The Nigeria, U.S. Bi-National Commission (BNC) has noted the continued threat to peace and security posed by Boko Haram, which is now an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
This information is contained in a statement issued by the U.S. State Department on Thursday in New York after the BNC meeting held on Wednesday in Washington D.C.
The BNC discussion on security cooperation was co-chaired by Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali and Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.
The BNC also discussed measures to counter violent extremism and encourage defections from Boko Haram; the importance of protecting civilians and safeguarding human rights.
Other matters discussed were the need for integrated planning for the restoration of full civilian authority, resettlement and reconstruction; the need to understand and eliminate sources of terrorist financing; and ways to expand intelligence sharing.
During the meeting, the U.S. reaffirmed its support for Nigeria and its neighbours in countering this threat.
It noted that the governments’ bilateral security cooperation focused both on immediate threats and medium and long term security and stabilisation objectives.
The BNC discussed the situation of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria and the region, and the governments decided to work together to create conditions for IDPs safe and voluntary return to their homes.
They jointly agreed to take further actions to advance U.S.-Nigeria security cooperation to promote peace and security in Nigeria, especially in north-eastern Nigeria and the broader Lake Chad region.
Both sides recognised the need for cooperation, stressing, however, that such cooperation should not be limited to military.
On Economic growth and development, co-chaired by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Okechukwu Enelamah, and Blinken, Nigeria expressed appreciation for the efforts of the U.S. government and the contributions of key stakeholders toward successful hosting of the Nigeria-U.S. Business Forum and Reception Dinner.
Both sides acknowledged the major outcomes of the Business Forum which stressed the need for increased U.S. investments in Nigeria through the provision of enhanced business climate, policy predictability and transparency.
The BNC noted the governments’ decision to take further actions to promote prosperity and growth, economic diversification, and job creation through policies that would improve the environment for doing business together.
In this respect, the BNC recognised that sound macroeconomic policies were important to managing the challenges of declining global oil prices.
The BNC noted the governments’ pledge to work together to ensure maximum utilisation of current programmes to promote trade and investment, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
The Commission also recognised the importance of infrastructure development for Nigeria's economic growth, noting particularly the importance of increasing access to electricity and improving efficiency to lower its cost.
On Governance and Democracy, co-chaired by Mr Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Justice, and Blinken, the BNC noted the historical importance of Nigeria’s 2015 elections and the peaceful transition that ensued.
Blinken said the U.S. intended to support Nigeria's efforts toward improving the quality of elections, ``and looks to Nigeria to support elections and democracy throughout Africa.''
The BNC decided to strengthen their joint efforts in support of good governance, anti-corruption and enhanced delivery of public services, including national institutional frameworks for peace building and conflict management to strengthen Nigeria’s democracy and promote inclusive prosperity.
The BNC noted that the U.S. intended to continue its support for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption agencies, as appropriate.
It also discussed the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Partnership on Illicit Finance (PIF) and the U.S. noted the potential benefits of Nigeria's membership into the two initiatives.
The Nigerian side agreed to respond to the outstanding invitations to join the partnerships in due course.
The BNC noted the governments’ decision to intensify work together to help Nigeria trace funds and assets stolen through corruption and other illicit activities and seek to recover the assets.
The BNC decided to expand people-to-people contacts between the two countries, including efforts such as the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
The BNC established a working group on governance and democracy and directed that it meet within six months to review progress on joint goals.
It would be recalled that during President Muhammadu Buhari’s July 20-22, 2015 visit to Washington, he and the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, underscored the need to strengthen and revitalise the BNC to advance the overall relationship and spur joint action on key issues.
Also at a meeting on Nov. 13, 2015 between an interministerial group led by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, the two sides underscored the need to reinvigorate the BNC as a forum for focused, high-level discussions.
They identified security cooperation, economic growth and development and governance as key areas of focus.
The two sides subsequently developed a detailed agenda and added a working bilateral effort on multilateral cooperation.