• Promises speedy release of aircraft
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Washington DC; Louis Iba
President of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump, has asked the Federal Government to dismantle obstacles that hinders free trade – movement of goods and services – between the two countries.
Trump, who spoke at a joint press conference with visiting President Muhammadu Buhari disclosed that the US had given about $1 billion in aid to support social and humanitarian services in Nigeria’s war-ravaged communities.
“Nigeria is one of our largest trading partners in the region. We look forward to growing our trade relationship based on the principle of fair play and reciprocity. We give Nigeria well over $1 billion in aid every year and we have already started talking with the president about taking down the trade barriers to the United States’ trade with Nigeria,” Trump said.
He said that would make it easier to invest in Nigeria.
“We will be investing substantially in Nigeria if they can create the proper playing field we asked for,” he said.
This is even as Trump assured of speedy release of the 12 counter-insurgency aircraft worth $496 million to Nigeria to help in its fight against Boko Haram.
The US had previously refused to sell military aircraft to Nigeria, citing human rights concerns.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has assured the United States that his administration remained 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.”
As part of efforts to address emerging cases of insurgency in the country, Buhari said 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.
“This programme is currently embarking on a number of projects including: skill acquisition centres and integrated farms comprising poultry, fish pond and greenhouse farming among others. A number of international partners, including the International Organization for Migration have contributed to the success of Operation Safe Corridor. We indicated that we would appreciate whatever support we could also get from the US.”
Buhari also expressed his government’s gratitude to US for support in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in the North East 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 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.”
On the kidnapped girls still in the custody of Boko Haram, Buhari said: “We are doing all we can to secure the release of the remaining abducted schoolgirls from Dapchi and Chibok. In this context, we will continue to welcome US collaboration in intelligence gathering, hostage negotiations and information-sharing.”
He thanked the US government for the cooperation Nigeria has received in its effort to recover looted 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 $500 million 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.”
But both leaders avoided the question about Trump’s reported use of vulgar language during an Oval Office meeting. He made the comments on immigrants from African nations in reference to U.S. immigration legislation this past January.
“I’m very careful with what the press says about [people] other than myself, I’m not sure about the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true or not, the best thing for me is to keep quiet,” said Buhari when asked if the president’s past comments came up during their meetings.
“We didn’t discuss it. You do have some countries that are in very bad shape. We didn’t discuss it because the president knows me and knows where I’m coming from,” Trump said.