United States President Donald Trump has read what might be described as a riot act to the Nigerian government, saying the continued killing of Christians in the country is unacceptable.
He said this, yesterday, when he received President Muhammadu Buhari at the White House for talks aimed at boosting the strategic partnership between both countries.
This came as the Christian Association of Nigerian (CAN) called for the immediate resignation of Buhari over his alleged inability to tackle killer herdsmen and other security challenges. The association also urged the international community to save Nigeria from a religious crisis, describing the recent attack on a church in Benue State as a jihad.
Pope Francis had on Sunday, during his remarks at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, decried the attack in which Fulani herdsmen allegedly killed two Catholic priests and 17 worshippers.
Expressing concern over the killing of Christians by Boko Haram, Trump said America would do everything to halt terrorist activities in Nigeria.
“We have met before, developing great relationship. We look forward to our discussions today. They are very important, but again, especially as it relates to terrorism. That is terrorism here and terrorism all over the world. It’s a hot bed and we are going to be stopping them.
“Also, we have had a very serious problem with Christians who are being murdered, killed in Nigeria. We gonna be working on that problem, and working on that problem very, very hard, because we can’t allow that to happen,” he said.
The U.S. President said his country would invest substantially in Nigeria, if Buhari creates a level-playing field by removing barriers to trade between the countries.
Acknowledging that Nigeria is one of America’s largest trading partners in the region, he disclosed that the U.S. provides it with more than $1 billion a year in foreign aid and wants Nigeria to take down trade barriers in return. According to him, “We think that we are owed that.”
He said: “Nigeria has a reputation for very massive corruption. I also know that the President (Buhari) has been able to cut that down very substantially. We talked about that. He is working on it and they have made a lot of progress, and I think they will continue to make a lot of progress.”
On tackling insecurity, Trump noted: “We’re helping Nigeria by facilitating intelligence cooperation and providing military training and equipment. We recently sold Nigeria 12 Super Tucano aircraft in the first-ever sale of American military equipment to Nigeria. Nigeria is a valued partner and a good friend.”
Responding, Buhari acknowledged the deteriorating insecurity in Nigeria and expressed appreciation for U.S. assistance in military training to curb terrorism in the northeast.
He said: ”Certainly, security is the main issue. We are very grateful to the United States for agreeing to give us the aircraft we asked and the spare parts.
We are even more grateful for the physical presence of the United States military instructors that go into our institutions and train them, and go to the front in the northeast, to see how they are performing as a result of the training given to them.”
On the clashes between herders and farmers in Nigeria, Buhari said: “The Nigerian herdsman never carried anything more than a stick and occasionally a machete, to cut down foliage and give to their animals.
These ones are carrying AK 47. So, I don’t think people should underrate what happened in Libya, 43 years of Gadaffi. People were recruited from the Sahel.
They were taught nothing other than shoot and kill. With the demise of Gadaffi, they moved to their countries and their regions and they carried away with them, the only experience they have and training using weapons. And that is what is aggravating the situation.”
He said: “We are doing our best to ensure that we stop cross border (crime) and so on, and to get the proliferation of small arms in the region checked. But it is going to take time.
And the action by the United States in trying to see the end of ISIS has helped us a lot, because Boko Haram in Nigeria, at one time, made a statement that they were loyal to ISIS.
And now that ISIS has virtually gone, with the help of the United States, we are very grateful for that. And we are sure that we are stabilising the situation of security in Nigeria.”
On what his government is doing to rescue the girls still being held by Boko Haram, Buhari said: ”The Chibok girls was before we came in 2014. We have only a number of them. We recovered about 30 of them. But the Dapchi ones, they were 106 that were kidnapped.
We got 100 back, four died. One is still held in captivity, and we are very grateful for the United Nations that is acting between the kidnappers and us and haven’t given up. We are trying to get everybody back to join their families and their schools.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), meanwhile, has charged Buhari to explain to Nigerians how his administration spent the $1billion grant from the United States. It also expressed shock that Buhari admitted the receipt of only $500million and failed to say what became of the money.
In a statement, yesterday, the party’s Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said: “More disturbing is the revelation by President Trump that the U.S. has been supporting Nigeria with the sum of $1bn annually, whereas President Buhari, in his script, announced that Nigeria received only $500m last year.”
The PDP said: “We had expected President Buhari, as the ‘African Champion on Anti-Corruption’, to immediately respond to President Trump on the whereabouts of the shortfall of $500m.”
It described Buhari’s performance as embarrassing for “completely failing to project the economic interests of our nation before the American government and the world.”
It said: “It was alarming that President Buhari buckled in bilateral negotiation and failed to address the issue of drop in the U.S. purchase of our crude oil, which is the mainstay of our economy.
Nigerians and the business community were aghast when Buhari could not market our crude oil to his American counterpart, even when in the course of the question and answer session, a leeway was provided for him, he off-handedly declared that he could not ‘tell America what to do.’”
The PDP added it was inexcusable that Buhari had no answers to daily bloodletting and mass killings in Nigeria, which Trump described as “horrible”. Instead, he restricted himself to his script, which was silent on the issue.
“By this, the American government has summarily indicted President Buhari’s government for its failure to ensure security of life and property of citizens.”