(Excerpt From The Transcript of the Virtual Meeting Between President Muhammadu Buhari and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, April 27, 2021)
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, on Tuesday had a virtual meeting with the 71st US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to discuss global and regional issues, including global economic recovery, Nigeria’s security challenges and regional security issues, the effort against COVID-19 and the effects of climate change in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin.
Spokespersons for the Nigerian President and the State Department, Femi Adesina and Ned Price, respectively, say the virtual meeting was an opportunity for both countries to reaffirm the strong relations between them.
Secretary Blinken emphasized the United States’ renewed commitment to multilateral institutions and noted the constructive leadership role Nigeria plays in global affairs.
He began by referencing his first meeting in Abuja six years ago with the Nigerian President, and continued:
“Given our shared democratic values, our wide-ranging bilateral relationship, and very rich people-to-people ties, I’m especially pleased to be able to make Nigeria part of my first visit, virtual visit, to Africa as Secretary of State and thank you so much to you and your team for making this visit such a good one. And I really wish we could be meeting in person again in Abuja. I look forward to the day when that’s possible but meanwhile, thank you for your virtual hospitality. I also want to thank my friend the foreign minister for joining today and for our good conversations and I’m so pleased to be working with him again. Your Excellency, Mr. President, our relations have been strong for 60 years, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with you and your team on building on that foundation and charting a shared vision to guide our strategic partnership for the coming years. I look forward to discussing our cooperation in responding to a challenge to all of humanity, COVID-19, as well as our sustained efforts to strengthen global health security, so we’re better prepared for the next disease outbreak. I also hope to discuss how we can build our economies back even better and stronger after the pandemic, growing them and making them more equitable. Investing and protecting the most vulnerable communities in our countries I think contributes to our goal of building a lasting security for Americans and for Nigerians. And of course, another challenge we face is the climate crisis. We were very grateful to you for being able to participate in the leaders’ summit last week that President Biden convened. We look forward to exploring ways that we can work together even more closely to reduce emissions and adapt to the inevitable changes to come. Our bi-national commission between the United States and Nigeria gives us and gives our governments the chance to evaluate every year the progress that we’ve made toward our joint goals: strengthening democratic institutions; promoting economic diversification and trade; expanding our security cooperation. We’re very much looking forward to the BNC later this year and the chance it offers to improve our cooperative effort”.
President Buhari, in his response, said:
“Nigeria attaches great importance to the relations with the United States. Let me in this connection express appreciation to President Joe Biden for his welcome and recent decision to appeal the immigration – to repeal the immigration restriction known as the Muslim ban on travel and visas for citizens predominantly from Muslim nations and African countries, including Nigeria. I also wish to congratulate the United States for rejoining the World Health Organization and Paris Agreement on climate change. The leadership of the United States in these two organizations is crucial for international community. This action is a demonstration of the United States commitment in championing and supporting international organization with the aim to build a better world for all. In this regard, Nigeria remains resolute in our commitment to supporting global efforts as enshrined in the Paris Agreement on climate change, which seeks to limit global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The convening of the climate change summit last week by President Biden is a strong indication of the renewed interest of the United States to the Paris Agreement. The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impact it more negatively by existing conflicts, negative pressures in the Sahel, Central Africa, and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad region. Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and our security forces remain resolutely committed to continue them and addressing their root causes. The support of important and strategic partners like United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concern, cooperation, and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges. In this connection and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region, and the Sahel weighing heavily on Africa underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart in Germany to Africa, and near the theater of operations. On the part of Nigeria, I renew calls for enhanced collaboration in all forms with our friends and strategic partners to work together for greater security for all – the most significant condition for overcoming these existential challenges”.
Other participants in the virtual meeting included the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mrs. Mary Beth Leonard who said the U.S. Mission in Nigeria are immensely proud of their partnership with the Nigerian Government and the health sector. She said that US assistance saves lives every day. “COVID-19 presented new challenges and the United States responded, contributing more than $73 million in equipment and technical assistance since the start of the pandemic”, she stated.
The US and Nigeria’s health cooperation initiative is said to have reached more than 60 million Nigerians through programmes that train public health workers, invest in medical facilities, and improve access to medicines, vaccines, reproductive health care.
More than 1.3 million people with HIV/AIDS are on life-saving treatment through the U.S. programme to combat HIV/AIDS around the world. Together, too, health cooperation between the two countries have helped to bring child death rates from malaria down 16 percent, while the World Health Organization officially declared Nigeria wild poliovirus-free, an outstanding accomplishment by tireless frontline workers under the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
According to Ambassador Leonard:
“Now, of course, we’re facing another health crisis together. The COVID-19 pandemic won’t end for any country until it ends for all countries. Otherwise, the virus will keep replicating around the world and turning into new variants. People will keep getting sick and dying, and we won’t be able to safely reopen our economies or travel around the world for business and tourism the way we used to. That’s why the United States is committed to helping end the pandemic in Nigeria and everywhere. We’ve contributed $2 billion to COVAX, the global Covid vaccine initiative. We promised another two billion between now and 2022 as other countries also raise their ambitions. I’m very pleased that COVID-19 vaccines provided by COVAX have arrived in Nigeria. And I’m proud that dozens of people from the U.S. Government have been working with local and national partners in Nigeria to respond to COVID-19 from the beginning of the pandemic. We’re collaborating on epidemiology, outbreak response, lab operations, data analytics, and vaccine deployment. It’s a continuation of our $5 billion investment in our decades-long partnership in public health, and it’s a testament to the strong and respectful relationship that we’ve built over the years between our countries and between the Nigerian and American people. When crises strike, we’re there for each other”.
SOURCE AND IMAGE CREDIT: state.gov, The Nigerian Xpress