Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks: The “Elements of Democracy”

The “Elements of Democracy”

The Way Forward in the U.S.-Nigerian Bilateral Relationship

U.S. Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders' U.S. Foreign Policy Address to The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, Alumni Association, Nigeria
November 19, 2009 – Lagos, Nigeria

It is indeed an honor and a pleasure to be with you this afternoon. I look out before me and see first so many friends, as well as Nigerian leaders of industry, civil society, academia and government, and of course it is my pleasure to share the high table with His Excellency and my dear friend -- Governor Babatunde Fashola. Governor, I want to take this public opportunity to recognize you and your team for all the wonderful work that you are doing in Lagos City and Lagos State. With every visit I make to the state, I see the incredible growth and changes. I also want to thank you for working with my team on a number of issues from investment, to development and trade.

This brings me to the alumni of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, one of our most prestigious educational training programs that has helped build the capacity of Nigerians working in fields as far ranging as banking and legal services, to environment and e-government. I appreciate being invited here to speak on the U.S.-Nigerian bilateral relationship and the way forward as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of this unique program – the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program -- named after one of our foremost leading senators and vice-presidents who believed strongly in the pillars of democracy from good governance, and transparency in election processes, to education and training. Thus, he created this wonderful program to build leaders – such as yourselves -- who hold the future of their country in their hands. As global citizens, today more than ever before, Africa is a fundamental part of our interconnected world. You know that and I know that. The U.S. Government has recognized this, which is why President Obama has highlighted that Africa is at the center of our foreign policy. And within that framework, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson further added that Nigeria is the single most important country within that framework.

I am here today to underscore these two key points to you– that Africa is key in our U.S. foreign policy and that Nigeria is the single most important country therein. That is why I want to talk to you today about not only what we are doing and have done, but where we are going in the bilateral relationship between our two great nations, particularly after the August 2009 visit to Nigeria of Secretary of State Clinton where it was announced that our two governments would form a Binational Commission (BNC). So let me begin with -- What We Are Doing and Where We Are Going:

If you remember, in his speech to Africa in Accra, and I brought commemorative copies of the President’s speech with me today President Obama focused on four critical areas regarding our future relationship with the Continent. These four areas are building: democratic institutions and health systems; resolution of conflicts; and supporting governments that are transparent and fight corruption. These themes are the four pillars at the core of the U.S.-Nigeria Framework for Partnership and define our bilateral relationship with Nigeria where want to see a more democratic, transparent, prosperous and secure Nigeria. Our current engagement extends across the length and breadth of this nation -- particularly in rural areas -- with programs in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Let me share just a few examples with you. What exactly is the U.S. policy in Nigeria and with Nigerians?First and foremost it is promoting democracy, at all levels of government. Paramount in this is encouraging good governance, transparency and integrity, including fighting corruption, holding transparent elections and working with civil society and a free, unencumbered press.

How do we go about doing these things?

On good governance, with government, civil society and press partners, we are:
  • Assisting in building national, state and local government capacity focusing on transparency in fiscal budgets and public procurement;
  • Working with and supporting the recent efforts on transparency particularly of the CBN, FIRS, SEC, ICPC, and the Code of Conduct Bureau and others on fighting corruption.
  • Holding capacity building workshops on best practices on election reform, including training for the National Assembly, political parties, the disabled, and women.

This includes:

  • Working with civil society and the press to help them expand their capacity to monitor elections, and be the voice for the voiceless, and supporting their efforts to publish the Electoral Reform, or Uwais, Committee’s report.

Economic development is another important anchor in a democracy. Thus, we are providing training and technical assistance in agriculture, entrepreneurship, vocational training, and other income-generating skills. For example, under the Ambassador’s self-help program, we are supporting a great project, The Foundation for Skills Development, right here in Lagos State that provides a variety of vocational training classes.

Given that more than 95 per cent of the Nigerian population is involved in agriculture, the President has launched a Food Security initiative with $25 million this year alone for Nigeria. This key initiative will provide jobs, build capacity, and increase yields in the agricultural sector. For example, in 22 states, under our agriculture and food security program, we are helping small farmers double their productivity and increase income. I have been to all of these states to see our programs in places from Benue and Bauchi, to Anambra , Ondo , and Jigawa. President Obama’s Food Security initiative in Nigeria will:

  • Increase the sales of agricultural products by $220 million for 750,000 farmers, processors, and shippers, of which 300,000 are women.
  • Bring in the private sector , increase credit to farmers , and improve rural-to-urban roads (e.g. Lagos-Maradi/Lagos-Cotonou routes);
  • Create 50,000 new jobs in the sector; and,
  • Increase agriculture and yields of key grains 50-75 per cent.

