Nigeria Gets $40m Humanitarian Aid From US
….Explains Rationale Behind Visa Restriction
The United States Government has announced a $40m humanitarian aid which has been given to Nigeria to assist her protect her citizens caught in the web of insurgency threats and killings.
Announcing this in the Treaty Room of the State Department during a joint press conference with the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, US Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo stated that Nigeria and the US just completed a very productive conversation on how to continue to strengthen the economic and security ties between them.
According to Pompeo, “On that note, let me begin and talk about our economic cooperation. Nigeria is already America’s second-largest trading partner in Africa. U.S. 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.
“The foreign minister and I discussed how we can tighten our trade ties even further, including in infrastructure investment. Embracing free market policies that attract capital – private capital, ensuring consistent enforcement of the law, and doubling down on anti-corruption efforts are the surest way to grow prosperity in Nigeria and all across the region. And we’re pleased, too, that President Buhari has prioritized that fight against corruption.
“In support of that fight, I am announcing today that the United States and Nigeria have signed an agreement to return to the Nigerian people more than $308 million in assets stolen by a former dictator.
“Now I’ll turn to our security cooperation, which has also been expanding. 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.
“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 that 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.” Responding, Onyeama stated that security has become a major issue, and an existential threat to Nigeria.
In his words, “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 causes of disquiet amongst our partners, and we are addressing a number of those. 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, of Jersey and the United States, $321 million, we appreciate the effort in – 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.
“Corruption has been a real scourge for our country, and our president, President Muhammadu Buhari, has made the fight against corruption one of the real key areas and priorities of the government. And it has not been easy, but it is one that we are determined to win.
“Then a third area, of course, that we discussed and that is part of the partnership that we have with the United States is on economic development. We went through a recession in our country, and we have had what we would call a mono-economy, where we’ve essentially depended on one commodity, petroleum oil. And as our president would say, once the price of oil came crashing, our economy went crashing with it. So diversification of our economy has been something that our president has prioritized, and in particular agriculture. And we’re trying to promote foreign direct investment and want much greater investments in our countries.
“During the Binational Commission we looked at some of the statistics of the trade between the United States and Nigeria, and for two big countries it’s – it really is just too low. And we honestly believe that there’s just so much more we can and we should be doing together. Of course, there have been maybe some disincentives. In the past, we have power challenges in our country, infrastructure, and of course, as I mentioned, governance has also been an issue. But working with the United States, we believe that there’s a lot that the U.S. can do in also promoting and encouraging U.S. businesses to come and invest in Nigeria. President Buhari has put in place measures to make Nigeria a more attractive place to invest in. We have an Enabling Business Environment Council that’s been set up under the vice president, and we have sort of striven to move Nigeria up the World Bank rating on ease of doing business. And we are moving in the right direction, and we feel that we are ready for business and certainly hope that, again, with our partners in the U.S. that we will be able to attract more investment.
“We also want to export a lot more, developing our manufacturing and industrial base. And I know, of course, the U.S. market is a very attractive market for us. And you also have the African Growth Opportunities Act. Again, we are very thankful for that mechanism and the facility that allows African countries to have some preferential access to the U.S. market.
“And of course, there’s some challenges we face, and one of them is the phytosanitary challenges with regard – for our agricultural products. And we hope to really work with the U.S. to work through that so that we don’t face these market access issues.
“On the way here or just before coming, we were somewhat blindsided with the announcement of the restrictions by the U.S. And of course, a lot of people back home in Nigeria understood it and put different interpretations and different spins on it.
“There are security measure that were taken with regards to passports – electronic passports, lost and stolen passports, data being shared, criminal histories being made available and shared, known terrorists and suspected terrorist information also being made available. And we’ve identified all those requirements and we had actually started working on all of them. And we know – and the U.S. officials have also confirmed – that we have been able to tick most of those boxes.
“With regards to lost and stolen passports, we’re putting in place the architecture that will now make that – the information and the data on that immediately available to the U.S. and all the member states, member countries of Interpol. And we hope to have that up and running very soon and no longer going through third parties. And hopefully once that has been achieved, we look forward to being taken off this visa restriction list.” GVE