The United States government has launched a $1 million programme to support HIV/AIDS affected children and families in Nigeria.
The programme was launched by the Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Michael Harvey, in Benin City, the Edo State capital in south-south Nigeria.
Speaking on Wednesday at the Edo State Government House, Mr Harvey said that the programme would benefit 15,000 families affected by HIV/AIDS in Edo, Benue, Kogi and Nasarawa States, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
He also pledged that the US would continue to assist Nigeria to overcome the current economic and security challenges in the nation.
President Muhammadu Buhari has arrived in the United States for that historic meeting with U.S President Barack Obama.
The President arrived at Andrew’s Air Force Base Sunday afternoon and is said to be lodging at the Blair Mansion, on Pennsylvania Avenue, in DC.
Earlier, a statement from the White House said that the U.S President is looking forward to President Buhari’s visit, during which both leaders will be discussing the menace of Boko Haram and how to tackle insurgency.
President Buhari is making this visit, accompanied by a 33-man delegation, who will hold consultations with their U.S counterparts, and other events, aimed at building strong Nigeria-U.S relations.
Also up for discussion during the visit is how the United States would help Nigeria track billions of stolen assets and increase U.S military assistance.
The visit has been seen as a seal on U.S improving ties with Nigeria since Buhari won the April presidential election.
The United States Government says it will offer help to Nigeria in tracking billions of dollars of stolen funds and assets.
The government also said that the United States’ military will offer assistance to Nigeria in the fight against Islamic militants.
A White House statement says that this is part of what is expected to feature during discussion between Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari and U.S. President, Barack Obama in Washington DC.
The cooperation between former President Goodluck Jonathan and the United States government had virtually grounded to a halt over issues, including the alleged refusal of Jonathan to investigate corruption and human rights abuses.
President Obama had long seen Nigeria as arguably the most important influential country in Sub-Saharan Africa and had always been willing to help Nigeria in counter terrorism training.
Since Buhari’s election, Washington is said to have committed 5 million dollars in new support for multi national task force to fight terrorism.
This is in addition to 34million dollars it had provided to Nigeria, Chad Cameroon and Niger for equipment and logistics.
Ahead of the forthcoming 2015 general elections, the United States Government has urged Nigeria to ensure the conduct of free, fair and credible elections that would be free of violence.
The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, says it is only when the votes count that the electorate would accept the outcome of the result.
This was on Monday while declaring open a workshop for journalists on community reporting in the build up to the 2015 elections, organized by the American Embassy in collaboration with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Kaduna, North-West, Nigeria.
According to the Ambassador, the 2015 elections present a golden opportunity for Nigeria to demonstrate its lasting commitment to democratic values and institutions.
While stating that the United States was ready to support Nigeria on its journey to another democratic path, he emphasized the need for the government to tackle the issue of insecurity in all areas affected by insurgency.
He called on Nigerians to refrain from advocating , fomenting or condoning violence before, during or after the elections.
Mr Entwistle also urged political parties and the government to ensure that all registered voters participate freely in a peaceful and transparent process.
Also as Nigeria’s elections draw near, journalists are expected to play a greater role in informing the public with a view to allowing them make good choices on who would run the affairs of the country for the next four years.
The Guest Speaker, Professor of Mass Communication from University of Nebraska, USA, Gary Kebbel, said that the aim of the workshop was geared towards supporting Nigerian journalists to do a better job during the forthcoming election.
According to him, journalists have a key role to play in ensuring a free, fair and violence-free 2015 general elections.
The NUJ President, Mr Mohammed Garba, advised them to provide an impartial and complete set of information that would allow the citizens to make informed decisions.
He also urged the federal and state governments to step up the fight against insurgency in the north east and other affected areas to ensure the safety of the electorates, Journalists and electoral officials.
Some of the journalists covering the north eastern part of the country also allayed the fears of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about conducting a violence free election in the zone, due to intensified deadly attacks being carried out by the Boko Haram members in the zone.
They called for proper equipping and motivation of the nation’s security forces to enable them face the terrorists squarely.
A Foreign Affairs Analyst, Dapo Thomas, on Monday said that the current framework of the nation’s foreign policy exists only on paper and is not practical as the principles therein are outdated and irrelevant in contemporary times.
The International relations lecturer at the University of Lagos, while speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, decried the continued inclusion of two outdated principles, decolonisation and non-alignment, in the framework.
“It’s unfortunate that the way we look at foreign policy or the way we manage our foreign policy in Nigeria, has been very lackadaisical, in terms of our response to challenges, dilemmas of the international system,” he said.
He averred that circumstances in the past necessitated the formulation of the five principles which form the framework of Nigeria’s foreign policy.
Respect for the sovereignty of other nations
Noninterference in the affairs of other nations
Hence, these fundamentals were adhered to when issues like decolonization was crucial in Africa, particularly in the liberation of South Africa from apartheid regime. The principle of non-alignment was as included a result of the cold war. “They had some meaning,” he added.
However, Mr Thomas argued that they are now irrelevant and the other three principles are germane contemporarily.
“I don’t know what we are still doing with those two, non-alignment and decolonization. When you are talking of non-alignment, you should know that whether you want to agree that what we have now is the dominance of the United States (the question is) what has been our reaction (response) to this development, the unipolar system?” he asked.
He opined that Nigeria’s reaction has been conservative. “Conservative to the point that we still believe in ‘process as usual’ meaning we relate with the US on the basis that we had a western-oriented or westerncentric foreign policy.”
He stressed in the need to ‘react’ to the ideological, present evolutionary system which is the unipolar system, adding that the reaction is not to the United States government as that relationship is at the level of bilateral relations.
He also faulted the current foreign policy which he said “is not system driven” but “personality driven” because foreign policy makers or political leaders in Nigeria (and not the official document) dictate the pace and direction of the foreign policy.
“If your policy is system driven, it reacts naturally to whatever changes occur in the international system.”
Asked if the nation truly has a foreign policy, Mr Thomas said that “the perception to people is that we don’t have foreign policy but academically (that’s theoretically) we have but practically, we don’t have because it’s at the dictate of who is at the helm of affairs.”
On claims that the framework is afrocentric, placing Africa at the centre of its foreign policies, Mr Thomas said it made sense in the 60s, 70s and 80s but not anymore as former President Olusegun Obasanjo ‘diluted the afrocentric perspective.’
According to Thomas, Obasanjo made the policy two-pronged in nature. Politically, the afrocentric perspective stands but economically, “we are now looking at the global order.”
The United States government has given reasons why it has not labelled Boko Haram, as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO), saying the group is not a homogenous, monolithic organisation, but that it is made up of different types of groups.
US Assistant Secretary of state for African affairs at the US State department, Johnnie Carson, speaking via webcam on Thursday, at the US Consulate in Lagos, said the United States is very concerned about the effect the group has on the country and its neighbours.
He stated that Boko haram is focused on trying to discredit the Nigerian government, and show that it is ineffective in defending its people.
“But that the US government has identified three of the group’s leaders, that has been making contact with foreign terrorist organisations, and is monitoring their activities” he also explained.