The American government has urged its Nigerian counterpart and other partners to redouble efforts at ending the humanitarian crisis in the insurgency-ravaged North-East geopolitical zone.
The outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, said more needed to be done on the humanitarian front particularly as Nigerians were dying of starvation in their own country.
Nigeria is oil-rich and is the largest exporter of crude in Africa. Yet majority of its citizens are poor, living on less than a dollar a day, mainly due to corruption and misgovernance.
Reports recently emerged from the North-East that starvation deaths had become rampant in some Internally Displaced Persons camps in the region.
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Mr. Entwistle, who spoke at the 240th United States Independence Anniversary celebration cocktail party in Abuja, said there was an urgent need to arrest the situation, and that his country was willing to help.
“As you fight Boko Haram and secure and rebuild the Northeast, and you strive for harmony in the Niger Delta and across the land, we will continue to help in every appropriate way,” the ambassador said.
“Indeed, let us redouble our efforts on the humanitarian front in the Northeast. Nigerians are dying of starvation in Nigeria.”
The ambassador said the Obama administration remained committed to standing with Nigeria in its fight against corruption, particularly by ensuring no stolen funds are laundered through the American banking system.
Mr. Entwistle, who said the U.S. government was offering technical assistance to Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies for the training of investigators and prosecutors, said he looked forward to more partnership for the freedom of all Nigerians.
“Not just the political freedom you exercised last year, but freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from sickness, and freedom from corruption,” the envoy said. “The last election was tremendous democratic success, not only for Nigeria, but the growth of democracy across Africa.
He described the outcome of last year’s presidential elections as historic, and a demonstration of commitment to democracy, saying Nigeria’s future belonged to all Nigerian people, especially “Nigeria’s heroes – men and women who are brave enough to believe that they can change the world.”
“The United States stands with every Nigerian who believes that Nigeria can be healthier, safer, and more prosperous,” he said.
On the economy, the envoy said Nigeria was now headed in the right direction on issues like fuel subsidy removal, foreign exchange rate, urging government to continue to create an environment that would attract more foreign investments.
The biggest U.S. companies in Nigeria, he said, had been here for decades, pointing out that it was important for government to maintain an environment that would attract more foreign investments to the country.
“As you continue privatization of the power grid, through President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, we stand ready to, among other things, help companies invest in building more electricity infrastructure, especially environmentally-friendly power generation.
“As you increase your commitment to healthcare and education, we support those efforts too,” he assured.
Mr. Entwistle, whose tour of duty of U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, comes to an end this July ending, described his stay in Nigeria as a fascinating time, saying he would be leaving with a great sense of hope and optimism, especially with a truly inspiring experience with young Nigerians with energy and dynamism.
For the umpteenth time, Mr. Entwistle told reporters he had nothing to say about his controversial letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, over allegations of sexual misconduct preferred against three members of the House while on official trip to the U.S. a few months ago.
At the end of his assignment in Nigeria, Mr. Entwistle said he would be retiring from the U.S. Foreign Service at the end of the month after 35 and a half years.