What Nigeria Needs To Tackle Boko Haram – By U.S. Envoy

Terence McCulley is United States (U.S.) Ambassador to Nigeria. In an e-mail interview with Assistant Editor (News) OLUKOREDE YISHAU, the envoy bares his mind on multi-lateral issues. Excerpts:

Boko Haram challenge

I think that Nigerian government faces significant challenges and that requires a multi-faceted response. We have an ongoing dialogue with the Nigerian government on this matter. Clearly, there is a significant security threat that prevails across the North. It was previously confined to Borno but we have seen attacks in Bauchi, Niger, Kano Plateau and Kaduna. This kind of insurgency requires a response by the security forces but it also requires a lot more, and I think the Nigerian government does understand that. We believe the Nigerian government needs to have a strategy which addresses these acts of violence which reassures the Northern population there is a plan to ensure their security. Our hope is the actions by the security forces will target extremists and perpetrators of violence in a way that does not inflict civilian casualties or damage properties and violate human rights. It is incumbent upon government to react with a broad-based strategy by addressing security as well as the questions of development and poverty which feed underlying grievances that can promote acts of violence.

Ministry of Northern Affairs

There are also some who say that Boko Haram is comprised mostly of non-Nigerian foreigners, and that the group is being funded by a handful of resentful politicians nursing their wounds from the last election. This would be deeply unfortunate if true, but I have not seen any evidence to support either of these theories.

To fix the Boko Haram problem, the government will have to develop a new social compact with its Northern citizens. It will have to develop an economic recovery strategy that complements its security strategy. It will have to draw on the support of Northern governors, traditional Hausa and Fulani leaders and local officials and organisations. The Nigerian government should consider creating a Ministry of Northern Affairs or a development commission similar to what it did in response to the Niger Delta crisis.

Northern populations are currently trapped between violent extremists on one hand and heavy-handed government responses on the other. They need to know that their President is going to extraordinary lengths to fix their problems.

Achieving this will not be easy. Although the problems are not the same, it has taken the central government in Abuja nearly a decade to bring the problems in the Niger Delta under some semblance of control. Resolving the problems in Northern Nigeria will require the government to act more swiftly and to make a strategic course correction. It will need to adopt a comprehensive strategy, and remain disciplined and committed to its implementation, especially at the state and local level where accountability is low and corruption high.

Despite the challenges that Nigeria faces with Boko Haram and other issues, Nigeria is simply too important to be defined by its problems. Nigeria must be defined by its promise and its enormous potential, as well as the resourcefulness of its people.

Transparency, public funds

We encourage the Nigerian Government to take steps to ensure greater transparency in the use of funds and to prosecute public officials who misuse public funds.

Petroleum subsidy

The United States supports measures by the Nigerian Government to remove the subsidy on gasoline. Further, we welcome the statements made by the Nigerian Government in January regarding reforms in the energy sector, in particular swift passage of the PIB (Petroleum Industry Bill).

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s bid for World Bank’s Presidency

We supported an open, merit-based, and transparent process for the President of the World Bank. The U.S. has played a major role, and has been very supportive, of reforms in the World Bank, the IMF and other international financial institutions to significantly increase the voice and vote of the major emerging economies in those institutions.

U.S. assistance to Nigeria

As Nigeria consolidates its democratic institutions and rebuilds its economy, the United States stands ready to deploy its programmes and resources in support of the country’s national priorities, from public health to education, from food security to national security, and from the battle to contain malaria to the daily struggles of the millions of Nigerians living with HIV and AIDS.

Nigeria is a country blessed with both abundant human and natural resources, and the United States seeks partnership not dependency; we seek to build capacity not undermine local initiative.

The U.S. Government-funded Malaria Action Programme for States in Nigeria is a major health initiative under President Obama, to mention just one example. USAID will provide $82 million to fund this activity for five years. The project will improve the health of women and children in Nigeria by increasing the use of proven malaria prevention and treatment services, and the use and accessibility of malaria products and services. Malaria is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Nigeria. Because it directly affects school attendance and workers’ productivity, malaria can impose a heavy burden on poor households. The mosquito-borne illness causes over 100 million clinical cases, and is responsible for nearly 300,000 deaths in children under the age of five, as well as 11 percent of maternal mortality cases reported each year.

USAID has an agric sector programme in Nigeria called MARKETS which is intended to support farmers who are looking for technical assistance to help improve crop yield – to help them understand better how they can get their crops to the markets and sell at a good price. There is a commercial sector that looks at improvement in yield of rice production, for instance. We are working in Kano to support a state-of-the-art rice mill which is producing rice for the local market. We are working in Benue State on some other projects. I recently visited Oyo State and while there visited two aquaculture enterprises in Ibadan which have benefited from MARKETS technical assistance.

We are committed to assisting Nigeria’s important efforts to facilitate reform of the power generation and hydrocarbon sectors, including funding technical assistance for renewable energy initiatives.

