During his four-day official visit to the United States of America, President Muhammadu Buhari will ask President Barack Obama to help to locate and return $150 billion believed to have been stolen by corrupt officials in the last decade.
Buhari, who met with his US counterpart at the White House monday, made this know in an opinion article published in The Washington Post (see back page for the full article).
“The fact that I now seek Obama’s assistance in locating and returning $150 billion in funds stolen in the past decade and held in foreign bank accounts on behalf of former, corrupt officials is a testament to how badly Nigeria has been run,” he wrote. “This way of conducting our affairs cannot continue.”
Buhari, who took office on May 29 after defeating former President Goodluck Jonathan in March elections, pledged during his campaign to clamp down on graft, including in the oil industry that provides Nigeria with about two-thirds of government revenue and 90 percent of export earnings.
Buhari also made it clear that he would not appoint his ministers to his cabinet until September because he still needs time to make the right choices.
The president, in The Washington Post article, justified his action by making reference to Obama who also for several months after taking oath of office, did not have a full cabinet.
“When cabinet ministers are appointed in September, it will be some months after I took the oath of office. It is worth noting that Obama himself did not have his full cabinet in place for several months after first taking office; the United States did not cease to function in the interim.
“In Nigeria’s case, it would neither be prudent nor serve the interests of sound government to have made these appointments immediately on my elevation to the presidency; instead, Nigeria must first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place,” he wrote.
When he received Buhari in the Oval Office monday, Obama expressed confidence in the ability of the Nigerian president’s to handle the challenges facing Nigeria, even as he pledged his country’s readiness to assist Nigeria in its developmental challenges.
Obama — facing criticism for not including Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy on an Africa tour later this week that will take him to Kenya and Ethiopia – turned on the charm, lavishing praise on the Nigerian president.
He said Buhari had come with a clear agenda to tackle the problems of corruption and insecurity occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram sect as well as other violence criminal activities.
Obama expressed appreciation for Buhari’s leadership style so far, saying that his administration would continue to assist and help Nigeria in overcoming its challenges.
Obama said: “It is a great pleasure to welcome President Buhari and his delegation here in the White House for his first visit since the historic election that took place.
“Nigeria is obviously one of the most important countries in the world, one of the most important countries in the African continent.
“Recently we saw an election in which a peaceful transition to a new government took place. NNevertheless, the people of Nigeria understand that only through a peaceful political process that can change take place.
“President Buhari came into office with a reputation for integrity and a very clear agenda, that is to make sure that he brings safely security and peace to his country.
“He is very concerned about the spread and the violence that is taking place there and the atrocities and has a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram and extremists.
“And he has a very clear agenda with respect to rooting out the corruption that too often has held back the economic growth and prosperity of his country.
“On both these issues, we’re looking forward to hearing more about his plans and how the United States can partner with Nigeria so that Nigeria ends up being an anchor not only of prosperity and stability in the eastern (sic) part of the (African) continent, but can also be an outstanding role model for developing countries around the world.”
The US president added that his government “very much look forward to talking about security issues, how we can cooperate on counterterrorism. We’re looking forward to discussing how we can be helpful in addressing some of the corruption issues that have held Nigeria back, and unleashing the incredible talent of the Nigerian people”.
Continuing, Obama said: “We all recognise that some of the best businesspeople in the world are from Nigeria, and they thrive as they travel to other countries, but we want to make sure that they’re also helping folks thrive in Nigeria.
“We’re also going to have an opportunity to talk about some of the other areas where Nigeria has taken leadership — in public health issues, fighting tragedies like Ebola.
“Nigeria has an outstanding track record working with us to eradicate polio, and that gives us a framework and a template to continue to work on public health issues throughout the western part of Africa, as well as throughout the subcontinent.
“We’ll have a chance to talk about issues of climate change, electrification. As many of you know, Power Africa is one of our top priorities, making sure that we’re electrifying the continent so that it can grow faster and more people have access to the power that they need.
“So we’ve got a busy agenda, but I want to emphasise how much I appreciate President Buhari’s work so far.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him put together his team so that we can do everything that we can to help him succeed and help the people of Nigeria succeed.
