Buhari’s US Trip: A Postscript

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Omololu Ogunmade, in this report, reviews the outcome of the recent meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the United States President Donald Trump in Washington DC

This concern expressed by Trump generated many reactions from Nigerians, who described it as a wake-up call on Buhari to make assertive statements capable of propelling security chiefs to rise up to their responsibility and put paid to the wanton destruction of lives and property particularly in the Middle Belt.

“Also, we have had a very serious problem with Christians, who are being murdered, killed in Nigeria. We are going to be working on that problem, and working on that problem very very hard, because we can’t allow that to happen. Mr. President, thank you for being here, thank you,” Trump said.

Responding, Buhari blamed the heinous killings being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen on the movement of militants from Libya following the death of its former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, saying these militants are versed in shooting and killing.

According to the president, whereas herdsmen in Nigeria were hitherto known for carrying only sticks, and machetes to cut grass for their herds, they are now armed with AK47 rifles. He, however, told Trump that efforts were being made to stop cross-border movements and check proliferation of arms in West African sub-region.

“The problem of the cattle rearers and herders in Nigeria is a very long historical thing. Nigerian herdsmen never carried anything more than a stick and occasionally, a machete to cut down foliage and give it to their animals. These ones are carrying AK 47. So, I don’t think people should underrate what happened in Libya. In the 43 years of Gadaffi, people were recruited from the Sahel. They were thought nothing other than shoot and kill.

“With the demise of Gadaffi, they moved to their countries and their regions and they carried away with them the only experience they had and their trainings using weapons. And that is what is aggravating the situation. We are doing our best to ensure that we stop cross border movements and so on and to get the proliferation of small arms weapons in the regions checked,” Buhari promised.

It is believed that with concerns expressed in faraway United States over daily killings of innocent Nigerians, Buhari, who had been called upon back home by different individuals and groups to sack the incumbent service chiefs over perceived inefficiency, will take decisive steps to end the menace and redeem the country’s image in the international community.

In some other ways, the visit holds some prospects for the country. For instance, Buhari disclosed at the joint briefing with Trump after the meeting that both Nigeria and the US had put machinery in place for the repatriation of $500 million stolen funds from the US to the country.

He also hailed the government of Trump for its laudable decision to launch a Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative to assist in achieving this goal and implored the US to sustain its cooperation with Nigeria to effectively achieve this objective.

“We thanked the US government very much for the cooperation we have received in our effort to recover stolen funds. Our two governments have put the machinery in place for their respective Attorneys-General to collaborate in ensuring the return to Nigeria of $500 million looted funds siphoned away in banks around the world.

“In this connection, we congratulated the US government on launching a Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which was spearheaded by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering. We hope that we could continue to count on US support in this area,” Buhari said.

Consequently, both leaders agreed to mandate their attorneys-general to work out the modalities for the repatriation of the funds. This move looks cheery as this humongous fund makes its way to the Nigerian economy, because it has the capacity to add huge value to Nigeria’s troubled economy.

Both leaders, as stated by Buhari, also congratulated the leaders of North and South Koreas on their recent “historic summit” and “applauded them for the positive commitment they have made towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”

Buhari, who added that Trump deserved “a great deal of credit for his statesmanly role in transforming so dramatically the course of events” between the two Koreas, also “congratulated the US government on the important role it played in the defeat of ISIS,” noting however, that “some of the remnants have found their way to the Sahel region.”

The commendation of the two Koreans by the two leaders was also remarkable in view of the protracted battle of wits between the two countries. Trump, who has been hailed for facilitating the summit, has been described by different persons as a candidate for Nobel Peace Prize.

Buhari also acknowledged what he described as the strong US support for Nigeria in the fight against terrorism by assisting in training the Nigerian military and the sale of 12 Super Tucano A-29 war planes to the country to effectively fight terrorism.

He also acknowledged the US grants to Nigeria to address humanitarian crisis in the North-east. But there was a discrepancy in figures given by both leaders on this grant. While Buhari described the US as the biggest contributor to humanitarian crisis plaguing the North-eastern part of the country, Trump’s contribution countered his submission as the US President put the annual American aid to Nigeria at $1 billion as against the $500million stated by Buhari.

Who is actually wrong between the two? The fact needs to be checked and the real truth unfolded in no time.
“The USA has been to date the biggest contributor to the humanitarian response and last year, gave approximately 500 million US Dollars in cash and in-kind contributions through the United Nations and other inter-governmental organisations. These have mainly supported protection activities, health, food assistance and shelter,” Buhari said.
At the opening session of the meeting, Trump had asked Buhari on what he was doing to secure the release of the Chibok and Dapchi girls, who are yet in the captivity of Boko Haram.
Responding, Buhari, who said his government was deploying every power within its reach to secure the release of the remaining girls, disclosed that Nigeria “will continue to welcome US collaboration in intelligence gathering, hostage negotiations and information-sharing.”

This is a good promise by the president but also raises a rhetorical question: when will this promise become a reality? Will the president indeed work assiduously to bring back Leah Sharibu, the only Dapchi girl held back by Boko Haram, because she refused to renounce her Christian faith and other Chibok girls in no time? This may be a one million dollar question.

On violence being unleashed on farmers and villagers by Fulani herdsmen, Buhari said the federal government was “taking necessary steps to promote the peaceful co-existence of herdsmen and farmers, by focusing on boosting security and enforcing legislation that will guarantee herders and farmers access to land.”

From concerns being expressed daily, every right thinking Nigerian is no doubt interested in this promise and will be excited to see the president live up to his promise.

On the economy, Buhari congratulated both Trump and his government on what he described “as the impressive performance of the US economy under their watch,” disclosing that Nigeria’s plan is to diversify its economy by focusing on agriculture and food security as well as power and infrastructure.

The president, who also said the 2016 statistics showed that Nigeria’s trade volume with the United States stood at $6.07 billion, added that the figure comprised $4.176 billion worth of Nigerian exports to the US and $1.894 billion US exports to Nigeria.

According to him, both of them agreed to put in greater efforts aimed at increasing these figures substantially. But the president has been criticised for not maximising the opportunity of seeing Trump to prevail on the US President to ensure the resumption of crude oil export to America. Instead, the president had said “nobody tells the US what to do.” His critics said he erred by holding on to that assumption, saying it trivialised the essence and opportunity of bilateral talks.

There are still some issues that are ambiguous in the meeting. For instance, Buhari told Trump about the commitment of his government to diversify the Nigerian economy with particular focus on agriculture and food security.

This submission was in tandem with the investment in agriculture in recent times, which has for instance, witnessed the reduction of rice importation by 90 per cent. In the same vein, the country has been making frantic efforts to ensure the exportation of farm produce such as yam to other countries.

But many Nigerians were shocked to hear Trump say that the United States would be exporting agricultural produce to Nigeria. They said it is antithetical to the president’s common slogan that “we must grow what we eat,” observing that if agricultural produce are being exported to the country from the US, will Nigeria still be growing what it eats?

On governance and human rights, the president said the government of Nigeria remained committed to the principles of human rights, promotion and protection of people’s freedom, even in the fight against terror, adding: “We commit to ensure that all documented cases of human rights abuses are investigated and those responsible for violations held accountable for their actions.”

While this comment seems to prove cynics wrong that Buhari has no respect for rule or law and rights of individuals, it likewise puts the president on the spot on the necessity of his administration to conduct thorough investigation into the daily oppression and destruction of many Nigerians by Fulani herdsmen, who storm farms without any provocation and destroy crops, rape women, burn down houses and kill as many people.