
On his part, Onyeama said the Nigeria-United States Bi-national Commission was a very important and valued framework for the cooperation between the United States and Nigeria which reflected the importance that Nigeria attach to the bilateral relations between both countries.
He stated that the areas highlighted by Pompeo such as security, democracy and governance, corruption and economic development were extremely at the heart of the Buhari administration.
“We – the three thematic areas that we dealt with, which were also mentioned by the secretary – of course, security. Security for us has become a major issue, an existential threat. But of course, we know that terrorism is a global threat, and we appreciate and value very much, the cooperation that we’ve received from the United States Government. As the secretary mentioned, there are some fighter planes, A-29 Super Tucanos that we hope to be able to procure to help us on this fight. But there are other areas – sharing of intelligence with our partners – that the United States has been supporting us in. We appreciate very much that support.
“Of course, we are faced with other security issues within Nigeria, and we know that some of them are causes of disquiet amongst our partners, and we are addressing a number of them. And in addressing those internal challenges, and especially in the security area, we absolutely make it clear and strive to uphold human rights. We have the greatest interest in protecting the – and respecting the human rights of our population, and we do that.
“Of course, the other area that we’ve discussed has been democracy and governance. And as the secretary has mentioned – and we thank again the United States for it – the sums of money that was restituted to Nigeria with the Bailiwick, it’s called, State of Jersey and the United States, $321 million, we appreciate the effort – and steps that have been taken in accessing these stolen funds. And it’s an area that we prioritize in our country because huge resources have been siphoned out of our country.
“And of course, in some of these cases, it takes a bit longer than we would like to have these funds returned to our country, but we’re working very closely with the United States and we appreciate the support being provided in recovering and repatriating these illicit financial flow funds, and also, of course, as I said, the government of Jersey,” Onyeama said.