A lot has improved in Nigeria-United States of America relations since the coming into office of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration on May 29, 2015. For some reasons, relations between the two countries hit an abysmal low during the tenure of Barack Obama and Goodluck Jonathan.
Today, we toast to the fact that the Nigeria-U.S. relations have changed for the better. President Muhammadu Buhari was the first African leader President Donald Trump called on phone after his inauguration. In the past two days, the Nigerian president has been in the U.S. for an expected mutually-beneficial parley with Trump on the invitation of the latter. The meeting holds today, April 30 in the White House.
Presidents Buhari and Trump would discuss ways to enhance the strategic partnership of both countries and advance their shared priorities which include the fight against terrorism and mutual economic growths. The White House stated that President Trump was desirous of promoting economic growth and reforms, fighting terrorism and other threats to peace and security, and building on Nigeria’s role as a democratic regional leader.
The meeting between presidents Buhari and Trump comes two months after the former U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson visited Nigeria as guest of President Buhari.
Tillerson while in Nigeria noted that the U.S. and Nigeria have been collaborating in creating opportunities for increased trade and investments and in facing up to the challenges of corruption, disease and terrorism.
While this is true, a lot more is still needed to be done to strengthen the ties between both countries. It is on this score that Nigeria looks forward to the inauguration of the U.S-Nigeria Commercial Investment Dialogue as well as the Trade and Investment Framework Council, both billed to take place this year, given that they are meaningful steps towards the development of a stronger business relationship between both nations and in tackling the inhibitions on the path of increased trade and investment from the U.S.
On its part, the U.S. looks forward to the finalisation of the Continental Free Trade Agreement through the instrumentality of the African Union, AU, as an important mechanism in the acceleration of intra-African trade, which the U.S government believes is going to bring improved U.S foreign direct investment in Africa, and particularly Nigeria as Africa’s largest economy. On March 21, this year at the 18th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Governments in Kigali, Rwanda, 44 of the 54 African countries signed the agreement with Nigeria and nine others, abstaining.
While Nigeria may still sign, as Africa’s largest economy and with a population that more than triples that of South Africa, Nigerians find it a sad commentary that South Africa bests Nigeria in trade relations with the U.S. Cheerless as the diminishing volume of trade between Nigeria and the U.S. is, it is a generic trajectory from the U.S. in the continent of Africa which strongly points in the direction of the country’s non-prioritisation of its engagement of Africa. China has, for more than a decade now, displaced the U.S. in Nigeria and Africa in many critical aspects. This should worry the U.S.
It is heartening, in our opinion, that security is listed as a core issue to be discussed in today’s meeting. With the unrelenting evil of Boko Haram, and having now identified the existence of ISIS-West Africa, Nigerians expect a more U.S government intervention in bolstering the Lake Chad Basin Multinational Joint Task Force, which Nigeria leads, especially with intelligence, as Nigeria focuses on her presidential election next year.
We suggest that this meeting should note that the receding of the Lake Chad to now 10 per cent of its size that once covered 10,000 to 25,000 km2 (3,900 to 9,700 sq. miles), involving regions of Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad and had a maximum depth of 11 metres (36 ft.), and a volume of 72 km3 (17 cu mi) has directly been linked to idleness and an aggravating poverty that are fuelling radicalism and terrorism in the Chad Basin.
Apart from resolving to sell armaments to Nigeria to help it fight Boko Haram and lead regional anti-terrorism efforts, the U.S. should consider making interventions that would leverage the half-hearted efforts of the Chad Basin countries in recharging the lake as the major lifeline of the basin’s population. The U.S. must understand that this is key in tackling Boko Haram and the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi-led Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) from the root.
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