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The United States has acknowledged Nigeria’s challenges and told President Muhammadu Buhari administration that building Nigeria would not be “an overnight operation.”
The US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, who stated this on Wednesday at the US-Nigeria Binational Commission’s meeting in Washington, said America wanted Nigeria to succeed.
He stated, “You know there are challenges. That’s what your election was about. And so we are all aware that the world right now is facing many different challenges in terms of governance in various parts of the world and for various reasons: absence of capital, absence of structure, having to build capacity.
“These things take time. Nobody is pretending that it’s an overnight operation. It wasn’t for us. And some people sometimes are very revisionist in America about our own history, but we’ve gone through some very difficult periods and very difficult issues.”
Kerry recalled that America took slavery out of its constitution after it had been written in, adding that it was no small task.
He stated, “We’ve been through a history. And what we’re trying to do is, really, share with people the shortcut, if you will – how you can manage to avoid some of the mistakes that we’ve made in the course of our own development in ways that can embrace the hopes and the aspirations of millions upon millions of people. That’s what this is about.”
He added that Nigeria was finding very vibrant expression in every branch of the arts. He said that like the United States, Nigeria “is a diverse country with a very large and assertive civil society.”
Kerry said, “The United States, let me be clear, is very encouraged by President Buhari’s commitment to an economy that is more diversified, less dependent on a single commodity for export earnings, and that means we need to develop sustainability.
“Sustainable growth depends on a climate that is welcoming to investment and respectful of the environment and of workers’ rights. And we have learned in these last 25, 30 years that it is never a competition between the environment and development.
“That is a false choice – completely false, and particularly in the context of today’s challenge of climate change. You can develop in ways that protect the environment and also are competitive and provide jobs for people.”
According to him, Nigeria’s future is in Nigerians’ hands. He said the United States would help Nigeria.
“Our development assistance this year will top $600m, and we are working closely with your leaders – the leaders of your health ministry – to halt the misery that is spread by HIV/AIDS, by malaria, and by TB,” he added.
He explained that the US Power Africa Initiative was aimed at strengthening the energy sector where shortage in electricity had frustrated the population and impeded growth.
He explained that America’s long-term food security programme, Feed the Future, would help to create more efficient agriculture and to raise rural incomes in doing that.
Kerry said that under Buhari’s administration, Nigeria had been taking the fight to Boko Haram and had reduced Boko Haram’s capacity to launch full-scale attacks.
He, however, stated that the group remained a threat to the entire region, adding that the US and Nigerian governments had been collaborating on new ways to institute security measures.
“The threat that is posed by Boko Haram is serious, but it must not – and I really believe this – it will not be allowed to shape Nigeria’s future. Nigeria is a country with could almost boundless capacity for economic growth,” he stated.
He also said no country could make progress with a culture of impunity.
The US also supported Nigeria’s fight against corruption. The secretary of state also backed Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s efforts to prosecute corruption cases.
Kerry said that no country, including Nigeria, could make progress with a culture of impunity.
He stated, “We back the role of civil society and of the media in exposing corruption and in advocating for greater transparency.
“And we emphasise the message that in the United States, we don’t have a holier-than-thou attitude about this. Believe me, we don’t. We’ve had our own challenges with organised crime through some of our history, but we have fought back against it.
“And we have fought back against it with prosecutors, who are above reproach, above the possibility of any kind of interference, and that has made all the difference in the world. You cannot have impunity in your culture – in anybody’s culture – and expect to be able to make progress.”
He added that all countries should emphasise that the fact that the soliciting of a bribe at any level of government could not be considered business as usual.
In his address, Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, said it had not been easy for Nigeria.
“President Buhari has really persisted. He is somebody, as you all know, whose unimpeachable integrity is respected in Nigeria and around the world. And it was not an easy task for him in opposition to come into power, but as you found also with your incumbent President, anything and everything is possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, the BNC in a communiqué at the end of the meeting said it discussed among other things, measures to counter violent extremism and encourage defections from Boko Haram; the importance of protecting civilians and safeguarding human rights; the need for integrated planning for the restoration of full civilian authority, resettlement and reconstruction; the need to understand and eliminate sources of terrorist financing; and ways to expand intelligence sharing.
The BNC’s discussion on security cooperation was co-chaired by Mansur Dan-Ali, Nigeria’s Minister of Defence and US Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.