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United States: Nigeria is one of our most important partners

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United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Tuesday participated in a virtual visit to Nigeria, where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama. Secretary Blinken, President Buhari, and Foreign Minister Onyeama discussed continuing joint efforts to counter terrorism and insecurity, strengthen health systems, support democratic institutions, bolster economic growth, advance gender equality, and boost bilateral trade between the United States and Nigeria. Two fact sheets released on Tuesday by the United States government unveil the gains of U.S.-Nigeria relations:

U.S.-Nigeria relations

With Africa’s largest population, democracy, and economy, Nigeria is one of our most important partners on the continent.

The year 2020 served as an historical benchmark, as Nigerians reflected on the opportunities and challenges the country faces while marking its 60th anniversary of independence and bilateral relations with the United States.

Nigeria is the largest source of immigrants from Africa to the United States, with more than 500,000 Nigerian-born American citizens and legal residents in the U.S.

Pandemic response and health diplomacy

The United States and Nigeria have collaborated closely to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 60 interagency members from the U.S. Mission worked side-by-side with Nigerian counterparts on the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to plan and respond to the disease.

The United States has contributed more than $73 million in COVID-related equipment and technical assistance. This includes the delivery of a mobile field hospital, 200 ventilators, epidemiological COVID detection surveys, personal protective equipment, provision of rapid response teams, training of over 200,000 military and civilian personnel on COVID-19 control measures, and technology transfer for virtual training.

Ongoing U.S. health programs reach more than 60 million Nigerians with lifesaving services, including by training public health workers and improving access to quality medicines, vaccines, medical facilities, and reproductive health materials.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has worked with the Government of Nigeria since 2004 to provide HIV and TB care and treatment services, with a momentum propelling Nigeria toward epidemic control within two years. As of December 2020, more than 1.2 million people receive PEPFAR-supported HIV treatment, and our partners placed 350,000 new patients on lifesaving antiretrovirals despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 1997, the United States has directly supported polio surveillance and polio campaigns that reached nearly all of Nigeria’s 33 million children under 5 years of age, contributing to Nigeria being certified as wild polio-virus free in 2020.

Since 2011, the President’s Malaria Initiative has procured more than 60 million insecticide-treated nets, 46 million rapid diagnostic test kits, 87 million treatment courses for malaria, and 20 million doses of malaria prophylaxis during pregnancy, as part of over $690 million contributed to malaria control in Nigeria.

Nigeria is a key U.S. partner in the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). The mission approved $3.4 million in FY 2020 GHSA funding for capacity building programs to strengthen zoonotic surveillance labs, infection-prevention control, antimicrobial resistance, and risk communication.

Bilateral economic engagement

Nigeria is our second largest trading partner in Africa; two-way trade between our nations expanded to over $10 billion in 2019. The United States is proud to be one of the largest foreign investors in Nigeria. S. support for economic growth includes funding $8.5 million in feasibility studies and technical assistance in 2020-2021, extending loan guarantees worth up to $80 million, and coordinating development finance in important sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, renewable energy, and information and communication technology. These activities support bilateral trade and investment ties while building more modern and sustainable infrastructure across Nigeria.

Through Feed the Future, the United States supports private sector expansion of markets, as well as the introduction of techniques to increase productivity, strengthen resilience, and improve nutrition for more than two million farmers and their communities.

Since its launch in 2013, Power Africa has mobilized $4.3 billion in financing and connected nearly two million households and businesses in Nigeria. Power Africa helps to attract private sector investment and supports the rollout of both on-grid and renewable off-grid electricity connections in order to spur economic growth and reduce poverty.

Educational and cultural exchanges

With over 100,000 travelers to the United States each year, Nigerians boost American businesses, colleges, and universities. There are over 8,800 education and exchange program alumni from Nigeria and the United States.

