Friday, April 16, 2010

Nigerian President Returns From US Visit; Meetings Held With Obama and CBC

Jonathan Returns, US Trip Successful, Says FG

To establish Diaspora Commission

From Kunle Akogun and Godwin Omoigui in Abuja, 04.16.2010

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan returned to the country yesterday after a four-day working visit to the United States where he attended the Nuclear Security Summit, met President Barack Obama and had other engagements.

It was his first official visit outside the country since he emerged Acting President on February 9 following President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s ill-health.

Foreign Affairs Minister Odein Ajumogobia (SAN) told State House Correspondents that the visit was successful.

“The visit was very successful. The meeting between the Acting President and President Obama was a successful one. It generated a lot of goodwill for the Acting President.

“You could see the interviews granted by the Acting President to CNN,” he said.

The Presidential Aircraft, “Nigeria Airforce One," touched down at the Presidential Lounge of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja around 10. 27 am without some governors and top government functionaries that were with him in US.

Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Ikedi Ohakim (Imo) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo) as well as Ajumogobia and Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, among others, were with Jonathan on the visit.

While in the US, Jonathan addressed the Council on Foreign Relations and visited the World Bank where he solicited the bank’s support to finance infrastructure and provide technical expertise in the power sector.

On hand to receive the Acting President at the airport were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor; National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau; Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Senator Bala Muhammed, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN).

Others were the Minister of Interior, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho; Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze; Special Duties Minister, Navy Captain Earnest Olubolade (rtd) and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, among others.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government will soon establish a Diaspora Commission that will harmonise the contributions of Nigerians living abroad and ensure proper documentation of their input in the affairs of the nation as key stakeholders.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant Media and Publicity to the Acting President yesterday said Jonathan disclosed this while addressing the Nigerian Community in Washington DC on Wednesday to round off his official visit.

The Acting President said the establishment of the commission would enable the government have proper records of the contributions of Nigerian citizens abroad.

“We want to upgrade the Diaspora department in foreign affairs to the level of a commission to coordinate experts in the Diaspora. We are looking at establishing the commission before the end of this administration, in the next 12 months,” he said.

Jonathan applauded the roles and contributions of Nigerians in the Diaspora saying that they have become some of the best in their chosen professions across the globe.

He said the government will continue to acknowledge the contributions of these noteworthy ambassadors, while thanking them for promoting the country’s image internationally.

He urged the Diaspora not to relent in making positive contributions towards nation-building, noting that the task of swapping the negative perception about Nigeria with a positive image requires collective responsibility.

The forum afforded Nigerians in the US the platform to interact firsthand with the Acting President and ask questions on the state of the nation.

Jonathan in turn acquainted them on the state of the nation as well as government measures to improve the quality of life of Nigerians.

On the power sector, Jonathan said government is in the process of diversifying the sources of power generation, and is putting in place relevant legislations and enabling conditions to promote public-private partnership to boost the sector.

“The compelling need to introduce a concept to ensure efficiency in the sector informed my decision to personally oversee the ministry of power,” he said.

On the 2011 polls, Jonathan reassured Nigerians: “We are confident that the 2011 elections will be better than previous ones held in Nigeria.”

He said the Federal Government is taking bold steps to revamp the poor state of infrastructure in the country by embarking on major construction and expansion particularly in transportation, healthcare and education.

On corruption, Jonathan urged the Diaspora, “You must not only shun corruption but join in efforts to combat it. You have roles in this crusade, including acting as whistle blowers and providing relevant information to track and prosecute corrupt Nigerians.”

US Ambassador to Nigeria, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, said Jonathan’s visit to US has given tremendous boost to the country’s image abroad, making Nigerians in Diaspora hold their heads high once again in national pride.

Nigerians who spoke at the occasion applauded the progress government is making to get the country out of the woods.
They generally commended the Acting President for steps taken since his assumption of office to stabilize the country and keep it on the path to progress.

Earlier in the day, Jonathan was Special Guest at a luncheon organized by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) where he described the recent signing of the Agreement on the Nigeria-US Bi-National Commission as a historic feat that reflects the high level friendship and collaboration that exists between Nigeria and the US.

“The Bi-National agreement demonstrates the determination of our two governments to increase and strengthen bilateral cooperation on a vast array of issues of mutual interest. Both the USA and Nigeria have a responsibility to ensure its success,” he stated.

The Corporate Council on Africa was established in 1993 to strengthen and facilitate commercial trade relationships between Africa and the United States.

It usually holds programmes with visiting African leaders, ministers, US and African private sector players and multilateral agencies.

Jonathan Meets US-Black Caucus, Wants Illicit Arms Checked

From Tokunbo Adedoja in Washington DC, 04.16.2010
Nigeria ThisDay

Acting President has called on US Black Caucus to support efforts aimed at checking proliferation of illicit and small weapons in Africa.

Making the call on Wednesday during his meeting with members of the caucus led by Donald Payne at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, Jonathan described proliferation of illicit arms and small weapons as a major threat to peace and development in Africa.

He urged the caucus, an influential group within US Congress, to ensure that laws that would effectively address the problem are enacted.

Noting that Africa does not produce such weapons, Jonathan said the continent had become a dumpsite for it with the consequences of instability and stunted growth.

The Acting President also used the opportunity to congratulate the caucus on the emergence of Obama, a Black American, as US President, saying it is the fruit of the struggle of the past.

Payne, in his response, decried the problem and promised that the caucus would take a look at it against the background of the convention of the United Nations (UN).

Jonathan also during his four-day visit met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, where he also raised the issue proliferation of illicit arms and small weapons and called on the global body to help tackle the problem, which he said is a factor responsible for instability on the continent.

The UN scribe in his remarks noted Nigeria’s contribution to the body, saying the nation is the fourth largest supplier of troops to UN peace-keeping operations.

While commending the Acting President for the way he has been handling the affairs of the country, he disclosed his plans to visit Nigeria in June.

In a related development, the Acting President has assured that Federal Government would continue to formulate and implement policies geared towards the empowerment of women and youth.

Jonathan stated this when he was received by members of the Atlantic Council also in Washington, DC on Wednesday.
He also briefed the council on the progress made so far by the Federal Government on gender issues noting that government would continue to promote the cause.

Atlantic Council is a non-partisan organisation based in the US that promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs.

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