As the nation continues to mourn the murder of many youths at Lekki, Lagos State, the controversies trailing the #EndSARS protest, today, Thursday, November 18, 2021, formed part of discussions between President Muhammadu Buhari and the United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari, while making the position of the Nigerian government known, said the Federal Government will allow the system to exhaust itself, and will, therefore, wait for pronouncements from state governments which set up panels to probe police brutality in the country, too.
Buhari played host to Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of State who is making his first official trip to Africa, on behalf of the Joe Biden administration.
According to Buhari, “So many state governments are involved, and have given different terms of reference to the probe panels”, adding, “We, at the Federal level 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”.
The recent removal of Nigeria from watch list of countries violating religious freedom, which Blinken said was “based on facts,” also came up for discussion during the meeting.
It afforded the Nigerian President an opportunity to express the country’s appreciation for the gesture, noting that there was freedom of worship in Nigeria, and no one is discriminated against on the basis of his or her faith.
Buhari said education will remain a priority in the country, noting that, “because when you educate a people, there are certain levels they will not fall below”.
He 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 neighbours, 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 migrating 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 in the 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.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.