The United States has announced an additional 40-million-dollar (N14 billion) aid to Nigeria in order to address the humanitarian crisis arising from decades of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Secretary of State, Mr Mike Pompeo, who made the announcement in Washington DC on Tuesday, said this was in addition to nearly 350 million dollars (N122.5 billion) in assistance provided by the U.S. last year.
Pompeo spoke during a joint media briefing with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, after the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission (BNC) meeting hosted by the Department of State.
“The foreign minister (Onyeama) 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 organisations seeking to assist them.
“To aid in this effort, I’m pleased to announce today an additional 40 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to Nigeria, adding to the nearly 350 million dollars that we provided last year,’’ he said.
The BNC is a platform for the Nigerian and U.S. governments to expand cooperation and advance shared goals in the areas of trade and investment, development, good governance and security.
Pompeo said the two-day meeting also featured discussions on security cooperation between both countries, especially Nigeria’s “recent purchase’’ of 12 U.S.-made A-29 fighter planes worth 500 million dollars.
The sale of the aircraft, according to him, is in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision of building “a security force with the best training and modern weaponry.”
He said the U.S. would “hold Nigeria to the pledge’’ of ensuring that the country’s military operates with the highest standards of respect for human rights.
On his part, Onyeama described the security challenges facing the country as an existential threat, but was quick to note that they were being addressed with respect for human rights.
“Of course, we are faced with other security issues within Nigeria, and we know that some of them cause 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 and respecting the human rights of our population and we do that,’’ he said.
Find below transcript of the briefing:
Secretary Pompeo: Well, good morning, everyone. It’s my pleasure to welcome you, Minister, and your entire Nigerian delegation to Washington, DC.
The foreign minister and I just completed a very productive conversation on how to continue to strengthen the economic and security ties between our two nations.
This is a real priority for us in the Trump administration in Africa, because Nigeria is Africa’s most populous democracy and its largest economy.
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.
It’s what American companies do.
It’s what we do all over the world every day, and they do it in a spirit of transparency and partnerships with the host nations.
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 ways to grow prosperity in Nigeria and all across the region.
And we’re pleased, too, that President Buhari has prioritised 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.
Case in point: 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.
Nigeria was one of the first African nations to joint the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. America is now supporting the Nigerian fight against ISIS’s largest global affiliate, ISIS-West Africa – a dangerous threat to both of our countries.
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 recognised 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 encourage 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.
In closing, I want to thank you for being here with me today, for joining us with a big delegation to work to address all of these important opportunities that our two nations have between us.
Foreign Minister Onyeama: Thank you very much, Secretary.
Well, first of all, I’d like to say it’s been a great pleasure to be back in Washington to attend the Binational Commission between the United States and Nigeria.
This commission for us is a very important and valued framework for the cooperation between our two countries and as the Secretary has said, we came with a large delegation. And of course, this showed the importance that we attach to our bilateral relations between our two countries.
The themes of our Binational Commission really keys in to the vision of our president, President Muhammadu Buhari. And so for us, it’s extremely important to develop the roadmap of that vision within the framework of our bilateral cooperation.
We – the three thematic areas that we dealt with, which were also mentioned by the Secretary – of course, security. Security for us has become a major issue, an existential threat. But of course, 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 in 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 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.
And of course, in some of these cases it takes a bit longer than we would like to have these funds returned to our country, but we’re working very closely with the United States and we appreciate the support being provided in recovering and repatriating these illicit financial flow funds, and also, of course, as I said, the government of Jersey.
And 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. And it impacts all aspects of our countries, and also recovering stolen funds is another area that we absolutely prioritize.
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 prioritised, 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.
And of course, on the way here or just before coming, we were somewhat blindsided with the announcement of the visa 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. But it’s essentially very straightforward. It was very gratifying to come here, speaking to U.S. officials and to understand more clearly the reasoning behind this.
And essentially, there are security measures 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.
But really have to say, Mr. Secretary, that we do appreciate very much and value the cooperation between our two countries in very important areas for us. And as the Binational Commission, we’ve identified a very clear basis to move that on and progress.
We really look forward to seeing a lot of gains, win-wins, for our two countries.
And last but not the least, to thank you again, Mr. Secretary. We know you’ve just come back from a very long trip. But nevertheless, you’ve taken the time to be here with us and afford us the opportunity to listen very attentively – and very sympathetically, I might say – to the points that we had to make.