Without enough food, adults struggle to work and children struggle to learn. According to the World Bank, for every one percent growth in agriculture, poverty declines by as much as two percent.

Another key aspect of economic development is trade. We are expanding our efforts to promote the export of Nigerian non-oil products to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA program. As part of our continuing efforts on AGOA, the U.S. and Bank of Industry opened an AGOA Resource Center last summer on Lagos Island. Please take advantage of the resources at this Center. It was requested by you and we have responded. [AGOA has not achieved its full potential here, but we have reached out broadly to the Nigerian business community to expand its understanding of the opportunities available under AGOA. We are willing to roll up our sleeves and work with you so that you can reap the full benefits of AGOA here in Nigeria.]

We have held two major nation-wide capacity building training workshops , called POTICO , right here in Lagos on both agriculture and AGOA with BOI, representatives from USG agencies including EXIM, USTDA, OPIC, and our Agricultural and Commercial Services, FAS, and USCS. We are also launching a new Nigeria Expanded Export Program or NEEP, which will connect Nigerian exporters with partners in the US and we are also maintaining our trade mission under USCS and FAS. We all know that the most important resource in this country is its people. You know that and we know that. This is why, as President Obama has said, our programs must invest in the people of Nigeria particularly in education and health:

On education, under the President’s $600 million African Education Initiative, we are providing scholarships to over 2,200 students in 316 schools in 13 states around Nigeria. I have spoken with children and parents first-hand from Borno to Port Harcourt about how these scholarships have changed their lives. We have also provided teacher training to some 40,000 teachers, helped develop curricula and expanded educational training opportunities through our 12 American Corners around the country. Our newest corner is the Barack Obama American Corner in Lagos on Victoria Island.

On health , and as we approach World AIDS Day on December 1 , I want to note our contributions through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief , more commonly known as PEPFAR , which helps millions of Nigerians living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
In addition, as part of our people-to-people efforts, particularly at the grassroots level, we are working to refurbish health clinics, build boreholes, renovate schools, and construct vocational training centers.

On energy, America has placed a new emphasis, under President Obama’s leadership, on addressing climate change, through programs like the gas-to-liquids technology project in the Niger Delta; and power projects through the Michigan State Public Service Commission. We are also encouraging a constructive Petroleum Industry Bill on fiscal, investment, and tax issues that will help Nigeria.

Turning to one other very important subject area -- peace and the amnesty. First, we want to commend the people of the Niger Delta and the Government for finding a way out of the conflict. We hope the country continues to build on these efforts and we encourage further and quick movement to identify appropriate reintegration and rehabilitation programs. Here, we also want to be partners, and look to find ways to be helpful with programs ranging from IT , education , agriculture , health and maritime security.

These four pillars are the “Elements of Democracy”. And, Democracies cannot move forward without these things: good governance, particularly a corruption-free environment and transparent election processes; economic development; strong educational and health systems; and a peaceful enabling environment.

We are here as friends and partners and the “Elements of Democracy” I have highlighted above reflect both the opportunities and challenges for Nigeria. So as your friend and your partner where do we go from here and what is next?

You know the challenges well. You confront them every day. Overcoming these challenges is essential if Nigeria is to realize its tremendous potential. As friends and partners, let's examine these challenges facing Nigeria that we have heard you, as Nigerians, talk about in such forums as government, civil society, and the vibrant press.

From what we have heard from you as Nigerians; there seems to be broad agreement on the need for electoral reforms prior to the April 2011 elections. Although the unpublished recommendations of the Electoral Reform Commission (ERC) were to be a starting point, many are concerned that reforms will not be in place in time for the upcoming elections. We understand through civil society, academics, legal expert, and members of the ERC (or Uwais committee) and others that key elements of the election reform agenda should be adopted, with the goal of having them fully implemented in time for 2011 elections. We understand these reforms include a transparent voter registration, logistics planning, and better electoral administration, to name a few.

The upcoming gubernatorial elections in Anambra State will be a key indicator of the country's ability to conduct credible elections in 2011. Much of the international community will be observing how this election unfolds.

