Wednesday, October 19, 2011

All about the U.S.-Nigeria Bi-national Commission

Recently a journalist asked me about the U.S.-Nigeria Bi-national Commission. He wanted to know how long it had existed and why it was set-up. Well, I thought if a journalist knows very little about this important part of the U.S.-Nigeria relationship how much more would the general public So I’ve put together some basic facts about the Bi-national Commission.

The U.S.-Nigeria Bi-national Commission was inaugurated on April 6, 2010 by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Yayale Ahmed in Washington, DC It’s a strategic dialogue designed to expand mutual cooperation across a broad range of shared interests.  It’s also a collaborative forum to build partnerships for tangible and measurable progress on issues critical to the U.S. and Nigeria.  In the words of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson "we expect that the United States and Nigeria will engage in serious, high level talks on issues of mutual interest."
Now what are those issues of mutual interest?

They are captured in the commission’s four working groups which provide the structure for engagement.  They include:
  1. Good governance, Transparency and Integrity
  2. Energy and Investment
  3. Niger Delta and Regional Security Cooperation
  4. Food Security and Agriculture
In view of the 2011 elections, the first working group to be launched was the Good Governance, Transparency and Integrity working group.  Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero lead the U.S. delegation to launch the group May 25-27, 2010 in Abuja.   She outlined the U.S. election assistance program to support Nigeria’s 2011 elections to include support for a national information center, civic and voter education and voter registry technical assistance to INEC.
The second working group to meet was Energy and Investment in Washington, June 10-11, 2010.  Concerning this working group, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted though Nigeria is blessed with natural resources including oil and gas, electricity remains a challenge.  The Secretary of State therefore renewed the commitment of the United States Government to provide assistance to attract investment in the power sector, especially from the private sector.

Both countries recognized the need for reform of the energy sector and the need for transparency and further consultation with stakeholders to ensure that reforms are successful. The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria assured the United States Government that the reforms will be implemented consistent with World Trade Organization regulations.
The third working group to be launched was the Niger Delta and Security Cooperation.  Held in Washington from September 13-14, 2010, it discussed the amnesty program and consequent improvement in the security situation, maritime security, and economic and social development programs and assistance.
The fourth working group launched was Agriculture and Food Security on February 15-16, 2011.  The focus of the group which was launched in Abuja is to promote food security and support agricultural development in Nigeria by providing local farmers with both the tools and the regulations they need to feed the Nigerian people and help lift rural families out of poverty.
With the inauguration of this working group all the elements of the Bi-national Commission were successfully launched.
It’s interesting to me the working groups cover areas of particular interest to the average Nigerian.  How many times a day do we lament over the power situation?  Again and again I’ve heard Nigerians say the president should have only one point agenda – NEPA (PHCN).  Listen to us get all worked up discussing politics, elections, political parties, politicians etc.  What about our love for good food and especially our local delicacies?  I do hope that with this concerted effort the Bi-national Commission represents, Nigeria will be able to tap from the experience and goodwill of a friend to greatly improve the lot of its expectant and hopeful populace.

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