Worries about Nigeria breaking up may not be unfounded after all. The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, during an interactive session with some journalists in Lagos, said his country, contrary to misconception, was not preparing for Nigeria’s breakup.
He said: “I don’t see any sign of a breakup. There is no sign that Nigeria will breakup. If this country is going to breakup in 2015, to me, I don’t see any sign of it. You have challenges in this country, but you are moving forward towards a bright future. There is no issue that the country might break up.“Yes, your country had a devastating civil war just like my own country. It almost tore us into two. I think both of our countries have learnt how difficult it is to hold a country together and that has certainly been a big factor in my country. The idea that Nigeria is going to fall apart in the coming months is news to me; I am not sure where that idea is coming from.”
Entwistle, who assumed duty in Nigeria last November, said Nigeria parades array of talents and extraordinary creativity that will continue to make the country an important place in Africa.
“In three months that I have been here, my overwhelming impression is how smart and intelligent that Nigerians are. After three months, I am very impressed by the creative spirit of Nigerians as they face challenges. It is clear there are huge challenges ahead, but we are committed to help Nigeria.“Every conversation I have on any subject, (I am just coming from a roundtable discussion on the power sector here), I have really been impressed by the energy and the drive and I get this sense that Nigerian people are saying: ‘yes, we have challenges; things we have to deal with but we can do this. This is our country. We will get this done.’ They appreciate help from outsiders and they just have this very strong sense of pride that this is our country. We are going to get this right,” he added.
He urged the federal government to strengthen its coordination efforts with international organisations and neighbouring countries to stop Boko Haram insurgency.“Whether it is fighting terror or the war on drugs or any of these international problems that cut across borders, no one nation can do it by itself. To really get at Boko Haram, your government needs to continue working with Cameroun and Chad because these guys cross the borders. These are guys for whom international borders are largely meaningless. The only way to deal with these guys is to collaborate with your neigbours and relevant international organisations.“I think in my conversation with your government and military, I think there is a growing concern over finding an enemy who mixes with the civilian population. So, that needs to be a focus,” he said.
He reiterated his country’s commitment to a review of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for inclusion of Nigeria’s value-added products for export into American market against the current Generalised System of Preference (GSP) provisions that allow just oil as export commodity from Nigeria into America.“We will continue to review AGOA. We will like to see other sectors of your economy to begin to take advantage of AGOA,” he said.
On the recent law which bans same-sex unions in the country, Entwistle said gay issue was a controversial one all over the world and that it was up to Nigeria to define marriage is.
He, however, expressed worry about certain clause in the law that places restrictions on freedom of assembly.
“As a friend of Nigeria, we are worried that the new law puts restrictions on freedom of assembly or association. When you start limiting freedom, it is worrisome,” he said.