Civil society is an important partner in electoral reform and plays a critical role in election monitoring. [In several CSO coalition meetings, there have been calls for free and open domestic and international electoral monitoring in 2011 , including freedom of movement, accreditation of observers , and access to polling and counting stations.]

The second critical challenge is to contain corruption. Widespread, systemic corruption can undermine governance at all levels. I know you saw, like I did, yesterday’s Transparency International’s report where Nigeria moved up the list not down to 130 from 121. While no country can claim to be free of corruption, experience across many countries and many cultures shows that persistent, systemic corruption will be eliminated where there is strong political will to oppose it.

Corruption is the enemy of progress. It translates into high costs for poor quality services to the average Nigerian, siphons funds from important projects, cripples government performance and accountability, discourages the payment of taxes, is a disincentive to investment, and undermines democracy.

The fourth critical challenge is to achieve effective reform of the power generation and hydrocarbon sectors to improve transparency, administration, performance, and have reliable and affordable energy.

The final challenge we have heard Nigerians talk about, is the need to ensure long-term food security for all Nigerians. You are a vast and rich country of nearly 150 million people. I have seen this first hand visiting 35 of your 36 states. Food security reduces hunger and cannot be accomplished by short-term interventions Key efforts toward mechanized farming and credit to farmers is vital. We have several credit programs through FAS and EXIM Bank that help do this.

So, as your friend and your partner: Where do we go from here and what is next?

There is much we can do together, and we are hoping to address both the opportunities and challenges with you under the Binational Commission, or BNC, mentioned earlier and announced during Secretary Clinton’s visit. Already, our two governments are working hard to establish this commission.

We are hoping that the BNC will raise the level of engagement between our two nations on the key areas of governance, election reform, transparency, to fight corruption in these areas, development and security, to support efforts in the Niger Delta, energy, and agriculture. Through ongoing working groups that we hope will be established under the BNC, we can work together to address these challenges. I have already highlighted to you what we are doing and what we can do to support these “Elements of Democracy”.

Thus, together we can:

  • Achieve free, fair and peaceful elections in Nigeria in 2011 and beyond.
  • We can fight corruption through credible institutional reform and sustained and effective prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution efforts;
  • We can provide tangible development, economic and educational opportunities, and training to the people of the Niger Delta to promote lasting peace from today forward;
  • We can improve transparency, administration, and performance of the power generation and hydrocarbon sectors; and
  • We can ensure long-term food security for all Nigerians.

The road ahead for any democracy is not easy. We too, in America, have seen our nation transform over our history. And today, we are still a nation transforming but built on and committed to these “Elements of Democracy”. I have always marveled at the incredible talent in Nigeria. Nigeria is a country filled with leaders like you; the students I have had the privilege to meet and talk with at universities, primary and secondary schools in states like Benin , Lagos , Oyo , Born, Gombe, and Sokoto; the strong and dynamic women in this country; the entrepreneurs; and members of the private sector all working hard day in and day out to realize the tremendous potential of this great nation. The people of the United States of America and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are one and the same, with democratic values, love of country and respect for their friends. We look forward to working with Nigeria under the BNC as we walk forward together as partners.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ambassador Robin R. Sanders' Remarks at The Technical Workshop on Consumenr Protection

U.S. Ambassador Robin R. Sanders


Technical Workshop on Consumenr Protection

Organized by U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in partnership with the Consumer Protection Council (CPC)

July 13th – 14th, 2009, Abuja

Good morning ladies and gentlemen!

All protocols duly observed.

It is a pleasure to be here to witness this collaboration between the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Nigerian Consumer Protection Council (CPC) on consumer protection. This conference is timely. Cases of fraudulent advertising and internet fraud are common nowadays not only in developed countries, but consumers need to be protected against these transgressions of justice also in the developing world.

Consumer protection ensures truthful information is provided to consumers on products and services. It means educating consumers so that they may better protect themselves.

Consumers need to be protected against fraud, deception and other unfair practices. Laws and regulations on advertising must emphasize truth-in-advertising for products such as food, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, alcohol and tobacco.

