By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
ABUJA — the United States of America has said it would fight side-by-side with Nigeria in the war against the Islamist terrorists, Boko Haram.
US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, said this at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, on the Safe Schools Initiative, SSI, in Abuja, yesterday.
His words: “We have said this directly to Mr. President and to others that the United States will stand with Nigeria in the fight against terror and we stand ready to help in every possible way. The terrorists try to keep children out of school. This is unacceptable and we won’t stand by and let that happen. We can’t give up.
According to him, the United States had been involved in the education of children in Nigeria for a very long time and took it very seriously as a means of developing Nigeria.
He said: “Nigerian children who have been affected by the insurgency do not also need to see their hopes for education sacrificed.”
Earlier, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had built strong partnerships with other nations, donor agencies, and the private sector since the SSI was launched.
The minister disclosed that besides the $10 million contribution of the Federal Government to the SSI Trust Fund domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria, Germany and Norway sent in 2 million Euro and $1.5 million, respectively.
She added that the United Kingdom offered a 1 million pound technical assistance, while the African Development Bank would soon send in $1 million.
“We have received donations of EUR2 million from Germany, and will shortly receive a grant of $1 million from the African Development Bank into the fund. Other donors include Norway – $1.5 million (given through UNICEF), the UK – £1 million in technical assistance, and $10 million pledged by a Coalition of Nigerian Business Leaders,” she said.
She added, that a separate Multi-Donor Trust Fund, MDTF, was also set up within the UN system through Gordon Brown’s efforts to support the initiative.
A total of $ 4 million has accrued to the MDTF, which has become operational and managed by the United Nations Development Project, UNDP, as well as, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala assured the international community of the determination of the administration to return all displaced children to school and even provide scholarships to those qualified to study in foreign universities.
Her words, “With the support of UNICEF, we are ramping up efforts to provide education to children in IDP camps and host communities. A total of 28,679 children have been enrolled in basic education through the double shift schooling system which is operational in all 3 states, and of these 1,692 have been enrolled into junior secondary school. Through UNICEF, we have also procured 35,000 school bags with learning materials, and 400 “school in a box” to support schooling of the IDP learners.
“We are partnering with International NGOs to offer scholarships to some of the victims of the insurgency to study at universities abroad”.
The US donation coincided with a Washington ministerial-level meeting focused on the evolving foreign terrorist fighter (FTF) threat. Convened on the margins of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), this meeting will explore how we can improve our information sharing and collaboration on FTFs, which is crucial to confronting this global challenge.
According to the US Department of State, FTF Threat is serious and that the meeting was “extremely timely and addresses a challenge confronting governments around the world. More than 20,000 foreign fighters from more than 100 countries reportedly have traveled to Syria and Iraq. In addition to bolstering ISIL’s ranks, these individuals could pose a significant threat upon their return home.