By John Okeke
The United States has announced an additional $40 million to assist the humanitarian efforts to rehabilitate victims of the the Boko Haram insurgents and their allies in the north east of Nigeria.
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo made this announcement on Tuesday, while briefing reporters after a meeting with Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, as part of the events to mark the closing ceremony of the 5th Session of the US-Nigeria Binational Commission(BNC) in Washington.
According to Pompeo, US had provided $350 million to help victims of insurgency in 2019, adding that US and Nigeria are sharing intelligence to combat the scourge of terrorism even as he admonished the Nigerian Government to uphold human rights of citizens in the war against terrorism.
The theme of the this year’s Session was “US-Nigeria Relations: Mutual Prosperity Through Ingenuity”. It was aimed at strengthening key areas of both countries economic development, intensify the war against terrorism and fight corruption.
Pompeo also said the US is determined to help Nigeria fight corruption, which was why the US signed a tripartite agreement with Nigeria and Island of Jersey on Monday to repatriate another tranche of over $318 million allegedly looted by Nigeria’s former Head of State, the late Sani Abacha.
“Doubling down on anti-corruption efforts is the surest way to grow prosperity in Nigeria and all across the region and we are pleased that President Muhammadu Buhari has prioritized that fight against corruption,” Pompeo said.
On the war against terrorism, the Secretary of State said “the US will assist Nigeria fight against ISIS in West Africa.”
He noted that war against terrorism will further be boosted with the purchase of 12 A29 Tucano aircrafts worth about $500 from the US by Nigeria. He added that this will “support the security force with the best training and weaponry.”
On economic development, Pompeo pointed out that Nigeria is the second trading partner of the US in Africa stressing that efforts are being made to “tighten our trade ties even further, including infrastructure investment, free market policies and attract private capital.”
“US 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 3 million others,” Pompeo said.
Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in his remarks, lauded the US government for its assistance to Nigeria to combat terror and fight corruption as well as address the humanitarian crisis in the north east.
He said “corruption has been a real scourge on our country and that is the reason the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari has made the fight against corruption one of the major keys of his administration and we are determined to win it,” he said.
On economic development, the Minister noted that Nigeria has embarked of diversification of the Nigerian economy away from over dependence on crude oil. ” Diversification of our economy is what President Buhari has prioritized especially on agriculture,” he said.
On Foreign Direct investment, Onyeama, who lamented the low level of trade between Nigeria and the US, said President Buhari has put in place measures to make Nigeria attractive to US investment. He added that Nigeria is expanding its manufacturing and industrial base, stressing that Nigeria wants to exploit the opportunity provided by the African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) to export its agricultural products to the US.
“Of course there are some challenges we face. One of them is phytosanitary challenges with regards to our agricultural products. We hope to work with the US to work through that so that we don’t face market access issues,” Onyeama said.
He said through the Business Environment Council, Nigeria has striven to move Nigeria up the World Bank on Ease of Doing Business.
Earlier during the session, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk, expressed her intentions to bring peace and stability in the north east.
“The Ministry is moving away from post conflicts to early recovery, reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration of our displaced population,” she added.
The two-day session of the Binational Commission was also attended by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, top officers from the Nigerian military, top officers from the Ministry of Trade and Investment among others.