Today’s newest and most dynamic marketplace is the internet. Online commerce is booming in the developed world, and the developing world is also catching on. The internet gives consumers more choice and 24-hour a day, 7-day a week convenience. You can buy so many goods online, and on the business side, it gives established marketers and creative entrepreneurs low-cost access to a virtually unlimited customer base. Online advertising has also grown tremendously over the years. However, while the internet has revolutionized the way business is done it also has brought with it new challenges such as online advertising fraud.

A component of the current global economic and financial crisis in the U.S. is the so-called “liar loan” which has had negative effects on borrowers either through credit cards or mortgages. Some people were given loans that they did not have the ability to pay back from the onset, or in some other cases there were hidden charges, which of course was deception on the part of the financial institutions offering such products. Some of these issues are also common in other jurisdictions, and probably in Nigeria. The Obama administration has proposed a “Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) to write new rules and have enforcement powers in mortgages, credit cards, and other similar products. This proposal is part of the administration’s broader proposal unveiled on June 17, 2009 to reform the U.S. financial sector, and underscores the importance of consumer protection. Under the proposal, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has taken the lead on many of these issues, will continue to prosecute bogus business opportunity, mortgage foreclosure rescue, and other financial frauds. In addition, the FTC may also have additional rulemaking and civil penalty authority.

Governments have a responsibility to protect consumers against unwholesome practices from fraudulent producers and marketers. Competition is a very important weapon in consumer protection. It benefits consumers through lower prices, improved quality, greater consumer choice, and increased innovation. Governments must encourage competition and protect the competitive process from abuses such as cartels, abuse of market dominance, and mergers that would lead to price increases.

Though the government has a role to play in consumer protection, consumers also have the responsibility to educate themselves on the various products and services on offer. Education is the first line of defense against fraud and deception; it can help you make well-informed decisions before you spend your money.

I have looked at the conference agenda and I have seen that we have an extraordinary program planned for the next two days. I hope all participants will take note and use the lessons learned from this conference not only to improve their skills on the job but also to protect consumers.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s sponsorship of this conference demonstrates the United States Government’s commitment to improving the U.S. – Nigeria bilateral relationship and continuous support in building local capacity on a variety of issues.

I also want to thank all of you for creating time from your very busy schedule to attend this conference and U.S FTC officials for their support. I want to express my sincere appreciation to officials of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Protection Council, officials of other Government of Nigeria agencies, and other stakeholders for organizing this important conference.

I wish you all fruitful deliberations.

Thank you!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A New Beginning – Reaffirming America’s Partnership With Nigeria: Amb. Sanders' Remarks

A New Beginning – Reaffirming America’s Partnership With Nigeria
U.S. Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

Maiduguri, Borno State
July 1, 2009

(As delivered)
All other protocols duly observed.
Assalaamu alaykum.

May the Lord bless you and keep you this day. With this homage it is my honor to be here today before so many distinguished academics scholars community and religious leaders.

This is my first trip to Borno but I am aware of the many, many programs the U.S. government does with the universities youth and the greater community in Borno State and in Maiduguri from education to health (particularly HIV/AIDS) to agriculture. These are all part of the people of America reaching out to you to build mutual understanding across nations, peoples, religions and perspectives. We live today in a global village – as we have so often heard – meaning we all need to become better global citizens and I believe this is what my country and the American people under the President of the United States of America Barack Obama are trying to do.

As President Obama said during his landmark speech in Cairo this is a New Beginning for America and the American people not only with the Muslim world but with all diverse people of the world in order for us to do several things better as Americans:
  • We want to respect our global neighbors more as I respect you here today;
  • We want to listen without arrogance or malice so that we can walk and work hand-in-hand;
  • We want to learn from you so that our children can grow up in a peaceful empowering environment;
  • But most of all we have mutual understanding for each other so that your nation and my nation – Muslim and Christian Nigerians as well as Muslims and Christians all over the world and Americans – can live as part of human kind in harmony in peace and in prosperity.
President Obama acknowledged the world’s debt to Islam for its historic contributions to education innovation science medicine but also for its respect for all other religions and its respect for racial equality. What I like to call the pillars of diversity.

Borno is an important part of that rich tradition. For over a thousand years the Great Borno Kingdom has influenced and dominated Islamic leadership dominated knowledge scholarship and trade. Borno’s influence continues to be felt today through institutions of learning throughout the region and by its importance in regional trade.

