US president Donald Trump praised Nigeria’s efforts in the fight against terrorism, pledging to help Buhari’s government solve the deadly violence between Christian farmers and Fulani herdsmen.
Trump was addressing a press conference with Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari after the latter’s historic visit to the White House.
“Nigeria was one of the first African countries to join the coalition to defeat the Islamic state group and Nigerian forces are leading regional efforts against EI in West Africa,” he said, also mentioning the fight against Boko Haram “another ruthless jihadist group.
We will work on this problem because we cannot accept such a situation.
Nigeria enters its 9th year of struggle against Boko Haram, who devastated the northeast of the country. The conflict has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
Trump also praised Buhari’s determination to fight corruption and secure the people of his country.
The US president then pledged to help Buhari address the issue of ‘Christians who are being killed, murdered in Nigeria’.
“We will work on this problem because we cannot accept such a situation,” he said.
The Middle Belt of Nigeria, a meeting point between a predominantly Muslim North and a predominantly Christian South, is regularly the scene of intense inter-community tensions.
For months now, the region has been experiencing renewed tensions between Christian farmers and Muslim nomadic herders. Legislators have called for the sacking of security chiefs over failure to contain the communal violence while catholic bishops have asked Buhari to resign.
Muhammadu Buhari became, in 2015, the first Nigerian opposition leader to beat an incumbent president in an election considered free and fair. He has expressed his desire to seek reelection in next year’s elections.
Buhari used the occasion to trace the cause of communal violence in Nigeria to commend the United States for the physical and financial commitment to the fight against terror.
“The commitment of the United States to get rid of terrorism across the world, we have first hand experience of that and we are very grateful for it,’‘ Buhari said.
“On security, I am very grateful to the United States for agreeing to sell to us the aircraft we asked for and the spare parts.’‘
Shithole or not?
The two leaders also took on the controversial storm that was raised when remarks attributed to Trump allegedly labeled several African countries as ‘shitholes’.
Asked about this episode which had provoked strong protests on the continent, Buhari preferred to stay out of the controversy.
“I’m not sure how accurate this is, so the best thing for me is to keep quiet,” he simply replied.
Trump was less diplomatic.
‘‘There are countries that are in very poor condition and where living conditions are very difficult,” he said.
Cooperation between the two countries has improved in substance over the past year.
Shortly after coming to power in 2015, Buhari accused President Barack Obama of refusing to sell arms to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram.
But the Trump administration has changed its position by allowing the sale to Nigeria of $500 million worth of Super Tucano surveillance and tactical support aircraft, to be delivered in 2020.