United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, will meet with Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, during his first virtual trip to Africa since US President Joe Biden came into office.
Strengthening democratic governance, building lasting security, and promoting economic ties and diversification, will top agenda at the meeting, according to Blinken’s spokesman, Ned Price.
From Boko Haram insurgency to banditry, kidnapping, militancy, farmers-herders clashes, the security situation in Nigeria has worsened, especially in the last few months.
Price in a statement on Monday said his principal will meet with Buhari and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, over some of the challenges confronting the West African nation.
The statement partly read, “Secretary Blinken will begin his virtual travel to Africa meeting with Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) alumni. In a “Ten Questions with Tony” event, YALI alumni will have an opportunity to engage with the Secretary on a range of topics, including the role of youth in the future of Africa, economic development, democracy and good governance, climate change, and health.
“Through YALI, the United States works with public, private sector, and civil society partners across the continent to develop initiatives and economic opportunities to support the creativity, innovativeness, and energy of Africa’s youth.
“Secretary Blinken will then travel virtually to Nigeria, where he will underscore our shared goals of strengthening democratic governance, building lasting security, and promoting economic ties and diversification.
“People-to-people connections, underpinned by the dynamic Nigerian diaspora in the United States, amplify and strengthen our relationship. During his visit, Secretary Blinken will meet with President Buhari and Foreign Minister (Geoffrey Onyeama) to reiterate the value of our bilateral relationship and discuss issues of shared importance.
“Secretary Blinken will also participate in a health partnership event to underscore our collaboration to combat the pandemic as well as long-term US investments in combatting infectious diseases. He will meet with a beneficiary of a PEPFAR program and a Nigerian health care worker.”
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Nigeria Eyes BRICS Membership within Two Years as Foreign Minister Emphasizes Strategic Alignment
In a strategic move towards global economic collaboration, Nigeria is aspiring to join the BRICS group of nations within the next two years.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, affirmed that Nigeria is open to aligning itself with groups that demonstrate good intentions, well-meaning goals, and clearly defined objectives.
Tuggar stated, “Nigeria has come of age to decide for itself who her partners should be and where they should be; being multiple aligned is in our best interest.”
He emphasized the need for Nigeria to be part of influential groups like BRICS and the G-20, citing criteria such as population and economy size that position Nigeria as a natural candidate.
BRICS, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, stands as a formidable bloc of emerging market powers.
In a recent move to expand its influence, BRICS invited six additional nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates, to join the group.
Nigeria, as Africa’s largest economy, has been absent from the BRICS alliance, prompting discussions on the potential economic and political advantages the bloc could offer the country.
Analysts have noted that BRICS membership could provide Nigeria with significant leverage on the global stage.
Vice President Kashim Shettima clarified that Nigeria did not apply for BRICS membership after the bloc’s announcement of new members in August.
Shettima emphasized the principled approach of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, highlighting a commitment to consensus building in decisions related to international partnerships.
As Nigeria eyes BRICS membership, the move is seen as a strategic step towards enhancing its global economic and diplomatic influence.
Nigeria Spends N231.27 Billion on Arms Procurement in Four Years Amidst Rising Security Challenges
The Federal Government of Nigeria has disbursed a total of N231.27 billion for arms and ammunition procurement over the past four years.
Despite this significant investment, security agencies argue that the allocated funds are insufficient to effectively tackle the myriad security challenges afflicting the nation.
Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, defended the substantial budget for arms purchases during a session with the House of Representatives.
He emphasized that Nigeria’s dependence on foreign countries for military hardware, which are priced in dollars, diminishes the impact of the substantial budget when converted to the local currency.
General Musa explained, “We don’t produce what we need in Nigeria, and if you do not produce what you need, that means you are at the beck and call of the people that produce these items. All the items we procured were bought with hard currency, none in naira.”
He further illustrated the challenges faced, citing that a precision missile for drones costs $5,000, underscoring the magnitude of the expenses associated with arms procurement.
An analysis of the annual budgets for the Ministry of Defence and eight other armed forces from 2020 to 2022 reveals allocations of N11.72 billion, N10.78 billion, and N9.64 billion, respectively.
In 2023, N47.02 billion was disbursed for arms procurement, supplemented by a recently passed budget of N184.25 billion, resulting in a total of N231.27 billion.
Security expert Chidi Omeje raised concerns about the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), which is tasked with manufacturing arms locally. Omeje criticized DICON’s underperformance, urging the government to revamp the agency to reduce reliance on foreign nations for arms and ammunition.
Omeje stressed, “The new government must make sure that DICON lives up to its responsibilities,” highlighting the urgency of fostering self-sufficiency in arms production to address the country’s security challenges effectively.
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