By Tobias Ellwood
I am delighted to be making my first visit to Nigeria this week, just a few days after attending the 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York. I was honoured to take on the responsibility for the UK’s work in Africa in July and visiting Nigeria has been a high priority.
The UK and Nigeria share strong and enduring links. Our partnership stretches over a broad range of areas including business, education, the arts and sport. In fact, my own local football club, Bournemouth FC, have partnered with COD United in Lagos to support young footballers.
Some have speculated that when the British people chose to leave the EU, they were voting to turn inwards, away from our global responsibilities. In New York last week we demonstrated that nothing could be further from the truth.
Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to the General Assembly that the UK will remain a strong and dependable international partner.
Actions speak louder than words, so concrete UK commitments followed, setting out how we will help to tackle some of the most pressing global challenges of our time.
We will increase our humanitarian spending by more than £660m this year, to over £1.5bn, maintaining our position as the second biggest humanitarian donor nation.
I am very proud that this will include an additional £50m of UK aid to support those affected by the brutal actions of Boko Haram in North-east Nigeria, as well as £30m to support those who have been affected by the spread of Boko Haram into Cameroon, Chad and Niger. This is on top of the £90m of humanitarian relief we are already providing across the region.
We will maintain and strengthen our support to partners fighting the twin scourges of terrorism and violent Islamist extremism, which threaten innocent people across the globe and pervert the peaceful teachings of Islam.
UK troops will continue to provide training support to their Nigerian counterparts who are battling Boko Haram. We will now also be providing more security support to Somalia in the fight against Al Shabaab.
We are creating a new task force to tackle modern slavery, with a fund of £33.5m. Up to 45 million people worldwide are believed to be victims of modern slavery, sold across borders for forced labour and sexual exploitation, often in shamefully squalid conditions.
I am very pleased that £5m from our Modern Slavery Fund will be used for work in Nigeria, supporting President Buhari’s drive to crack down on human trafficking and prevent vulnerable people from falling prey to traffickers.
We will continue to contribute to efforts to prevent and end violent conflict, including through UN peacekeeping operations, with new UK deployments including in Somalia and South Sudan.
We will ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change by the end of this year, and commend Nigeria for doing so last week.
I know that our Prime Minister was very pleased to have her first opportunity to meet President Buhari in person, in New York last week, and to discuss with him how our countries can continue to work together to tackle the most urgent challenges of our time.
I will see for myself during my visit how we can continue to provide the most valuable support to Nigeria as you strive to improve security, stamp out the cancer of corruption and strengthen the economy to create a more prosperous future for all Nigerians.
I look forward to experiencing the legendary warmth and hospitality of Nigeria and to exploring how we can continue to work together to strengthen one of the UK’s most important international partnerships.
Ellwood is the UK Minister for Africa