Nigeria sends more students to American colleges and universities than any other country in Africa and is the eleventh largest source worldwide of international students to the United States. In Academic Year 2019-2020, a record-breaking number of nearly 14,000 Nigerians pursued U.S. graduate and undergraduate degrees, bringing an estimated $501 million to communities across America. In 2020, advisees of EducationUSA services received scholarships worth $28 million.

The United States provided more than 9 million teacher’s guides and books in five of Nigeria’s most widely spoken languages to advance early grade reading.

Striving for peace and security

Northeast Nigeria has become one of the world’s most challenging and complex humanitarian crises. The United States is the largest humanitarian donor in response to the crisis, providing $1.45 billion since 2015 and supporting almost two million conflict-affected households.

Since 2017, Department of State and Department of Defense security assistance for Nigeria totals approximately $650 million, including $500 million in Foreign Military Sales. The United States looks forward to delivering twelve A-29 Super Tucano aircraft this year. Nigeria also has one of the largest International Military-Education and Training (IMET) programs in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The United States promotes strong and broad collaboration between government and civil society at all levels, including civil society organizations led by women and members of marginalised groups. We also support the establishment of robust early warning systems to identify and mitigate drivers of communal conflict and violence in vulnerable states.

We provide technical assistance, and train and equip law enforcement and judiciary professionals to address a wide range of priorities, ranging from stopping banditry to protecting intellectual property rights to more effectively addressing trafficking in persons and gender-based violence. Law enforcement programming focuses on building capacity for civilian security actors, particularly the Nigeria Police Force.

As the Gulf of Guinea has become the world’s hotspot for piracy and armed robbery at sea, Nigeria has stepped up efforts to stem this problem, including a new initiative, Deep Blue, consisting of vessels, shoreside infrastructure, and personnel that can be dispatched to respond to piracy incidents. It is expected to become operational by mid-2021. U.S. efforts to stem piracy in the Gulf of Guinea help to strengthen maritime governance, enable the development of sustainable, maritime-based economies, and protect international maritime commerce.

Young African Leaders Initiative

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is the U.S. government’s signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders.  Since 2010, YALI has graduated more than 24,000 alumni from the Mandela Washington Fellowship exchange program and its four Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) located across the continent, while membership in the online YALI Network community numbers over 700,000.

YALI alumni have risen to high-ranking leadership positions in the public and private sectors and been recognized with international awards.  Five alumni have held or currently hold cabinet-level positions, a Ghanaian Fellowship alumnus and Kenyan RLC alumna won first and second prize in Africa.com’s 2020 Brilliant African Innovations Against COVID-19 Competition, and a Somali Fellowship alumna was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken yesterday participated in a virtual visit to Nigeria, where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama.  Secretary Blinken, President Buhari, and Foreign Minister Onyeama discussed continuing joint efforts to counter terrorism and insecurity, strengthen health systems, support democratic institutions, bolster economic growth, advance gender equality, and boost bilateral trade between the United States and Nigeria. Two fact sheets released yesterday by the United States government unveil the gains of U.S.-Nigeria relations:

With a population of 1.3 billion people whose median age is 19 years old, Africa’s youth are one of the continent’s most important resources.  YALI, along with other U.S.-sponsored people-to-people initiatives, showcases the U.S. government’s commitment to strengthening the ties among the people of the United States and Africa.  Through its programs, YALI promotes effective public administration; fosters networks that connect people; creates conditions for peace, prosperity, and security; and provides investment opportunities for U.S. businesses.

  • Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders: Launched in 2014, this flagship program brings 700 Fellows aged 25-35 to the United States each year to participate in six-week Leadership Institutes, studying Business, Civic Engagement, or Public Management at U.S. colleges or universities. During their time on campus, Fellows connect with Americans and enrich local U.S. communities while sharing best practices.  The Reciprocal Exchange component provides opportunities for Americans to travel to Africa to work with Fellowship Alumni on issues of importance to both the United States and Africa while contributing to U.S. public diplomacy efforts.
  • Regional Leadership Centers: Managed by the United States Agency for International Development, the RLCs provide YALI’s signature on-continent leadership and professional development training experiences at higher education institutions in Nairobi, Kenya; Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana; and Pretoria, South Africa. Since 2015, they have provided more than 20,000 young leaders aged 18-35 with?state-of-the-art leadership training in three tracks: public management, civic engagement, and business and entrepreneurship.  The RLCs leverage resources from the private sector, both U.S. and African companies, and serve as a place for regional collaboration. They offer training primarily in English, with some offerings in French and Portuguese.
  • YALI Network: The YALI Network is a virtual community of more than 700,000 members across Sub-Saharan Africa.  Through its digital campaigns, the YALI Network develops members’ capacity to advocate for U.S. policy priorities in a local context.  To support these campaigns, the Network’s website provides vital online resources, content, and courses.  In addition to online activities, campaigns inspire offline advocacy by encouraging members to lead service activities and to hold “YALILearns” events, during which members facilitate community dialogues on policy-focused campaign topics.

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Media groups tackle Presidency, N’Assembly over press council act amendment

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Media groups under the Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO) have kicked against the proposed amendment of the Nigerian Press Council Act over the inclusion of some clauses they described as unconstitutional.
The bill was considered at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Information, national orientation, ethics and values on Thursday.
Some media rights groups and other critical stakeholders in the media industry have also vowed to resist any move to infringe on press freedom through the proposed amendment of the NPC Act.
The NPO, an umbrella body of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), argued that such clauses were a threat to press freedom.
A member of the NPO delegation, Azu Ishiekwene, said almost a half of the 39 clauses in the bill contained unconstitutional regulations that could stifle journalism practice.
He said the NPO had challenged the clauses up to the Supreme Court, and that continuing with the amendment would amount to preempting the court on the matter.
“It is a matter that has been pending in court since 1999 but the first decisive ruling in the matter came in 2010 when the high court ruled that 17 out of the 39 clauses in the bill were unconstitutional,” he said.
“The Federal Government appealed and got a ruling in December 2010. That ruling was again appealed by the NPO and it is pending at the Supreme Court.
“If you make a law now that binds the hands of the legislation or tilts the legislation one way or the order you are preempting the outcome of what the court is going to do.”
the International Press Centre (IPC) alongside Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Centre for Media Law and Advocacy (CMLA) and the Premium Times Centre For Investigation Journalism (PTCIJ) have also kicked against moves to infringe on press freedom and media independence in Nigeria.
Executive Director at the IPC, Lanre Arogundade, contributing, said, “The provision of 3 (d) constitutes a potential threat to press freedom and media survival as it does not provide for judicial intervention before highly punitive measures are handed down by the council and indeed could be used as a political weapon against the media.
“The section provides for penalties and fines against violation of the press code by print media houses and media practitioners, including revocation of licence.
“Section 17 (3) (a) & (b) provides that a journalist could be held liable for the offence committed by his or her organisation and can be made to pay a fine of N250,000.”
Arogundade added that another “punitive” clause is in section 21 (5) (a) whose amendment is such that “a journalist can be punished by the council even after he/she might have been found guilty by a court of law and without the council going back to the court to report continued infringement.
“Section 33 (3) and (4) does not give room for retraction or apology where a fake news is mistakenly published but recommends a blanket sanction of up to N10m or closure for a period of one year.”
A former Rep member and former Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Sani Zorro, expressed concern over the NPC bill amendment, which he noted, was coming at a time when the government had taken some decision in regulating social media.
Zorro said the best way to go was for the NPC and critical stakeholders in the media industry to dialogue and chart way forward in the best interest of all.
He advocated that the NPC Board should be made up of professionals rather than being a “political board” which will not augur well for the interest of the media industry.
The Radio, Television and Theatre Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), said Section 3 of the bill which wanted to empower the NPC to “approve penalties and fines against violation of the Press Codes by print media houses and media practitioners, including revocation of license,” should be expunged, arguing that print media houses were business ventures registered by the CAC and not NPC.
The union said any move to censor them would amount to a nullity.
National President of RATTAWU, Comrade Kabiru Garba, also pointed out that Section 9(1) of the bill which said, “the council shall establish a national press and ethical code of conduct for media houses and media practitioners, which shall come to effect and be disseminated after approval by the minister”, should be discarded.
He said the codes should rather come from the board of the council comprising all the stakeholders.
But Executive-secretary of the NPC, Francis Nwosu, commended the amendment of the bill and recommended that the council should also be empowered to regulate online media.

