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US announces $40m aid to Nigeria — 4 days after immigrant visa ban

US announces $40m aid to Nigeria — 4 days after immigrant visa ban
February 05
09:48 2020
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The United States has announced $40 million aid to Nigeria to help the country ease its humanitarian crisis resulting from years of Boko Haram insurgency.

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, made the announcement on Tuesday in Washington DC during a joint media briefing with Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs.

The development comes four days after the US imposed an immigrant visa ban on Nigeria, citing the country’s failure to comply with its established identity-management and information-sharing criteria as the reason for the ban.

Less than 24 hours after the ban, the US invited Onyeama and an interagency delegation to Washington DC to discuss trade, security and good governance.

Speaking after the US-Nigeria Binational Commission (BNC) meeting hosted by the Department of State, Pompeo said while the US understands that the fight against insurgency is “hard and complicated”, it encourages the Nigerian government “to do more to protect its civilians, including religious communities and the humanitarian organisations seeking to assist them”.

“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,” Pompeo said.

“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 encouraged 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.”

Pompeo also said the US would hold Nigeria accountable to its pledge to respect human rights.

He commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption, adding that the signed agreement to repatriate $308 million looted by Sani Abacha, former head of state, is part of the US’s support for the anti-corruption fight.

“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,” he said.

“The United States will hold Nigeria to that pledge, and we’ll help you achieve it.

“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.”

On his part, Onyeama thanked the US for its support to Nigeria.

He said the country is ready to do business with the US and attract more investments.

“But really have to say, Mr. Secretary, that we do appreciate very much and value very much the cooperation between our two countries in very important areas for us. And the Binational Commission, we’ve identified a very clear basis to move that on and progress, and we really look forward to seeing a lot of gains, win-wins, for our two countries,” Onyeama said.

“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 US that we will be able to attract more investment.”

On the visa ban, the minister said the government is already taking measures to address issues raised by the US, adding that “hopefully once that has been achieved, we look forward to being taken off this visa restriction list”.

 

 

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