“Because if they’re successful and doing well, that will have a ripple effect not only in West Africa, but throughout the world.”
Obama stated that his country was willing to stand by Nigeria as long as it remained on course, adding, “Wherever Nigeria goes, Africa goes. The continent’s destiny is tied to Nigeria’s.”
He advised Buhari to combine military action against the Boko Haram insurgency with social and economic programmes, noting that a divided country never succeeds.
“Turn the diversity of Nigeria to source of strength,” Obama said and urged five state governors who accompanied Buhari on the trip to work with the Nigerian president.
Obama also assured Buhari that the US government would continue to partner with Nigeria in ensuring political stability in Africa and around the world.
In his remarks, Buhari commended the US Government under the leadership of Obama for mounting pressure on the Goodluck Jonathan administration to conduct a free and fair election in Nigeria.
According to him, Nigeria will remain forever grateful to the US for this singular act.
He said the visit of the US Secretary of State John Kerry to Nigeria before the elections to see the former president, the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the opposition was a positive development that saw Nigeria through the elections.
He added: “And the maintenance of pressure by United States mainly and Europe to make sure that the elections were free, fair and credible brought us to where we are today.
“It would have been almost impossible if the United States did not maintain the pressure on the former Nigerian government. Nigeria will remain ever grateful to President Obama and the United States for helping Nigeria to consolidate its gains on a democratic system.”
Buhari thanked Obama for inviting him to visit his country, as well as his administration’s support for Nigeria.
The governors of Nasarawa, Borno, Imo, Oyo and Edo States as well as some Nigerian government officials accompanied Buhari during his meeting with Obama.
Before his White House meeting with Obama, Buhari met with US Vice-President Joe Biden who told him that the war against Boko Haram could not be won through military operations alone.
Biden made the remark when he hosted Buhari to a breakfast meeting at his official residence at the Naval Observatory.
The breakfast meeting afforded Biden the opportunity to compare notes with Buhari on the terror war.
A statement from the president’s Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina recalled that the US had also encountered threats from terrorists, who launched massive attacks that killed thousands on September 11 2001, while Nigeria battles the Boko Haram sect causing carnage in the North-eastern part of the country.
At the meeting, Biden reportedly informed his guest what the US had learnt from the terror war, counselling that victory could not come through the military option alone.
“Military option must be combined with strong socio-economic support programmes,” Biden said, promising that the US would work with Nigeria in that direction.
Biden assured Buhari and his team of the goodwill of the US in providing assistance to rebuild the Nigerian economy, but observed that corruption and weak institutions must be tackled if Nigeria was to benefit from reforms.
He added that seasoned technocrats must manage key sectors of the Nigerian economy, and only then would investors be attracted to the country.
Like Obama, the US vice-president congratulated Buhari on his victory at the March 2015 elections, adding that it was obvious that the president enjoyed the confidence of the Nigerian people.
Responding, Buhari thanked the US for standing by Nigeria in the run up to general election early this year, noting that the visit of the US Secretary of State was critical as it sent home the message that the US would not brook the subversion of the people’s will.
On oil theft, the Nigerian president estimated losses at between $10 billion and $20 billion, stressing that such income could have been deployed with the salutary impact on various spheres of national life like education and healthcare, among others.
Both countries pledged their renewed commitment to work as partners at the very insightful meeting.
After his meetings with Obama and Biden, Buhari was expected to participate in a media chat with the US Secretary of Commerce, ECOWAS Ambassadors in Washington, US Attorney General, Secretary of Treasury and a group of potential investors.
Buhari was also to be hosted to a dinner by the US Chamber of Commerce and Corporate Council on Africa.
Buhari arrived Washington on Sunday on four-day official visit to the US during which he would discuss bilateral issues with Obama and other government officials
The president, who arrived Joint Base Andrews Airport in Washington, was received by the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Mrs. Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Mr, James Entwistle, US Ambassador to Nigeria.
Others at the airport to receive the president included the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Prof. Ade Adefuye, Nigerian embassy officials and the state governors on his delegation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the president, who left the airport straight to the Blair House on Pensylvania Avenue, immediately went into meetings with US government officials.
On their arrival on Sunday, Buhari and his delegation was hosted to a dinner by former US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright.