Nigeria is largest recipient of U.S aid on HIV and AIDS prevention – Entwistle

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Abuja -  Nigeria is the largest recipient of the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) in the world, U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr James Entwistle, has said.

Entwistle made this known at a reception to celebrate the 238th anniversary of U.S Independence in Abuja on Friday night.

According to him, Nigeria is receiving 458 million dollars support each year to help prevent diseases such as malaria.

He said a large portion of the money was also used to treat and help prevent diseases such as Tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS.

The ambassador used the occasion of the July 4 celebrations at the expansive U.S embassy compound in Abuja to highlight U.S priorities and commitment to peace, security and rapid development in Nigeria.

On development, he said, the “strong presence’’ of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Nigeria had yielded positive results, particularly in the area of infrastructure and agriculture.

Entwistle highlighted President Barack Obama’s Power Africa programme, which he said, had already attracted private sector investment that would result in improved power generation for Nigeria’s electricity grid.

“A great example of this is the Azura Energy Project with USAID-backing and support, 130 million dollars in venture capital was raised.

“Construction is slated to start this month and it will add 450 megawatts of power to Nigeria’s electricity grid when it is complete.

“This project underlines that development is no longer just a government-to-government activity and that the role of the private sector is key,’’ he said.

He also reiterated the U.S deep commitment to free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria ahead of the 2015 general elections.

According to him, the U.S will continue to work close with Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure transparent elections.

He cited the recent Ekiti elections as an example of what happened when all players committed to ensuring respect for the electoral process.

“Once again, I urge all parties and candidates to publicly commit themselves now to not condoning or fomenting violence before, during or after the elections next year.’’

On the fight against terrorism, the U.S ambassador said security partnership with Nigeria had remained a priority for Washington D.C following the recent spate of kidnappings and bombings by Boko Haram terrorists.

“Let me be clear, we want Nigeria to win its war on terrorism and we are here to support you in that effort.

“It may seem that we suddenly sprang to Nigeria’s aid in the wake of the Chibok kidnappings but the truth is we’ve been providing support for a long time.

“You’re our partners and we’re going to continue this journey together,’’ he said.

Entwistle, however, added that over the last decade, the U.S had learned that defeating terrorism required more than just military power.

He said the fight against terrorism required “a comprehensive whole of government approach’’, which includes empowering a free and fair press to report openly and without fear of reprisal.

He said counter-terrorism measures required governments to lift people out of poverty, provide basic education and engage growing youth populations that were being swayed toward extremism due to lack of economic opportunities.

The  July 4 celebration was attended by Governors Rabiu Kwankwaso, Kano State; Idris Wada, Kogi; Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers; Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara; and members of the diplomatic corps. (NAN)

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