By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari Thursday told the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Antony Blinken, that the Federal Government will allow the system in the report of the investigative panel on the EndSARS to exhaust itself.
President Buhari told his guest that the government will wait for pronouncements from state governments that set up panels to probe police brutality in the country.
But he United States Secretay of State told the Nigerian President when he visited him (Buhari) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said that United States anticipate and look to the state and the federal government’s response to the findings, and expect those to include steps to be taken to address the victims.
Speaking at the visit, President Buhari said, ““So many state governments are involved, and have given different terms of reference to the probe panels,” the President added. “We at the Federal have to wait for the steps taken by the states, and we have to allow the system to work. We can’t impose ideas on them. Federal Government has to wait for the reaction of the states.”
On the recent removal of Nigeria from watchlist of countries violating religious freedom, which Blinken said was “based on facts,” President Buhari expressed the country’s appreciation, noting that there was freedom of worship in Nigeria, and no one is discriminated against on the basis of his or her faith.
He said education is a priority in the country, “because when you educate a people, there are certain levels they will not fall below.”
The President equally appreciated the United States of America for allowing Nigeria to procure military hardware to fight terrorism in the country, and for the training given to Nigerian military.
“It’s helping us to stabilize the situation in the Northeast, and we’ve made a lot of progress since 2015,” he said. “We are doing a lot on security, and the people involved appreciate our efforts.”
On development of democratic ethos, President Buhari said Nigeria has adopted the American model, “hook, line, and sinker, with its term limits. Those who have attempted to breach it were disappointed, if not disgraced. You are even lucky if you have two terms. Others try hard, and don’t get it. The American model has been accepted by Nigerians as the best.”
Nigeria and her neighbors, the President noted, have been living with the impact of climate change for a while, which has seen the Lake Chad shrink drastically from its original size, and affected the livelihood of about 30 million people in the Lake Chad Basin countries.
“That is why the youths defy the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean to attempt emigrating to Europe. Inter-basin water transfer is needed to keep the youths at home, and they can resume their lives of farming, fishing, and animal husbandry.”
Mr Blinken, who had held a virtual meeting with the Nigerian President earlier in the year said jocularly that it was now good to see him “mask to mask, hoping that we will soon see face to face.”
He appreciated the contributions of President Buhari to protection of the climate, particularly his presence and contributions at the recent COP26 climate conference held in Glasgow, Scotland.
Blinken said America and Nigeria have diverse challenges, but a common denominator is security, and hoped for better partnerships, “so that the bad guys won’t get the good guys.”
He described the report of the EndSARS probe panel as “democracy in action,” stressing that America equally had its own police brutality, and hoping that necessary reforms would be made.
In a joint press briefing with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Blinken said in earlier meetings with the President, the Vice President and the foreign affairs minister.
He said, “We discussed the importance of a comprehensive approach that builds effective security forces addresses the underlying drivers of extremism, and respects Nigerians basic human rights.
“The United States is committed to helping Nigeria do that by continuing to invest in our security partnership, and the institutions that strengthen the rule of law, and that hold accountable those who commit human rights abuses, corruption and other acts that harm the Nigerian people.
“By tackling these issues, we can help to address some of the problems that have been key drivers of insecurity. To that end, let me say that we welcome the conclusion of the investigation by the independent inquiry established by the Lagos state government to look into the events that took place at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, in October of 2020 during a protest, including the killings and other alleged abuses by the security forces.
“We anticipate and look to the state and the federal government’s response to the findings, and expect those to include steps that ensure accountability and address the grievances of the victims and their families. We’re also working closely with Nigeria to help the populations most affected by conflict and violence in the country, particularly in the Northeast, where the United States is providing vital humanitarian aid to approximately 2.2 million internally displaced Nigerians United States continues to build the capacity”
Continuing, he said, “it’s wonderful to be with you. Wonderful to be back in Nigeria. I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend time with President Buhari with the Vice President, as well. Nigeria touches us every day in America, through the amazing power of its diaspora. musicians, writers, artists, entrepreneurs, athletes, enrich our lives, make them more interesting, more rewarding.
“And we’re grateful for that, as well. Our meetings today, the engagements that I’ll have throughout my time here in Nigeria, reflect the depth of this partnership of now more than six decades, and the way that our collaboration is vital, and maybe more vital than ever, to tackling shared challenges, and actually delivering results for our people, which is, what our responsibility really is. Let me just touch on a few of the issues that we’ve been talking about today and where our cooperation is especially important.
On COVID-19, he said, “First of all, working together to beat back COVID-19. And to build back better as we address the devastating impact that it’s had on all of us on our communities on our economies.
“The United States has delivered 7.6 million doses of safe effective vaccines to Nigeria, and we expect to send another significant number of doses by the end of the year. Donated with no strings attached. And we’re providing significant aid to save lives right now.
“From the more than 150 testing labs that we have to set up nationwide to helping tackle food food security crisis that was worsened by the pandemic. We have teamed up for a long time to confront epidemics to to improve public health. In that sense, this is not new.
“The United States and others work with Nigeria toward eliminating a wild polio virus supporting vaccination campaigns at surveillance to detect and isolate cases. That collaboration was key to the country being certified free of the virus in August of 2020.
“That’s a huge achievement. Reckon assistance is helping to bring treatment to more than one and a half million people in Nigeria living with HIV AIDS, and we’re on track for epidemic control by 2023. Our support for primary health care hubs provide vital services to more than 60 million Nigerians.
“These other efforts have helped create a robust infrastructure for Nigeria’s COVID-19 response and broader efforts to strengthen public health security, which are essential to detect and prevent the next pandemic.
“Second, we’re working with Nigeria to build back better from the pandemic by fostering inclusive sustainable economic growth. That’s the goal of the 2 billion.”