The following is a transcript from the launch of the United States-Nigeria Binational Commission that took place in Washington, D.C.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome Secretary Ahmed to the State Department for the official launch of the United States-Nigeria Binational Commission. Today, we are taking a concrete step forward that will strengthen and deepen the partnership between our two nations. The Commission will help us work together on issues of common concern and shared responsibility. And we hope it will support the aspirations of the Nigerian people for a peaceful, prosperous, stable, democratic future.
This new vehicle for cooperation grew out of discussions we began during my visit to Nigeria last August. And it reflects the commitment of the United States to this absolutely critical bilateral relationship. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, its largest contributor of peacekeepers, a significant trading partner for the United States, its largest producer of oil, and the largest recipient of direct investment by the American private sector in sub-Saharan Africa. So we have much to learn from each other and we have much to gain from working together.
The Commission will seek to make progress in many areas, but there are four key areas that I want to mention.
First, we will work together on good governance and transparency, which are essential to Nigeria’s democracy and its prosperity. All over the world, we have seen that sustainable economic development that truly is spread equitably among the people depends on responsible government that rejects corruption, enforces the rule of law, and delivers results. The Commission will focus on electoral reform and election preparations in order to achieve free, fair, and peaceful elections in Nigeria in 2011 and beyond. And we will support efforts to strengthen Nigeria’s democratic institutions and civil society, along with working with Nigerians themselves to fight corruption.
Second, the Commission will promote regional cooperation and development that creates opportunities and delivers results for all of the people of the Niger Delta. Part of that cooperation will be broader collaboration on security and counterterrorism.
Third, we will work together on energy reform and investment. Nigeria is blessed with natural resources, including oil and gas, yet electricity remains too scarce and profits have not always been invested in ways that benefit all Nigerians, particularly the poorest.
And fourth, we will focus on food security and agricultural development. We want to help provide Nigeria’s farmers with the tools they need to feed their people and lift rural families out of poverty.
These four areas are mutually reinforcing, interrelated, and we believe working on each of them will help to bring progress.
Nigeria will soon celebrate 50 years of independence, an achievement that rightly brings great pride to the Nigerian people. But now, Nigeria, like many countries, must look to the future, and how to create conditions that will protect the gains that independence brought, guard against ongoing and serious threats to its progress.
I know firsthand that Nigerians are strong, determined, resilient, intelligent, but the past year has been a trying one for the Nigerian people. We encourage Nigeria’s leaders to continue working together to address political uncertainties, to strengthen democratic institutions, and ensure stability and accountability. And I want to assure the secretary, the government, and the people of Nigeria that President Obama, the Obama Administration, and the people of the United States will stand with Nigerians.
So let me thank the secretary again for his visit, and I look forward to signing this framework to establish the Binational Commission. Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.)
SECRETARY AHMED: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary of State, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is with deepest sense of responsibility, humility, and commitment that I stand before you to address you on this momentous occasion.
First of all, let me, on behalf of the government and people of Nigeria, convey our full appreciation to President Obama and you in particular, Secretary Clinton, for making this day a reality. I know the individual effort you have put in order to actualize the signing of this framework this afternoon. It is very important to us at this point of our history, when we are able, to show as a nation that we are capable of survival. The fact that we have gone through the last few months as a very strong nation indicates that we are a very strong democracy. For it is my belief that no country in Africa would have gone through this and would come out stronger than we did.
We are committed to contributing our quota, but in doing that, we must understand each other. The basis of progress in any part of the world hinges on respect and accommodation.
The United States of America is known for accommodation, is known for respect, is known for commitment to its human rights record, is known for peacekeeping and ensuring that the world is a safer place for all of us.
We will learn and will continue to learn from you. In doing that, our presidential system of government, which has been modeled after your own, would need to be assisted now and in the near future. You have highlighted some of the challenges that we face, but we believe they are not insurmountable because we are open to criticism. Much more importantly, we are aware of our role as sub-regional leader in Africa and a shining example of accommodation and making sure that everybody feels free in a country which is very, very highly complex in terms of multiculturalism, ethnic groupings, and (inaudible) leaders.
Madam Secretary, I am humbled that by signing this Binational Commission Framework, we will move forward in a more responsible way to enhance our chance of being a great nation. And I believe that it is more on our side to gain, even though, as you did say with the deepest sense of modesty, you are also going to learn from us.
Before I conclude my speech, Your Excellency, let me also express our appreciation to your government for having (inaudible) of the country of interest which you have now delisted. It is, in fact, very gladdening news to all Nigerians and all black people that people should not be just taken as a country, especially when we don’t have history of state-sponsored terrorism. We are working very much hard on this and our legislations are going to prove that we’ll be a very important partner in terms of fighting global terrorism and other vices.
Accept my warmest regards, and through you, Your Excellency, my personal warm regards to that very, very important American world leader, Mr. Clinton, and your daughter, Chelsea. I thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Secretary.
MODERATOR: The Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Government of the Federation are signing the Framework for the Establishment of a Binational Commission between the Government of the Republic of Nigeria and the Government of the United States of America.
(The agreement was signed.) (Applause.)
SECRETARY AHMED: Very good. Good.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Very good, very good. Thank you so much, and thanks to your distinguished delegation as well. Thank you, sir.
SECRETARY AHMED: You’re welcome.