New fronts in Nigeria-US relations

A few days ago, the United States-Nigeria Bi-National Commission (BNC) met in Abuja. AWAAL GATA writes on the meeting and the new ties the two countries were able to forge against its backdrop
The BNC was co-chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and the Deputy Secretary of US Department of State, John J. Sullivan.
This year’s BNC focused on advancing U.S.-Nigerian shared prosperity, including discussion on the areas Security cooperation, economic growth and Governance (and Democracy.)

Security cooperation
The BNC’s discussion on security cooperation was co-chaired by Minister of Defence, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali; Federal Republic of Nigeria;Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, Michelle Lenihan, and Brigadier General Frank Stokes from US-Africa Command.
It was noted at the meeting that Boko Haram and the West African wing of ISIS continue to pose security threat to Nigeria and its Lake Chad neighbours in countering these threats.
The BNC noted that US-Nigeria bilateral security cooperation focuses both on immediate threats and medium- and long-term security and stabilisation objectives. The BNC discussed progress toward the sale to Nigeria of A-29 light attack aircraft and associated training, and other areas of enhanced security cooperation.
The BNC jointly determined to take further actions to advance US-Nigeria security cooperation to promote peace and security in Nigeria, especially in Northeast Nigeria and the broader Lake Chad region. Both sides recognised that this cooperation includes, but is not limited to, military cooperation.
It was agreed that a coordinated, comprehensive response was needed to bring sustainable peace to the Northeast, luding the humanitarian response; restoring civilian security, establishing effective governance to deliver essential services, and reviving moribund economies in areas liberated from terrorists; encouraging defections from Boko Haram and ISIS; transferring military detainees to civilian correction facilities; eliminating terrorist financing; expanding intelligence sharing; conducting integrated planning for the restoration of full civilian authority, resettlement, and reconstruction; protecting civilians, safeguarding human rights, ensuring credible investigations, and prioritizing accountability for instances of security force abuses; ending the use of child soldiers and implementing a United Nations-backed action plan on this matter in a timely manner; and addressing the long-standing concerns of citizens in the Northeast, including with respect to economic opportunity.
The BNC discussed longer-term security cooperation goals, including Nigeria’s efforts to modernise its security institutions and US-Nigerian partnership on improving maritime security.
A timeline was given to a working groupconstituted in the light of the security cooperation to meet within six months to review progress on joint goals.

Economic growth and development
The BNC’s discussion on economic growth and development was co-chaired by Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. OkechukwuElenamah;Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Peter Haas and Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator Christopher Runyan.
Both sides decided to hold the next U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks in the first part of 2018 and to work to finalie an agenda for that meeting, to include a decision on a joint work plan on intellectual property protection. They finalised a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a Commercial and Investment Dialogue signed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Enelamah as a way to strategically engage the private sectors of each country in strengthening commercial ties.
Both sides acknowledged the importance of and potential for increased bilateral trade and investment through enhancing the business climate, policy predictability, and transparency. The two sides discussed the importance of implementing World Trade Organization-consistent trade measures, as well as the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The BNC noted the Governments’ decision to take further actions to promote inclusive prosperity and growth, economic diversification, and job creation through policies that are expected to improve the environment for doing business together. In this respect, the BNC recognized that sound fiscal and monetary policies, complemented by structural reforms and clear and transparent regulations, are important to managing the challenges of volatile global oil prices. The BNC also noted the importance of further diversifying the sources of government revenue.
The BNC noted the Governments’ pledge to work together to ensure maximum utilization of available tools to promote mutually beneficial trade and investment, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
The commission recognised the importance of infrastructure development for Nigerian economic growth, noting particularly the importance of ensuring open and transparent bidding procedures for infrastructure projects. The BNC also noted the importance of increasing access to electricity, including through the continued modernisation of the power sector, and noted continued U.S. assistance in this area. With respect to economic diversification, the BNC noted the potential for expanded agricultural investment and production, in particular through strengthening agro-business value chains. The extractive industries, including solid minerals, petroleum, and natural gas, also continue to play a role in economic diversification.
Finally, aworking group on economic growth and development to meet within six months to review progress on joint goals.

Governance and democracy
The BNC’s discussion on governance and democracy was co-chaired by Attorney General and Minister of Justice, AbubakarMalami,Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Stephanie Sullivan.
The BNC decided to strengthen US-Nigerian joint efforts in support of good governance, respect for human rights, accountability, anti-corruption, and the effective use and delivery of public services, including efforts to reinforce peace building and conflict management in Nigeria.
It was concurred that the government of the US should continue its support for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other anti-corruption agencies, as appropriate. The BNC discussed Nigeria’s participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and its potential to complement Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts. Nigeria expressed its dedication to robustly implement its 2017-2019 OGP commitments and respond to an outstanding invitation to join the Partnership on Illicit Finance in due course.
The BNC noted the Governments’ decision to intensify their work together to help Nigeria trace funds and assets stolen through corruption and other illicit activities and seek to recover the assets.
The commission decided to expand people-to-people contacts between the two countries, including continuing efforts such as the Young African Leaders Initiative.
The BNC discussed multilateral cooperation, through ECOWAS, the United Nations, and other international organizations, and Nigeria’s role as a leader on the continent and a critical partner to the US on a range of global issues.
A working group on governance and democracy to meet within six months to review progress on joint goals.
Next meeting of full BNC was agreed to be held in the US within one year, at a date to be mutually decided through diplomatic channels.
AI condemns Egypt’s conviction of homosexuals
Amnesty International has condemned an Egyptian court’s sentencing of 16 men to three years in prison each on ‘debauchery’ charges and urges authorities to overturn the ruling.
NajiaBounaim of the Britain-based rights groups says the sentences were another example of Egypt’s ongoing persecution of homosexuals and the LGBT community.
She said on Tuesday that Amnesty considers the prosecution violated “the rights of these men to be treated equally, regardless of their perceived sexual orientation.” At least five of them were subjected to forced anal examinations.
According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, at least 76 people across Egypt have been arrested based on their perceived sexual orientation following the display of a rainbow flag at a September 22 concert by Arab rock band Mashrou Laila in Cairo.

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