Washington – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Obama administration will want to see the Nigeria “prosper and grow,’’ despite serious security and economic challenges.

Addressing a news conference with visiting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Olugbenga Ashiru, Clinton stressed that economic development was key to Nigeria’s growth.

She described Nigeria as “one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with the largest population in Africa and strong trading relationships” with U.S.

“We want to see Nigeria prosper and grow.

“To this end, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC, has just approved 250 million dollars in financing to help revitalise the Union Bank of Nigeria, and to reach previously un-banked people in Nigeria.

“And we will look for ways to support Nigeria as it reduces inequality and builds a broader base for prosperity,” she said.

Clinton, who condemned the bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja last month, reassured Nigeria of the U.S. commitment in the fight against terrorism.

She said the U.S. would work with Nigeria and countries in West Africa to improve security and address the legitimate needs of people before extremists have a chance to exploit them.

The U.S. Secretary of State also outlined major achievements of the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission -a flagship agreement for bilateral cooperation, signed 17 months ago between both countries.

She added that the Commission was working in the area of advancing good governance, energy access and reliability, food security and dealing with extremism.

Clinton noted that during the last April 2011 elections the U.S. worked closely with the government and civil society to improve transparency and address the political and logistical challenges of the elections.

She reiterated that for the first time in recent history, Nigeria held elections that were “widely hailed as credible and effective.

“And we know that over 90 per cent of Nigerians thought the elections was free and fair.

“That is up from 30 per cent just a short four years ago,” she said.

She praised Nigerians for making “strides every day and consolidating their democracy and the institutions of democracy,”  in addition to Nigeria government’s  important role on global issues through its seat on the UN Security Council.

She stressed that Nigeria had assumed a leading role “in helping to improve stability in West Africa.”

“Nigeria played a key role in supporting the difficult democratic transitions in Cote d’Ivoire,
Guinea and Niger.

“Nigeria’s own example of credible elections provides it with great credibility in democracy promotion across the continent,’’ she added.

Responding, Ashiru said the meeting discussed attracting more investment to Nigeria, especially in the energy and power sector.

Ashiru said he told Clinton that U.S. companies should take advantage of the “boom” foreseen in the nearest future in the energy sector.

“U.S. companies should not sit on the fence as they did when we had the telecoms boom in Nigeria.

“They should not allow their competitors to go reaping only from Nigeria, and now this is the time for them to move into Nigeria and take part in the energy boom which we foresee,” he said. (NAN)

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