The United States of America has assured the Nigerian government of its commitment to ensuring that the 2015 elections are transparent and credible.
The US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, expressed the need for all parties in the election to commit themselves to being inclusive and think about the future of the country rather than their own personal political gains.
On Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, on Tuesday, the envoy said that the US would help build up Nigeria’s election observers and support the Independent Electoral Commission in certain ways.
“As we move towards the election, the US wants to see a transparent and credible election that the Nigerian people want and deserve. We plan to be very involved and this is a time for all of the players to commit themselves and ensure that they will not involve in violence.
“The way to prevent chaos in 2015 is for us to join together and work to prevent it. If we want to see a future without chaos, we have to start working now,” Mr Entwistle said.
As much as the US is willing to make financial commitments towards a credible election in Nigeria by 2015, the country is also ready to ensure that funds committed to projects outside the US are well utilised.
“Money that we spend overseas does not fall from the sky. It comes from the pockets of our tax payers. So, if we spend money on any country, we have a heavy responsibility to make sure that it is spent as it is supposed to be,” The US Ambassador to Nigeria said.
War On Terror
He also reiterated the American government’s commitment to ensuring that “Nigeria wins the war on terror”.
Acknowledging that the war on terror is a complicated thing to do, Mr Entwistle said that it would require more than just military as the American government had learnt in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There is a civilian component, there is economic component and there is a ‘hurt in minds’ component. How the troops conduct themselves in the middle of civilian population, we have learnt ourselves, is a very difficult thing. Transparent detention policies and things like this are what should be looked into too. So, it is an array of issues that come together to fight the war on terror.
“We stand ready to help Nigeria as a friend and partner in any way we can” he stated.
In a partnership effort to end the insurgency in Nigeria’s north-east, some American experts with experience in counter insurgency and counter terror held a seminar with experts in Nigeria to share experience.
“Our experts were in Nigeria not with the sense of arrogance to say we know everything but with the sense of humility to say this is what we have learnt from our efforts. We have had some successes we’ve made mistakes but we have learnt lessons and we are glad to share it with you. It is the kind of exchange we need to be having. It is a very difficult thing to do, but as we have learnt, it can be done. We have had a very successful security relationship for a long time and that will continue on my watch,” the American envoy promised.
Mr Entwistle has been in Nigeria since October 2013 and he said that, contrary to perceptions, there are more opportunities in Nigeria than challenges.
“Everywhere I turn, whatever subject we are talking about; education health and the situation in the north-east, we already have fantastic joint activities underway. So I see my task as maintaining that and helping that grow.”
Gay Right Act
On the recently enacted Gay Right Act in Nigeria that has drawn criticism from Canada, UK, France and the US, Mr Entwistle pointed out that “the issue of same sex marriage is hugely a controversial issue all over the world including the US”.
He, however, stressed that the issues of concern to the US was the significant restriction on the freedoms of expression and assembly, as contained in the ACT.
“I think that in a hard won democracy like yours the restrictions might be cause for concern. In the struggle against HIV/AIDS, there were some concerns that the law might make illegal, some of the health activities that we are supporting.
“The US is speaking as a friend of this country and friendship and partnership do not mean that you should avoid tough issues. We are only concerned as a friend and partner,” he explained.
Mr Entwistle also stated that the concerns had been allayed with the AIDS control agency’s clarification that “no one should see the law as preventing their healthcare”.
He said that the US was not concerned about marriage laws, but the fact that the law could create an atmosphere where people feel bad and engage in acts of violence.
He also pointed out that the American government was not considering cutting down on its health programmes. “It is a conversation that friends need to have.”