The United States and Nigeria have launched an initiative aimed at fostering greater cooperation between the two nations and assisting in governance, regional cooperation and development, energy, and food security and agricultural development.
“Today, we are taking a concrete step forward that will strengthen and deepen the partnership between our two nations,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at joint press conference with Nigerian Secretary to the Government of the Federation Yayale Ahmed in Washington April 6. “And we hope it will support the aspirations of the Nigerian people for a peaceful, prosperous, stable, democratic future.”
The U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission (BNC) initiative was signed by Clinton and Ahmed in Washington April 6. The United States establishes binational commissions with strategic partners as collaborative forums aimed at tangible and measurable progress on issues considered critical to shared goals, the State Department says.
“Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, its largest contributor of peacekeepers, a significant trading partner of the United States, its largest producer of oil, and the largest recipient of direct investment by the American private sector in sub-Saharan Africa,” Clinton said during the briefing.
Clinton outlined four areas where working groups established under the initiative will focus:
Good governance and transparency — considered essential to Nigeria’s democracy and its prosperity.
Regional cooperation and development — to improve conditions in the oil-rich Niger Delta region with a specific emphasis on broad collaboration on security and counterterrorism.
Energy reform and investment — while Nigeria has abundant oil, natural gas and other natural resources, it lacks an effective electrical system to support the growing demands of the nation.
Food security and agricultural development — a program to provide Nigerian farmers with modern tools and methods of farming to feed the nation and to lift rural families out of poverty.
Secretary Ahmed thanked the United States for its support, but also stressed that Nigeria, which has undergone a period of uncertainty due to the extended absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua because of a prolonged illness, is a strong democracy committed to progress for its people.
“It is very important to us at this point of our history, when we are able, to show as a nation that we are capable of survival,” Ahmed said at the joint press conference. “You have highlighted some of the challenges that we face, but we believe they are not insurmountable because we are open to criticism.”
Clinton said Nigeria soon will celebrate 50 years of independence and will hold an election in 2011.
“Nigeria, like many countries, must look to the future, and how to create conditions that will protect the gains that independence brought [and] guard against ongoing and serious threats to its progress,” she said.
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Renée Sanders told reporters at a Washington Foreign Press Center briefing April 7 that the binational commission serves to strengthen democratic institutions essential to Nigeria’s election in 2011, and to addressing energy insufficiencies, as well as food security and development in the Niger Delta.
“We will also support Nigeria’s efforts to strengthen its democracy, civil society and fight corruption,” Sanders said.
Nigerian Ambassador to the United States Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, speaking at the same briefing, said this commission and the four major areas it addresses coincide with Nigeria’s Vision 20–2020. The 20–2020 initiative is a drive to become one of the 20 most industrialized and advanced nations in the world by 2020, Adefuye said.
“By signing the BNC agreement, the United States government has demonstrated its genuine concern with aspirations of Nigerians at every level, both in the public and the private sector,” Adefuye said. “We are joint partners in the search for global peace and security.”