The United States has advised the Federal Government to do more in protecting Nigerians and humanitarian organisations that are assisting the country in the face of activities of Boko Haram insurgents and other religious and ethnic violence.
The US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, made the call in Washington DC on Tuesday during a joint media briefing he had with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, after the US-Nigeria Bi-national Commission meeting.
Pompeo made the call amidst increasing attacks by Boko Haram insurgents on aid workers and residents of the North-East as well as the rising killings by bandits in other parts of the country, particularly, Niger, Zamfara and Katsina states.
Also on insecurity, the Presidency and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs on Wednesday hit back at the Christian Association of Nigeria over its attack on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who on Tuesday said insurgents had killed more Muslims than Christians.
But CAN on Wednesday insisted that the NSCIA could not exonerate Boko Haram as an Islamic organisation.
Buhari, had in an op-ed published in a United States-based magazine, Christianity Today, said Christians were not the primary targets of the insurgents.
CAN’s Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Kwamkur Samuel, in his response, told The PUNCH on Tuesday that Buhari’s statement was provocative.
He said Boko Haram had wiped out all Christian communities in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, among others.
The rising insecurity in Nigeria featured at the US-Nigeria Bi-national Commission meeting in Washington DC.
The Department of State, which hosted the meeting, made the full transcript of the media briefing available to journalists.
Pompeo said although the US government was aware that the issues involved in the security challenges were hard and complicated, there was the need for the government to protect its civilians.
To achieve this, he said the US would provide $40m in humanitarian assistance to Nigeria in addition to the nearly $350m that was provided in 2019.
He said, “The foreign minister and I also discussed the massive humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa and other religious and ethnic violence.”
Protect religious communities, America advises FG
Pompeo stated, “We know that these issues are hard. We know that they’re complicated. But I strongly encourage the Nigerian government to do more to protect its civilians, including religious communities and the humanitarian organisations, seeking to assist them.
While noting that security cooperation between the two countries had been expanding, Pompeo cited Nigeria’s recent $500m purchase of 12 US-made A-29 aircraft.
This, he said, supported the recently stated goal of Buhari of creating “a security force with the best training and modern weaponry.
“The United States has already invested in the training of Nigeria’s military on human rights and the Law of Armed Conflict.
“Nigeria was one of the first African nations to join the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. America is now supporting the Nigerian fight against ISIS’s largest global affiliate, ISIS-West Africa – a dangerous threat to both of our countries.
“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.”
On economic cooperation, he noted that Nigeria was already America’s second-largest trading partner in Africa.
He stated, “The US companies from Google to Chevron to KPMG invested over a billion dollars in Nigeria in 2018 alone, creating over 18,000 jobs and indirectly supporting three million others.”
He said he was pleased that Buhari had prioritised that fight against corruption. He stated, “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 $308m in assets stolen by a former dictator,” he added.