Remarks With Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Abuja, Nigeria
August 12, 2009

MODERATOR: The Secretary of State of the United States and (inaudible) Maduekwe.

FOREIGN MINISTER MADUEKWE: Well, ladies and gentlemen of the media, we are delighted here to (inaudible). We had a very, very wonderful session with the Secretary of State of the United States of America, both as – in our own personal capacity (inaudible) of Nigeria.

And of course, we have, with the Secretary of State – I had the privilege of an early meeting with her at the State Department. We spoke on the phone. She called me for this (inaudible) office. There is no more powerful symbolism. A very busy Secretary of State, a very powerful foreign minister, (inaudible) desire to wage (inaudible) with Nigeria as – in the spirit of dealing with Nigeria. And of course, she is here, but at a very difficult time, speaking of (inaudible) meeting (inaudible) officials (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you so much, Minister, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity that you have afforded me today, first for an important bilateral meeting on matters of foreign affairs, and then a larger extended meeting with many ministers, members of parliament, and even a representative, the chair of the governors’ forum.

I appreciate also the opportunity to meet here in Nigeria and to develop even stronger ties of friendship and partnership between the people of our two nations. The United States views Nigeria as a friend, an ally, and a partner on so many important issues, as well as an important country in Africa and increasingly, globally. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, its largest producer of oil, its largest contributor of peacekeepers, a significant trading partner for the United States, and the largest recipient of American direct investment by the private sector in Sub-Saharan Africa.

So given all that, it is critical for the people of Nigeria, first and foremost, but indeed for the United States, that Nigeria succeeds in fulfilling its promise. And in our meeting, I reiterated our appreciation for the strong role that Nigeria has played on the continent. I think it’s important to emphasize that without Nigeria, Liberia might not be a free country, Sierra Leone might not have ended decades of war. The role that Nigeria is playing in the Sudan – the recent commander of the peacekeepers in Sudan was, of course, a Nigerian.

On so many important issues, Nigeria reaches out to the African continent to provide technical assistance and advice. And Nigeria has been particularly active on key international and regional issues from Zimbabwe to Niger, and spoke out strongly against the coups in Mauritania and Guinea. Nigerian peacekeepers are increasingly viewed around the world. I saw some of them yesterday in eastern Congo as among the best that can be provided. This puts a burden on the Nigerian Government, which we recognize and express our appreciation for.

Nigeria is also a very strong partner with the United States on the military-to-military front. We’re increasingly working together on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the most critical and dangerous places because of the combination of rebel movements, drug traffickers, gun runners, and other criminal elements.

We also appreciate the increasing cooperation we’ve received from Nigeria on counterterrorism, on our joint efforts against the scourge of drugs. And I want to applaud Nigeria for the progress that it made in a relatively short period of time moving up to Tier 1 in our annual report on human trafficking. We know that was a concerted commitment by the Nigerian Government, and they really stepped up.

Now we know too that Nigeria faces a range of tough challenges, including the challenges of government capacity and the rule of law and corruption and keeping this large, diverse country moving forward. And therefore, we strongly support and encourage the Government of Nigeria’s efforts to increase transparency, reduce corruption, and provide support for democratic processes in preparation for the 2011 elections. I noted that the president, who has been pushing an agenda that includes electoral reform, security in the Niger Delta, has really put himself out there to try to deliver. And we support these efforts and talked specifically about how the United States might be able to encourage the electoral forums, including the creation of an independent electoral council in preparation for the next elections.

We also support the Nigerian Government’s comprehensive political framework approach toward resolving the conflict in the Niger Delta. This process, as it was explained to me by several of the ministers who were present, is incorporating the region’s stakeholders as absolutely essential, focusing on the region’s development needs, separating out the militants and the unreconcilables from those who deserve amnesty and want to be part of building a better future for that part of Nigeria. And we have offered, again, our support and that of the international community.

The minister and I agreed to establish a bi-national commission that will look at the broad range of issues not only at the federal government, but I particularly appreciated the minister’s invitation to the chair of the governors’ forum. Because coming from our country, we know how much work gets done at the state and local level. And therefore, we see an opportunity to have this bi-national commission work at the federal and national level, as well as on the local and state level.

So it’s a pleasure to be here and to pursue and further develop this strong relationship that means so much to both of our countries.

FOREIGN MINISTER MADUEKWE: Thank you, Secretary. Before we take on some – a few questions for (inaudible) program, (inaudible) the fact that there is a national consensus strongly in favor of all the issues that the Secretary of State has raised, and other concerns which have been expressed. We do offer (inaudible) of the famous statement by (inaudible) politicians, like (inaudible), who once said that – seriously, (inaudible). And (inaudible) we do recognize that where we get the same strength from our own people, not all those criticisms are intended to annoy or provoke (inaudible). Rather, they are based on a genuine concern that maybe we should do better, (inaudible).