Assistance to military

We have trained thousands of Nigerian peacekeepers through the ACOTA programme in the last decade. We are also providing ongoing anti-terrorist training, as well as sharing information and expertise, and stand ready to assist as needed.

Proposal to scrap EFCC, ICPC

As we understand it, the Federal Government may decide to consolidate anti-corruption agencies, rather than eliminate the important functions that they perform. Currently, as in the past, we provide training to investigators and prosecutors. We are very supportive of the EFCC and its work to fight corruption and financial crime in Nigeria and look forward to working with Chairman Lamorde as he rebuilds the agency.

Taming corruption

With sufficient political will and resources dedicated to the effort, Nigeria can effectively control corruption as well as any other country.

How to attract American businesses to Nigeria

If Nigeria can create an enabling environment for investment, including a frontal assault on corruption and lack of transparency, I am convinced you will find American businesses and investors eager to enter the largest market in sub-Saharan Africa, creating jobs here in Nigeria while offering expertise, innovation and some of the world’s finest products.

The United States Energy Trade Delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, William Fitzgerald met with President Goodluck Jonathan as well as Energy Minister Barth Nnaji, in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Monday, February 13, to discuss U.S. private sector interests to invest in the energy sector. The delegation, including executives from U.S. EXIM Bank and energy companies also met in separately with officials of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and Independent Power Producers Association of Nigeria (IPPAN). The basic objective of the trade mission is to make significant progress on increasing U.S. private-sector investment in power infrastructure projects that have the potential to increase overall development in Nigeria.

On October 19, 2011, the EXIM Bank of the United States and the Nigerian Ministry of Power signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) aimed at securing up to $1.5 billion of U.S. exports of goods and services directed at a ten-fold increase in power output in Nigeria by 2020.

Jonathan’s first anniversary

The building of democracy is a hard slog, and it requires engagement, integrity and commitment at once from citizens and from the men and women who aspire to lead. The April 2011 election was arguably the most credible and transparent in Nigeria’s history as an independent nation. From the commitment of President Goodluck Jonathan to preside over a free and fair process to the inspired leadership of Professor Attahiru Jega at INEC to the patriotic diligence of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to the massive, patient and peaceful participation of the Nigerian people in the process, Nigerians came together collectively to reaffirm their aspiration for a democratic country. The hard business of governing has begun, and the greater challenge is to ensure Nigeria moves forward, addressing the challenges in fighting corruption, growing the economy, encouraging investments in agriculture, the energy sector, in manufacturing, in information technology, and meeting the security challenges which threaten Nigeria’s prosperity and seek to sow divisions among the country’s communities.

In America we believe we find strength in our diversity, and I am convinced Nigerians – more than 160 million strong, composed of more than 250 ethnic groups and speaking over 500 languages – will leverage this great country’s diversity to inspire their sense of nationhood and build on April’s electoral success.

Nigeria’s future

I am very optimistic about the future of Nigeria. Clearly, this country faces significant challenges in terms of security, in terms of power, of infrastructure and diversification of the economy, but this country has survived greater challenges, including prolonged periods of military rule, and a divisive civil war. It is a country composed of 250 ethnic groups and 500 languages and dialects. I think it is a country that profits from its diversity. I expect Nigeria will play the role we and other friends hope and expect Nigeria to play on the international stage.

Culled: The Nation

  1. okoro Reply

    THE CLOG IN THE WHEEL OF PROGRESS FOR NIGERIANS.

    The clog in the wheel of progress for Nigeria is the deeply rooted culture of corruption in the country. The government cannot fight corruption alone. Nigerians must know that unless the whole country cease to patronize corruption, there is no way forward other than doom’s day for all. Rather than the interest of the nation in their mind, most political aspirants and their allies are still obsessed with the idea that it is okay to bribe their ways into power, personal wealth and fame.
    While I commend Ambassador Terence McCulley for his candid assessment of the situation in Nigeria,
    we should concern ourselves with the actions of the President, Dr. Good-luck Jonathan. The eyes of the world are upon him and his House of assembly and cabinet. If they are honestly representing the interest of Nigeria, they should do all within their power to stamp out bribery and corruption, which has held the country hostage for too long.

    They should let transparency be the hallmark of their administration. Honest Nigerians must keep asking tough questions and pressing for clarity about the true meaning of the Nigeria Constitution and the national Anthem. It is terrifying to think that the whole country can continue to condone the culture of corruption and the repression of justice.

    Until Nigerians old and young, mostly the political aspirants earnestly adopt the philosophical principles of the great American president John F. Kennedy, who called on the American people to “ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”, Nigerians will continue to remain under the dark shade of ignorance.
    If we all sincerely want our country to succeed and take her place among other great nations, we must all refrain from the attitude of preserving the culture of corruption and the repression of justice.

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