From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The United States has said that countering Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa (ISWA) remain its top priorities.
Its ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, also said the US would continue to consider consequences, including visa restrictions, for individuals responsible for undermining the Nigerian democratic process or election-related violence.
Leonard, in an Op-ed titled ‘Looking Back on 2020 with a sense of optimism toward 2021,’ said no country can advance the well-being of its people without peace and security.
She disclosed that the ongoing United States security cooperation programmes with Nigeria included equipment sales, grants, education, and training programs.
“Countering Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa remain top priorities for both of our nations. Maritime security cooperation, through joint exercises such as Obangame Express, demonstrate the strength of our partnership to end piracy and encourage economic activity in the Gulf of Guinea.”
Leonard also said the United States was a steadfast supporter of Nigerian democracy. She recalled that Nigerian youths mobilised and brought international attention to police abuse and successfully called for police reforms few months ago.
She, however, said the United States will seek opportunities in 2021 to contribute technical assistance in the national and state-level efforts to follow-through on #EndSARS commitments.
Highlighting some of the United States activities in the country in 2020, Leonard said: “In November, we welcomed Counselor Brechbühl’s delegation who came to raise U.S. government concerns about ongoing violence in Nigeria, human rights, and religious freedom, and to enhance US-Nigerian cooperation in preventing atrocities.
“This past year, we encouraged all stakeholders, including INEC, political parties, and security services, to make significant improvements to electoral processes. We congratulate INEC and the Nigerian people for the credible and largely peaceful Edo and Ondo State elections where voters felt their votes counted.
“We support public monitoring groups, such as YIAGA, to build public confidence in election results. Moving forward, the United States will continue to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for individuals responsible for undermining the Nigerian democratic process or for organizing election-related violence.”
On COVID-19, Leonard said over 60 members of the United States Mission in Nigeria, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Department of Defense’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, stood side by side with their Nigerian counterparts at the National Center for Disease Control, Presidential Task Force and Nigerian military to strategize, plan, and effectively implement treatment of Nigerian citizens over the past nine months.
She disclosed that in 2020, the United States provided more than $73 million in assistance for the COVID-19 response.
“In 2021, we expect to see additional opportunities to reduce the digital divide. President Buhari recently signed the US-Nigeria Open Skies agreement that will permit increased aviation links, generating new two-way trade and commercial opportunities. With the right policy environment, these trends will lead to even greater business and employment opportunities in 2021,” Leonard said.