The United States has pledged more support to Nigeria’s anti-graft fight even as it praised President Muhammadu Buhari’s courage.
“We applaud what you are doing. Corruption creates a ready-made playing field for recruiting extremists,” visiting U.S. Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry, told Buhari at a closed-door meeting at the Presidential Villa yesterday.
“You inherited a big problem, and we will support you in any way we can. We will work with you very closely. “We don’t want to interfere, but will offer opportunities as you require,” Kerry said.
He was also quoted to have pledged to assist in tackling the humanitarian challenges in the north-east. He said the U.S would get the United Kingdom, France and others “to augment the support.”
“Nigeria is priority for us. We won’t miss the opportunity to work together, because you are making significant progress,” he said.
President Buhari in his remarks assured Nigerians that the ongoing anti-corruption campaign in the country will be institutionalized and made to last beyond the life of his administration.
Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina quoted Buhari as making the pledge at the State House in Abuja yesterday while receiving American Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry.
“We will insist on the standards we’re establishing. We are laying down administrative and financial instructions in the public service that must be obeyed. Any breach will no longer be acceptable.
“We will retrain our staff, so that they understand the new orientation. And those who run foul of these rules will be prosecuted, no matter who is involved. But we will be fair, just and act according to the rule of law.
“Anyone perceived corrupt is innocent till we can prove it. We will work very hard to establish documentation for successful prosecution, and those in positions of trust will sit up,” the president said.
He appreciated the US intervention in the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, affirming that “America did not do it because of what it stands to benefit from us. You did it for the Nigerian people. It tells so much what the U.S stands for in the world.”
On the Boko Haram insurgency, Buhari thanked the U.S for both their hard and soft military help.
“The training and intelligence that we could not muster ourselves, we received. The training has made Boko Haram less of a threat to Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin region, while the military hardware has given our troops added confidence,” he said.
The president also told Kerry that though the militancy in the Niger Delta had impacted negatively on the economy and affected the positive intentions of international and local investors, his administration was showing restraint.
Speaking on the economy, Buhari said his administration’s focus was on diversification having learnt lessons from years of over-dependence on oil.
Earlier, in Sokoto, Mr John Kerry lamented that corruption cost the global economy USD 2.6 trillion every year.
Delivering a speech on the importance of resilient communities and religious tolerance in countering violent extremism at the Sultan Palace, Kerry said developed countries were not doing enough to improve good governance globally.
“We are not collectively yet doing enough to improve good governance and that need to be changed because we are all paying for corruption as it costs the global economy USD2.6 trillion every year which ought to be spent in providing infrastructures, education, health and to ensure food security,” he stated.
According to him, the fight against corruption has to be a global security priority of the first order and that developed countries have to help other countries to eliminate corruption in their midst.
“Bribery, fraud and all forms of criminality endanger everything that we own, everything that we value and encourage human trafficking, discourage accountability in governance and undermine the community,” he stated.
On the fight against terrorism, Kerry said Nigeria and its allies had succeeded in degrading Boko Haram, but that this should be seen as the beginning of the fight.
“People join violent groups because they have trouble finding meaning or opportunity in their daily lives, because they lost hope in the future, because they lost confidence in legitimate government and they are really frustrated,” he said.
He maintained that one of the central tasks was for Nigeria to work towards removing vulnerability through building and rebuilding trust in government and the military. Trust creates citizens,” he stressed.