The United States government said yesterday that Nigeria cannot fully succeed in playing its leadership role in Africa unless it overcomes its biggest challenge of insecurity posed by the Boko Haram insurgents.
It, however, offered to assist the country, saying, “Nigeria’s success is important to us, and we will continue to invest in Nigeria’s institutions, people, and businesses to both countries’ mutual benefit”.
U.S. under secretary Wendy Sherman, who stated this at the 9th U.S.-Nigeria Bi-National Commission Meeting, noted that the United States and Nigeria have ties to each other at every level.
“At some $5 billion dollars, Nigeria is the second largest destination for U.S. private investments in Africa. However, one of our strongest connections is even more personal. More than 1.5 million Nigerians and Nigerian-Americans live in the United States, and an estimated 31,000 U.S. citizens live in Nigeria,” she stated.
On the insurgency bedeviling the country, Sherman said, “We also recognize that success cannot be achieved unless Nigeria surmounts the challenges that frustrate progress. It is in this spirit that the United States engages today in this working group on Regional Security Cooperation. Nigeria faces several challenges to national and regional stability.
“The largest of these challenges is, of course, a Boko Haram-led insurgency operating in the country’s northeast that has created widespread insecurity across northern Nigeria, increased tensions between various ethnic communities, interrupted developmental activities, frightened off investors and generated concerns among Nigeria’s northern neighbours. Nigeria cannot fully achieve its potential as a stable regional leader until it successfully overcomes the challenge of Boko Haram and secures peace and protection for all its citizens in all regions”.
Noting that Boko Haram offers no practical solutions to the problems confronting the northern part of the country, she said, “Instead, it capitalizes on popular frustrations, religious differences, and economic and social difficulties, seeking to undermine the government and exploit religious differences in order to create chaos and make Nigeria ungovernable.
“The United States knows from experience the immense difficulty in confronting an enemy that respects no boundaries and kills civilians indiscriminately. Today, I hope that our teams can identify specific areas in the context of regional security where we can deepen our partnership and chart concrete steps forward on those topics on which we are already working together.”
On how to tackle the security menace, the US under secretary said: “Security efforts are necessary to protect innocent Nigerians, to prevent Boko Haram’s acts of violence, and to capture and prosecute its leaders. The Nigerian government and military must also win over the hearts and minds of northern populations by protecting them and providing timely and commensurate justice to both insurgents and the victims of this unfortunate conflict.
“Though no easy task, a comprehensive approach that addresses socio-economic problems, articulates clear rules of engagement, and commits to accountability for those who perpetrate violence, both Boko Haram and security forces will demonstrate to every Nigerian that their future is brighter in a more secure Nigeria.
“This may require a new social compact with Nigerian citizens that encompass an economic recovery strategy as a complement to the government’s security strategy. This approach will be successful to the extent that it can garner the support of northern governors and local officials, traditional and religious leaders, civil society organizations, and a generation of young Nigerians who are connected to their government, locally and federally.
“Achieving success will not be easy, but we are ready to work with you as one of your strongest and most faithful friends and partners, to discuss new ways of help. We stand ready to work together to develop a multi-faceted strategy to counter the threat posed by Boko Haram that also demonstrates to civilians that they will be protected.
“Nigeria’s diverse people, land, and spirit have already established a foundation for long-term national and regional stability; however, with today’s insurgent challenges, strong nations must deepen our commitment to respect human life and dignity, build peace, and prevent future atrocities, even in the midst of a protracted conflict with a violent enemy.