And we extend that feeling also to our friends, our development partners in the original sense. I also wish to underscore the prime minister of Nigeria that it is a national concern too – very strongly in favor of issues of – that has democracy, a deep commitment to rule of law, electoral reforms, and as I told the Secretary of State, if there’s any doubt to those commitments in terms of promise and performance, those matters can be addressed (inaudible) within the context of building state capacity, which has been permitted over time for all those history (inaudible).

And that is where the bi-national commission is of such useful and (inaudible) importance, as it’s – there you have a warehouse for global best practices that enable us (inaudible) capacity of our time. And we’ll definitely make all of the difficulties and problems become history as Nigeria marches to its manifest destiny. (Inaudible.)

MODERATOR: We shall take two questions from the Nigerian press as well as two from the American traveling press. I’m going to start with (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yes. My question is to the Secretary of State. You’ve said over and over again that corruption remains endemic on the continent and, by extension in Nigeria. My worry is this: The West, as you may (inaudible) position (inaudible), and there appears to be no initiative whatsoever – suggestions going forward. Consider the leadership of America (inaudible), to ensure that funds from this part of the world (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: This is an area that I want to work on with the minister and with the government. I’ll just give you a quick example. It’s one that I’ve used across Africa, because it’s an African example, and that is the country of Botswana. Botswana, as you may know, has a very vibrant democracy. It’s a very stable country. And it has used the revenues from its natural resource, which, in its case, happens to be diamonds, and put it into a fund, protected that fund from exploitation by foreigners and exploitation by citizens. It said to the countries that were exploiting the diamonds, and to their companies, you have to have an agreement with us that leads to investments in the people of Botswana.

So for example, when you buy a diamond from De Beers, part of that money still today goes to help build and maintain roads and clean water systems in Botswana. You can drive anywhere in that country and you can see services that have been paid for by a legal framework, strong regulations, and a national consensus that the money from the earth and its riches should be spent on the people of Botswana.

Now, companies still make a profit doing business there. Individuals still do well. But they have protected their national patrimony, and I think it’s an example for the rest of the continent, and I think we will explore some of these ideas, and of course, it is up to the people of Nigeria to determine what is best for you. But I want to be sure that I do what I can to put forth ideas that will protect the natural resources of Africa for the African people.

MODERATOR: Susan Pleming from Reuters.

QUESTION: This is a question for Mr. Minister. Violence has been crippling production in the Delta, with Angola actually surpassing Nigeria as an oil producer. When do you expect levels to go up? And what – you’ve offered amnesty to some of the rebels. What guarantee do you have that they’re not going to take up arms again and that will set down production levels again and that you’ll be in the same position?

And then another second question is: What’s happening with the oil laws? That was drawn up when oil was $140 a barrel. It’s still not gone through parliament. But where do you see that going, and how are you going to sustain investor confidence in that oil law?

FOREIGN MINISTER MADUEKWE: Good questions. In dealing with the Niger Delta challenge, evidently, the same (inaudible) amnesty, we clearly understood that there was (inaudible) in dealing with that. All the talks, we’re not going to be putting off a belief they may have (inaudible). They will need to take a leap of faith. And that leap of faith is demonstrated by a president’s generosity, the president’s willingness to say yes, even though terrible things have happened in terms of criminality (inaudible).

And without justifying the violence that (inaudible) to those (inaudible) activities – define those activities – there is an issue of justice, an issue of degradation (inaudible) that is a historic injustice over time.

And so where some of those who (inaudible) is therefore away from the (inaudible), because (inaudible) love for evidence and of pure personal profit and criminal profiting (inaudible), it would be hard to reset – reset the computer, so to speak, unless that problem were (inaudible).

Now the president is very optimistic and we want to believe there is a place for that optimism, that by the end of the year, the political traction with the amnesty is still (inaudible). The response to it should be able to bring about a restoration of peace and a decrease and --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) about --

FOREIGN MINISTER MADUEKWE: A restoration of peace and decrease and a sharp reduction in violence. Now you asked – by nature, not really, but (inaudible) and what has been the operation resulting from the violence and decrease? (Inaudible) the civil war where was it – and it ended, the civil war ended, and the (inaudible) close to that. We believe – we’re optimistic that by the end of this year, (inaudible).

