Tokunbo Adedoja and Zacheaus Somorin
25 January 2012
The United States has said it will partner Nigeria in the fight against terrorism, a phenomenon it described as similar to that being faced by Americans.
The country's Consul General, Mr. Joseph Stafford, who stated this during a courtesy visit to THISDAY Corporate Headquarters in Lagos Tuesday, pointed out that the matter was on the agenda of US, Nigeria Bi-National Commission summit which ended in Abuja Tuesday.
Stafford, nonetheless, berated the wanton destruction of lives and property by Boko Haram during their attacks.
"We recognise the violence that Boko Haram represents and in the spirit of partnership, whatever comes out of the meeting would be followed up" he stated, adding that US could help in terms of information sharing, trainings and other helpful ways.
Stafford said the motive behind the bombings transcends recidivist attitude, but poverty and rigorous economic survival in the Northern part of the country.
"We do not believe it is solely a security issue. The underlying political and social factors must be taken into consideration," he said.
He, however, said that such a condition should not be an excuse to terminate lives of innocent people.
He also said that US had been assisting Nigeria on security through the Bi-National Commission with different groups working out the mode of US intervention, adding that the outcome of the ongoing meeting between the two countries would determine the gravity of the situation and the US appropriate response to the terrorism challenge in Nigeria.
He pointed out that there had been trainings organised by US for the Nigerian forces in the Gulf of Guinea and other strategic places.
Stafford emphasised the importance of good governance as one of the conditions for peace, but pointed out that inadequacy of such should not be allowed to create opportunity for unbridled violence as being perpetrated by Boko Haram.
On arms proliferation, he said the bi-national commission's agenda included effort at making sure that control measures are put in place to tame its excesses through a committee set up in that regard.
While commending THISDAY for its vibrant news reportage, and harping on the need for press freedom to enhance democracy, he said the recent revelations by Wikileaks had not deterred US diplomatic missions from doing its work.
He, however, said the challenge that the online whistle blower had posed was that there was need for its diplomatic missions to be as confidential as possible and protect every information given to it.
On the fight against graft in Nigeria, the envoy said there had been trainings and retraining of officials of Nigeria's anti-corruption agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) both in Abuja and Lagos.
He explained also that there had been concerted effort in aiding Nigeria financially, an evidence of which, he said, was the visit by US Exim Bank's managing director to the country for the purpose of enhancing projects like energy.
On the speculations that China has taken over African markets and Nigeria in particular, Stafford said it had rather been a competition by both countries, adding that many American companies are also involved in the construction and energy sectors of the Nigerian economy as being encouraged through Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
He said US is not threatened by China's growth. He said Nigeria imported goods worth N5 billion in 2011 from his country.
According to him, despite the fact that its consulate in Lagos and Abuja are besieged with fusillade of applications on a daily basis, it had been able to cope and improve on its visa service to Nigerians through its online services which he said had been user friendly.
Meanwhile, US has said it is "extremely concerned" about what it called "horrific" spate of bombings in Nigeria.
Reacting to attacks that claimed scores of lives in Kano last Friday, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Ms. Victoria Nuland, at a press briefing at the State Department in Washington on Monday, said: "We are obviously extremely concerned, and it was a really horrific spate of bombings over the weekend."
She said US was consulting "extremely closely" with Nigeria on counter-terrorism issues, adding that US had a broad and rich counter-terrorism dialogue with Nigeria, which included efforts to support steps to cut off funding.
Nuland added that the Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, William Fitzgerald, was in Nigeria in continuation of the security dialogue and for an assessment of what Nigeria's security needs might be in this respect.
Also Tuesday, Nuland issued a statement on Nigeria condemning the attacks in Kano and Bauchi and called for a full investigation so as to bring those responsible to justice.
In the statement, she noted that this was a time for all Nigerians to stand united against the enemies of civility and peace, adding, "Nigeria's ethnic and religious diversity is a source of strength for the country and those who seek to undermine that strength with divisive tactics cannot succeed."
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