The United States Consul General to Nigeria, Mr Jeffery Hawkins has reiterated the threat Boko Haram poses to Nigeria and the African continent as a whole and the United States’ continued effort to curb the activities of the dreaded Islamist sect.
He also noted that the Obama-led US government remains keen in helping Nigeria to rescue the abducted Chibok girls from the sect.
He however noted that “the US government’s interest in assisting Nigeria with Boko Haram predates that (abduction of Chibok girls)” adding that “we have an extensive engagement with the Nigerian government on security side which has ramped up since the Chibok girls have been abducted”.
He further noted that the security engagement has been extended in terms of intelligence that will assist Nigeria in tackling the insecurity posed by Boko Haram in the north east part of the country.
He further noted that the engagement is not limited to intelligence, revealing that “we are working with the security forces on professionalising the security forces and in dealing with human rights issues.
“We are working with the Police forces on Improvised Explosives Devices (IEDs) detection. There is a range of engagement across the whole series of security related areas and then a much wider focus on the north because we believe that the security problem is serious but that is not the only aspect of the problem” he said, while speaking as a guest on Channels Televisions Sunrise Daily on Wednesday.
He also noted that the US government has identified a wider problem of development and engagement with the people of northern Nigeria, insisting that “that has to be addressed too and we are very interested in working in education, agriculture and other areas to try and help the Nigerian government to address some of the root problem that causes desperation that will lead people to the sort of heinous things that Boko Haram does”
Mr Hawkins however declined to speak on the intelligence sharing operation but was quick to note that “we are truly interested in providing the Nigerian government with the information they can use to appropriately respond to the Boko Haram threat”.
He further expressed the US government’s eagerness to see the success of democracy in Nigeria, adding that it will be in Nigeria and US’ interest to have a peaceful, credible, free and fair election in 2015 “that the Nigerian people accept as reflecting their will.
“We have done a lot to help with that; in particular we have a significant engagement with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)” maintaining that “we support them in lots of ways”.
Mr Kawkins said the focus recently is on the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States, which according to him, “tells us a lot about how prepared INEC is and how much they have learnt from earlier contests”.
He expressed concern over the threat of violence by politicians who lose elections insisting that “political parties have absolutely key roles to play and they need to behave responsibly and we have made that very clear”.
Exciting Things Are Happening
Meanwhile, the US Consul General also noted that exciting things are happening in Washington DC with President Barrack Obama hosting young African leaders in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
“There are a lot of exciting things going on right now. The Obama administration is very focused on Africa in some very positive ways.
“President Obama is meeting with 500 people from around the continent, including about 50 Nigerians and they have had a wonderful experience. Several weeks of engagement in American universities around the country, engaging with the most senior US leadership; Secretary Kerry, the UN Ambassador”, and expects that “they will come back here and continue the engagement”
Mr Hawkins also spoke about the African Leadership Summit, which will take place from August 4-6, describing it as “probably the most significant presidential engagement ever” where “about 50 African Heads of State, CEOs, civil societies and others will be joining the President in Washington to address some of the crucial issues on the continent”.
The Summit, he says, will focus on youths, opportunities in business, security, agriculture and democracy.