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August 12, 09

NEWS / Clinton Calls for Enhanced Political Reforms in Nigeria

By Merle David Kellerhals, Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton encouraged Nigeria to implement needed democratic reforms while also reducing corruption and graft in the most populous nation in Africa.

“It is critical for the people of Nigeria, first and foremost, but indeed for the United States that Nigeria succeeds in fulfilling its promise,” Clinton said at an August 12 press conference in Abuja that followed a meeting with Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe.

“We strongly support and encourage the government of Nigeria’s efforts to increase transparency, reduce corruption, provide support for democratic processes in preparation for the 2011 elections,” she added. Maduekwe and Clinton talked about how the United States might be able to help with enhanced electoral reforms.

Maduekwe said there is a national consensus for enhanced democracy, a deep commitment to the rule of law and electoral reforms.

Clinton also thanked Nigeria for being active on key international and regional issues, especially in providing peacekeeping forces, primarily for use elsewhere in Africa.

Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Clinton’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, who is accompanying her on the tour, said that Nigeria, which is the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the United States, has the largest single U.S. investment on the continent.

“The U.S. has had a very good relationship with Nigeria over a number of years and appreciates greatly its contribution to returning stability to both Sierra Leone and Liberia,” Carson said. Nigeria is a major contributor of military forces for peacekeeping operations around Africa, and has served as a base for training peacekeeping forces from other nations.

But Carson also said that Nigeria faces a number of major challenges: conflict in the southern Niger Delta, which has gone on for more than a decade, and tensions that frequently flare up between Muslims and Christians in the northern part of the country, where some 75 million Muslims live, giving it the second-largest Muslim population in Africa and the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa.

Unrest and civil strife in the Niger Delta have hampered oil production and cost Nigeria an estimated $1 billion a month in lost revenue. An amnesty was offered by Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua to curb the violence, and Maduekwe said it has helped bring an end to the strife.

“Amnesty is working, the oil levels are gradually coming up again,” Maduekwe said.

Carson said Nigeria “also faces challenges with respect to corruption. It has been described by a number of organizations as one of the most corrupt states in Africa. And we all know what corruption can do to public confidence, to the confidence of citizens in their government, and also to destroying the budget and the fabric of governmental operations.”

Nigeria is the fifth country on Clinton’s seven-nation tour of Africa, which began with the 2009 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. She has actively promoted economic development, better treatment for women and good governance. She travels next to Liberia and concludes the 11-day tour in Cape Verde.


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