President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday assured his United States counterpart, Donald Trump, that his administration is working assiduously to end incessant killings by herdsmen in North-central states of Nigeria.
Buhari gave the assurance during a joint press briefing with Trump after a meeting between them that has been described as the US leader’s first meeting with a leader from sub-Saharan Africa at the White House.
The president who is currently on an official visit to the US also assured that the remaining Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls will soon be rescued.
“We are doing all we can to secure the release of the remaining abducted school girls from Dapchi and Chibok. In this context, we will continue to welcome US collaboration in intelligence gathering, hostage negotiations and information-sharing”, Buhari told Trump.
On farmers/herdsmen clashes, he said,” The government is taking necessary steps to promote the peaceful co-existence of herdsmen and farmers, by focusing on boosting security and enforcing legislation that will guarantee herders and farmers access to land”.
He congratulated the US government on the important role it played in the defeat of ISIS, saying some of the remnants have found their way to the Sahel region.
While recognising US’ strong support in Nigeria’s fight against terrorism, Buhari expressed appreciation to the country’s agreement to sell 12 Super Tucano A-29 war planes and weapons to Nigeria to effectively fight terrorism.
To contain the spate of insurgency in Nigeria, Buhari said the federal government has adopted a multi-sectorial approach, involving relevant government agencies to address the socio-economic and political dimensions, while the Armed Forces of Nigeria assist the civil authority to provide security and maintain law and order.
He noted that as part of efforts to address emerging cases of insurgency in the country, the Nigerian Military adopted a non-kinetic counter terrorism/counter insurgency approach code-named “Operation Safe Corridor”, to de-radicalise, re-habilitate and re-integrate willingly surrendered Boko-Haram members into the larger society.
According to him, this programme is currently embarking on a number of projects, including skill acquisition centers and integrated farms comprising poultry, fishpond and greenhouse farming, among others.
He added that a number of international partners, including the International Organization for Migration have contributed to the success of Operation Safe Corridor.
He said, “We indicated that we would appreciate whatever support we could also get from the US. We expressed gratitude for US support in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in the North East of Nigeria, as well as humanitarian assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), through agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other international partners.
“The USA has been to date the biggest contributor to the humanitarian response and last year gave approximately 500 million US Dollars in cash and in-kind contributions through the United Nations and other inter-governmental organizations. These have mainly supported protection activities, health, food assistance and shelter”.
Buhari also congratulated President Trump and his government on the impressive performance of the US economy under his watch.
He continued: “Our aim is to diversify our own economy by focusing on agriculture and food security; power and infrastructure. We have cut the importation of rice by about 90% thereby saving a significant amount of money. We very much welcomed increased US investment in the Nigerian economy, especially in the non-oil sector.
“Economic relations between Nigeria and the United States are anchored on three major instruments, namely: the Bi-National Commission (BNC), Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The Bi-National Commission in particular, comprising bilateral political, economic, developmental and humanitarian partnership, is a basic economic framework for engagement between our two countries.
“Nigeria’s trade volume with the United States stood at $6.07 billion according to 2016 statistics and comprised $4.176 billion worth of Nigerian exports to the US and $1.894 billion US exports to Nigeria. We urged greater effort to increase these figures substantially”.
On governance and anti- corruption, the Nigerian leader noted: “We thanked the US government very much for the cooperation we have received in our effort to recover stolen funds. Our two governments have put the machinery in place for their respective Attorneys-General to collaborate in ensuring the return to Nigeria of over five hundred million United States Dollars ($500) of looted funds siphoned away in banks around the world.
“In this connection, we congratulated the US government on launching a Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative which was spearheaded by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering. We hoped that we could continue to count on US support in this area”.
President Buhari reiterated that the Government of Nigeria remains deeply committed to the principles of human rights as well as the promotion and protection of people’s freedom, even in the process of fighting terror.
“We commit to ensure that all documented cases of human rights abuses are investigated and those responsible for violations held accountable for their actions,” he stated.
On his part, President Trump told Buhari that his country would not accept the killing of Christians.
“We have had very serious problems with Christians who are being murdered in Nigeria, we are going to be working on that problem very, very hard because we cannot allow that to happen,” Trump said.
The US president also asked the Nigerian authorities to “protect innocent civilians of all faiths, including Muslims and Christians”.
On security, Trump said, “The president, as he says, has come a long way; they are doing a great job (on the war against insurgency).
“We are contributing to that job, but they have done a great job. What we want to do with that is that we want to open Nigeria and other countries to trade. I have great respect for the president.”
While noting that Nigeria is known for corruption, Trump however noted that Buhari has cut that down very substantially
“In terms of corruption, Nigeria has a reputation for very massive corruption, but I also know that the president has been able to cut that down very substantially, we talked about it, and they have made a lot of progress,” Trump said.
Asked if he will release the fighter jets to Nigeria by 2020, Trump said, “Real soon. Part of the problem is you weren’t allowed to buy helicopters in our country and now you are. I worked that out so that now you can buy the helicopters that you want.
“They weren’t allowed to buy the helicopters for various reasons, which frankly weren’t good reasons. Now they get them, and they get them very quickly, and they are the best helicopters in the world.
“We are also helping our Nigerian partners by facilitating intelligence, cooperation and providing training and military equipment to Nigerian forces. For example, we recently sold Nigeria 12 US A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, great aircraft, in the first ever sale of American military equipment to Nigeria. This new aircraft will improve Nigeria’s ability to target terrorists and protect civilians”.
Trump said he would like to visit Nigeria, describing it as an “amazing country.”
“Well, I would like very much to visit Nigeria. It is an amazing country. In certain ways, I hear from the standpoint of the beauty of a country — there’s no country more beautiful,” he said.
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