We had a excellent meeting before coming out here, and we’re very, very optimistic that we’ll build on this friendship between our two countries. So thank you very much once again.
Secretary Pompeo: Thank you.
Foreign Minister Onyeama: Thank you.
Secretary Pompeo: Thanks, everybody.
Nigeria set to apply for another $3bn Chinese loan, Amaechi reveals
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has revealed that the Nigerian government is about to borrow another $3billion from China.
This is coming at a time when there are controversies trailing the Federal Government’s planned securement of $500million loan from China.
The House of Representatives had raised an alarm over clauses in Article 8 (1) of the Commercial Loan Agreement signed between Nigeria and the Export-Import Bank of China.
In the said agreement, Nigeria stands to concede her sovereignty to China should there be a default in the repayment of the $400million for the Nigerian National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone phase 2 project signed in 2018.
Part of the agreement said that:
“The borrower hereby irrevocably provides waives any immunity on the grounds of sovereign or otherwise for itself or its property in connection with any arbitration pursuit to Article 85 thereof with the enforcement of any arbitral award pursuit thereto except for the military asset and diplomatic asset.”
However, Amaechi, while speaking on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Tuesday, explained that he told the National Assembly members not to probe the loan issue too much in order not to scare the lender.
He noted that the country might lose a chance of getting another $3billion loan which the Nigerian government planned to use in executing the rail from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
“The reason why I said that is because we have already applied for $5.3billion to execute the rail from Ibadan to Kano. We are about applying for about $3billion to execute the rail from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
Amaechi, however, stated that the lawmakers approved the loans that have generated many controversies.
He wondered why the same lawmakers who approved the loan were now questioning the same loan and the terms of the loan having looked at it before.
“Don’t forget the National Assembly approved that loan. It is unconstitutional and impeachable if you take a loan without the approval of the National Assembly. So the same National Assembly that approved the loan is now questioning the same loan and the terms of the loan having looked at it before.
“If I am the lender, I will be worried. If they get worried, they will say ‘No, we will not approve the remaining loans you have applied for,” he said.
Chinese loans: $400m project abandoned after completion
The National Public Security Communication System project for which Nigeria took a $399.5million from China and has paid $76.83million as part of the principal as well as $84.92million interest has been abandoned.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari had, during the 2020 Democracy Day broadcast on June 12, said that the project had been revived, Nigerian Tribune findings show that the project has since been abandoned.
The President, in the 59th paragraph of the Democracy Day speech, had said, “Amongst others, Government has expanded the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen states of the federation, resuscitated the National Public Security Communication System and commenced the implementation of the Community Policing Strategy.”
Nigeria had, in 2010, taken the $399.5million loan to finance the National Public Security Communication System project with the aim of improving the security architecture of the country.
The loan, for which the outstanding is $322.67million, is supposed to be fully repaid by 2030, failing which the China-Exim Bank would take over the facility. Experts are agreed that had the project been activated after completion, Nigeria could have stemmed the rising tide of crime and criminality in different parts of the country.
Nigeria has been at the mercy of insurgents, bandits and kidnappers who have repeatedly unleashed mayhem on many arts of the country. Just a few days back, the convoy of Borno State governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, was attacked by suspected militants. In June 2019, suspected kidnappers also attacked the convoy of Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State governor.
However, it was hide and seek for the agencies directly linked with the National Public Security Communication System project on Tuesday as the Nigerian Tribune sought to get their views on the President’s comment that the project had been revived.
Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) spokesperson, Adamu Idris, who spoke with the Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, said the agency did not know anything about the project.
“We were brought in after the project had been completed, we were not brought in at the design stage. We were supposed to run it on behalf of the government but it was not successfully executed. So, we are no longer involved.”
When asked to confirm the resuscitation of the project as said by the President, he said he did not know the current status of the project because his agency was no longer involved.
He then referred our correspondent to either the Ministry of Interior or the Police Affairs Ministry for further clarifications. The Ministry of Interior’s spokesperson, Mohammed Manga, declined comments because “I am not in the presidency, so I cannot make a comment about what the president said.”
He also declined to speak on the status of the project, saying “It is not domiciled in our ministry.” Seyi Odutayo, the Police Affairs Ministry’s spokesperson, promised to get back to our correspondent after communicating with the relevant department but had yet to do so at the time of filing this report.