On the second point you made, the second thing you asked, yes, right now, that view is national (inaudible). That view, again, is very (inaudible), it’s very detailed, it’s very comprehensive, and that view, in many ways, reflects some of the best practices that have fallen (inaudible) by the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: What about oil levels? When are you expecting the (inaudible) the situation (inaudible)?

FOREIGN MINISTER MADUEKWE: Already, it’s coming up. It’s improving. In terms of near perception that this is coming back, amnesty’s working, (inaudible) gradually coming up.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible) Nigeria.

QUESTION: Still going back to United (inaudible) issues (inaudible), I wanted to know how far the American Government and (inaudible) the Nigerian Government in dealing with (inaudible) to come back instead (inaudible) foreign companies (inaudible) America (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the defense minister was present at the second larger meeting that the foreign minister convened, and he had some very specific suggestions as to how the United States could assist the Nigerian Government in their efforts, which we think are very promising, to try to bring peace and stability to the Niger Delta. We will be following up on those. There is nothing that has been decided. But we have a very good working relationship between our two militaries.

So I will be talking with my counterpart, the Secretary of Defense, and we will, through our joint efforts, through our bi-national commission mechanism, determine what Nigeria would want from us for help, because we know this is an internal matter, we know this is up to the Nigerian people and their government to resolve, and then look to see how we would offer that assistance.

MODERATOR: And last person on the list, Jeffrey Gettlemen of The New York Times.

QUESTION: Thank you for that introduction.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Does he know you? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I wanted to ask about the religious violence a couple weeks ago. And this first part of the question is for both of you, please. How concerned are you that this is part of a broader trend of Islamic extremism sweeping across North Africa? And is there any evidence that there was foreign links to what happened here, either al-Qaida or other groups operating in (inaudible)?

And then the second part of the question is for you, Madame Secretary. What did you think of the way they responded? And do you condone how they handled the uprising?

FOREIGN MINISTER MADUEKWE: Let me say, please, about Nigerians – whether of this Muslim faith, the (inaudible) part of Nigeria or the Christian faith, we have (inaudible) Christian heritage a part of (inaudible) too. And our population is (inaudible) by Islam (inaudible).

One thing you can say about Nigerian believers of any of the (inaudible) faiths is that they have a deficit in societal impulses. We are far from being fanatics by nature. For one, we love life. We love there is heaven, but we don’t want to get there by doing stupid things before we get there. So I can say this on record, that the kind of fundamentality that defies the wishes of the Almighty God, by taking other people’s lives, and there’s nowhere in the Quran or in the Bible where that (inaudible), that kind of fanaticism can never take hold in the culture of Nigeria.

But I must admit that from time to time, there has been this spasm of violence which comes across in the name of religion that really is not based on religion. It’s not – (inaudible) for political reasons that some young impressionable people are rather exploited by some power with (inaudible). Nothing can justify it. (Inaudible) is being confronted. We have (inaudible) – in this government, and that’s what the rule of law is about – and we are moving beyond the old matter of saying, well, look for peace first, look for settlement, perhaps if you punish back to (inaudible), no. Well, look (inaudible) that work out.

Our determination is to punish through the process of rule of law when there is this kind of incidents. So about the recent one that happened or because of external (inaudible) securities, look here at (inaudible). Is it possible that some fanatical group which is alien to our culture are beginning to try to (inaudible)? We know that the entire world is faced with those possibilities, and we don’t want to be naïve to think that Nigeria is not on the radar of such extremist groups. And then again, where there’s so much (inaudible) and fighting and importance for us to work very closely with (inaudible), since we all face common concerns (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jeffrey, my view on this is that the balance within Nigeria between religions and among ethnic groups is very important to maintain, and I think you heard the minister’s words about that and certainly, the society’s commitment to that. I don’t know enough to comment on the specifics of any operation with respect to the reaction to the extremist-generated violence.

But I would say this: I think there is no doubt from our assessments that al-Qaida has a presence in Northern Africa, in the Sahel. There is no doubt in our mind that al-Qaida and like organizations that are part of the syndicate of terror would seek a foothold anywhere they could find one. And whether that is the case here or whether this is a homegrown example of fundamentalist extremism, that’s up to the Nigerians to determine.

But I understand the very important priority that the Nigerians place on keeping this balance of religion and ethnic groups in place. And I know that this is a challenge we all face, as the minister said, and I assume that the government will look at its own actions as well as continue the investigation into what might have, if anything, been involved or behind what we saw in the (inaudible) incident. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible), we come to the end of this briefing, and Madame Secretary, (inaudible) and members of the American delegation (inaudible). Thank you.

PRN: 2009/T11-42