U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says a new bi-national commission between the United States and Nigeria will strengthen democratic reforms and military cooperation.
Secretary Clinton says the bi-national commission will work at both the federal and state level to further develop what she says is an already strong relationship.
"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," said Hillary Clinton.
Secretary Clinton praised Nigeria for making significant progress on improving human trafficking through a concerned commitment by the government of President Umaru Yar'Adua. She said Nigerian peackeepers are seen around the world as among the best, and Washington recognizes and appreciates the burden that puts on Nigeria to remain active in resolving conflict.
"Without Nigeria, Liberia might not be a free country," she said. "Sierra Leone might not have ended decades of civil 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."
She says the new bi-national commission will enhance already strong military-to-military cooperation between the countries on fighting terrorism and illegal drug trafficking. During her visit, Secretary Clinton says Nigerian defense officials have made very promising specific suggestions about how the U.S. military can help bring stability to the oil-rich Niger Delta.
"We are 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," said Hillary Clinton.
Secretary Clinton says the Obama administration recognizes the tough challenges facing Nigeria including rule of law and corruption. She says the new bi-national commission will help support President Yar'Adua's agenda for electoral reform by encouraging the establishment of an independent electoral council.
"We strongly support and encourage the government of Nigeria's efforts to increase transparency, reduce corruption, provide support for democratic processes in preparation for the 2011 elections," she said.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe says the bi-national commission is an opportunity for both countries to pursue common objectives.
"There is a national consensus very strongly in favor of issues of enhanced democracy, deep commitment to rule of law, electoral reforms," said Ojo Maduekwe. "And as I told the Secretary of States, if there is any gap between those commitments in terms of promise and performance, those gaps can be addressed largely within the context of building state capacity which has been denuded over time for obvious historical reasons. And that is where the bi-national commission is of such huge strategic importance."
Nigeria this year marked 10 years of civilian rule, ending the crippling military governments of General Sani Abacha and General Ibrahim Babangida.