However, during a 2016 investigation by an Ad Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives investigating the award of CCTV cameras in Abuja and Lagos, a former NigComSat MD, Mr Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai, had said that the project was fully completed by the contractor, ZTE Nigeria Limited, but that the Federal Government failed to operate and maintain it.
According to Ahmed-Rufai,
“We had a team of 25 engineers that went to every location to verify different stages of the project. We issued Acceptance Certificates after which payments were made to the contractor. There were milestones that were all carefully and professionally observed by the project implementation team.
“As the Project Consultant, I stand by every payment that was made and every decision taken on the project. The project was completed, tested and every component was working.
“It is erroneous for anyone to call the project a CCTV project because the Video Surveillance System (VSS) is even less than 8 per cent of the project. There were five components and they were all completed.”
He added that while the project was fully completed, the Federal Government had failed to activate it, likening the situation to having a brand new car but failing to fuel it.
“They had to power down the backbone for the communication system because government was not forthcoming in maintaining and operating the system. It is a complete communication system, there were special phones for security agencies which some people decided to lock up somewhere.
“There were emergency communication vehicles, they were all delivered. People were trained, from the police and other agencies but somehow some people decided not to operate the system. Those cameras depend on a backbone that has over 670 base stations. Those BTS have to be powered for the cameras to work,” he said.
Similarly, ZTE MD, Mr. Hao Fuqiang, in his response to the House of Representatives’ 2016 investigation, said, “We have consistently maintained that the project was fully completed and final tests completed. The Acceptance Certificates are available for scrutiny.”
According to the ZTE MD, the project was not just about CCTV as it had five components. The Global Open Trunking Architecture (GoTa) Sub-system, which is the dominant component of the system, is a CDMA-based voice and data telecommunications system with national coverage. It operates through two Mobile Switch Centres (MSC) with one each in Lagos and Abuja; 12 Base Station Controllers (BSC), 675 Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) and 21 Microwave repeaters.
The Gota system supports the deployment of 1.5 million subscriber lines. The second component is the Video surveillance Subsystem. The system comprises of 2000 surveillance cameras with 1,000 each installed in Abuja and Lagos respectively.
The subsystem also makes use of solar solutions because of the electricity challenges in the country. The Video Conferencing subsystem provides a platform for real-time video conferencing for the Nigeria Police Force across all commands and the Force Headquarters.
The E-policing subsystem is meant to facilitate the deployment of E-policing databases, while the Coalition Emergency Response subsystem is a platform for national emergency communication using the shortcode of 911 for emergency and /distress calls and 912 for anonymous security information. It also empowers the security agencies to carry out a coordinated response.
The National Public Security Communication System project was initiated during the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua to curb insecurity in Abuja and Lagos as well as their environs.
FG rescues 30 Nigerian ladies stranded in Lebanon
Days after the video of 30 Nigerian ladies living in Lebanon pleading for assistance to return home went viral, the Federal Government has rescued them.
Recall that the ladies inside the viral video begged President Buhari and other well-meaning Nigerians to come to their aid and rescue them.
This was contained in a statement released by the spokesperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission NIDCOM, Gabriel Odu on Tuesday, August 4.
Odu said the ladies are currently in a more conducive apartment and would be repatriated between August 12 and 16.
”They will be part of One Hundred and Fifty others trafficked and stranded in Lebanon to be evacuated back to Nigeria. The Lebanese Ambassador to Nigeria Mr Houssam Diab disclosed the evacuation plans when the Management of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission NIDCOM, led by the Secretary Engr. Dr Sule Yakubu Bassi visited the Embassy in Abuja.
Ambassador Diab stated that One Hundred and fifty girls will be returned home in batches.
The first batch of One Hundred and Ten(110) will leave Beirut, Lebanon on 12th, August, 2020 to Lagos while the Second Batch will be returned to Abuja on 16th, August, 2020.” the statement in part read
A break down showed that 41 of the girls hailed from Oyo State; Ogun, 21; Lagos, 12; Ondo, 18; Osun, 26; Imo, 3; Kwara, 9; Ekiti, 6; Delta 3 while Enugu, Kogi, Edo, Ebonyi, Benue, Abia, Akwa Ibom and Anambra had one each.
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