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Osinbajo-led NEC to review states’ #EndSARS panel reports

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Reports of the various judicial panels set up by states to resolve issues of police brutality are to be reviewed at a special session by the National Economic Council, Vice President and Chairman of the council, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has hinted.
The panels were constituted by the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) after the #EndSARS protests that rocked state capitals and some major cities last year.
The protests led to loss of lives, destruction of private properties and public infrastructure.
Osinbajo spoke on the issue on Thursday after the monthly NEC meeting held virtually with state governors, top government officials and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s governor.
According to a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, some states have submitted their reports to the NEC, adding that others were being awaited.
The statement read in part, “The vice president at today’s meeting announced that a special session of NEC will soon be convened to consider all the reports that are ready from the judicial panels set up late last year to address the concerns of the Nigerian people on police brutality allegations and other related issues.
“That meeting would also consider the implementation of the reports including remedies, redress and compensations.”
Meanwhile, the Vice President has inaugurated the 29-member National Road Safety Advisory Council, which he sits over as chairman.
The statement said, “Also at the meeting, Prof Osinbajo inaugurated the National Road Safety Advisory Council as a demonstration of government’s continued commitment to addressing the challenges of road safety in the country.
“The Advisory Council is a critical aspect of the updated National Road Safety Strategy adopted by NEC and approved by the Federal Executive Council late last year.
“The Road Safety Advisory Council is chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi as Secretary. Other members of the 29-member Advisory Council include: Six governors representing the six geo-political zones.”
Other committee members include governors Willy Obiano (Anambra) representing the Southeast; Ifeanyi Okowa (State) representing the Southsouth; Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) representing the Southwest.
Other are: Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe) representing the Northeast; Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) representing Northwest and Abdulrahman AbdulRasaq, (Kwara) representing the Northcentral; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha; ministers and the National Security Adviser (NSA).
The President, Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON); President, Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA); President, Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE); and the Board Chairman, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), are also members.

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75 northern groups place N100m bounty on Nnamdi Kanu

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A coalition of 75 northern groups under the aegis of Northern Consensus Movement has announced a reward of N100m for anyone that can produce the supreme leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, for the continuation of his alleged treason trial.
The groups anoounced this at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday evening, as it accused Kanu and the Eastern Security Network of masterminding the recent spate of attacks on northern communities in the South-East.
Speaking on behalf of the Coalition, Dr Awwal Abdullahi Aliyu urged the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to facilitate Nnamdi Kanu’s repatriation to Nigeria to face the charges against him.
Aliyu said, “The Northern Consensus Movement, an amalgamation of more than 75 civil society groups of northern extraction, has taken it upon ourselves, as active citizens of this country, Nigeria, to state in unequivocal terms that:
“We are declaring Nnamdi Kanu wanted for crimes against humanity and for instigating the killing of innocent Northerners in the southeast via his hate speech.
“We want him to answer for the killing and destruction of northerners residing and undertaking lawful businesses in the southeastern part of Nigeria.
“So, we are placing a bounty of N100m as an offer to anyone who can produce him alive, hale, hearty, and uninjured to us for onward delivery to the security agencies for the continuation of his prosecution.
“We call on both the US, the UK, and the EU, champions of democracy, rule of law, and freedoms of speech and expression to kindly and humble respect Nigeria’s sovereignty and facilitate the repatriation of Nnamdi Kanu to Nigeria so that he can face his treason, and possibly a fresh terrorism and genocide charges against innocent citizens of Nigeria.”

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