President Obama promised the U.S. would pursue new partnerships with governments citizens community organizations religious leaders youth business leaders international organizations and civil society in the areas of education economic development science and technology and health. These are the areas that the U.S. Mission to Nigeria my Embassy is working on to ensure we have a New Beginning here between the United States of America and Nigeria. Under President Obama’s New Beginning his priorities for Africa which were recently outlined by our new Assistant Secretary for Africa Ambassador Johnnie Carson are:
  • Promoting and strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law;
  • Encouraging long-term development and growth;
  • Assisting in the prevention and resolution of conflicts;
  • Working with African nations to address old and new challenges
  • But most importantly – remembering to listen and learn from you and that is why I am here today to listen to you and to learn from you.

For Africa we all know that solutions to all of Africa's problems including helping the Continent to reach its full potential won't come quickly or easily. However today I am pleased to reaffirm the commitment of my government and the people of America to continue to work together with you and your government under the U.S.-Nigeria Framework for Partnership which is synergistic with the goals of the Seven Point Agenda. President Obama has said we would work with like-minded countries like Nigeria to strengthen democracy and governance – by protecting human rights especially the rights of women supporting religious freedom addressing corruption promoting economic development investing in the people of Nigeria – through programs that promote health and education – and enhancing peace and security.

Now I want to turn to the issue of building mutual understanding particularly with the Muslim world. It is so important to me personally and to my President that I want to share with you that I hosted recently a distinguished group of Nigerian Muslim and Christian religious leaders at the Embassy as well as senior editors from Nigeria's major media so that we could watch the live broadcast of President Obama's speech together and discuss some of the issues raised therein together. I have worked in other Muslim countries from Sudan to Senegal so I am committed to the messages of President Obama. I want to share with you though several of the issues noted by President Obama that seemed to resonate strongly with my guests providing a range of emotions and feelings. One of my guests said to me that day that “it was as if he were speaking directly to Nigeria." As I have traveled in this country over the last few weeks I have met with many Nigerians during that time who have shared similar views with me and even since I have been here in Borno State about President Obama’s Cairo speech. In fact this morning I met with a group of Borno’s most prestigious religious leaders to hear their views on U.S. foreign policy and to discuss the speech. They said that many of the goals aspirations and visions of the future expressed by my President were things they wanted for Nigeria particularly government of the people respect for the rights of minorities and all religions putting people above the party and combating corruption.

Today in highlighting several issues addressed by President Obama and considering them in the context of our partnership and engagement with the people of Nigeria let us start with democracy and respect for diversity.

Nigerian democracy has come a long way in the ten years since 1999. In fact I recently participated in recognition programs on the ten-years of your country’s “uninterrupted democracy” along with an esteemed Special Guest former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The transition of power from one civilian president to another in Nigeria in 2007 was historic. I congratulate Nigeria on the progress it has made. It is a testament to the vigor and belief of the Nigerian people in the benefits of the democratic process. And today as we stand at the midpoint of Nigeria's presidential election cycle the U.S. Mission will continue to partner with the Nigerian people on things they request us to do to help strengthen and deepen your democracy.

We have been told that Africans yearn for democracy and in the last two decades dozens of African countries have embraced democratic rule in one form or another through the electoral reform process free and fair elections and freedom of association. I have heard a lot recently in Nigeria about electoral reform as a key pillar for your country to move forward. However electoral reform is something Nigerians must do for Nigeria. We get asked a lot about this but this is your country. We can help when asked but Nigerians must be in the lead. Free and fair elections are the lynchpins of a democratic system – the ultimate voice of the people. For example as stakeholders in their government the Electoral Reform Committee’s regional public hearings gave voice to the Nigerian people and an opportunity for an open and frank debate on what Nigerians want in their electoral system.

The United States continues to look for ways to work with the Nigerian government and the National Assembly to bring meaningful reform to the electoral process. We also recognize the important roles that civil society and a free press bring to advancing democracy in Nigeria. As former Secretary of State Powell recently said when he was visiting Nigeria in June – “democracy not only calls for but respects a clash of ideas in order to thrive.” The U.S. Mission has worked very closely with civil society and the press throughout Nigeria by hosting a series of civil society forums on democratic principles community outreach capacity building and electoral reform in Abuja Lagos and Port Harcourt that included respected experts such as Dr. Julie Sullivan who discussed the role of civil society in a democracy and how to build strong coalitions.

A democratic government is by definition founded on the principle of representing the interests of its people. President Obama challenged all leaders all over the world to abide by the highest standards of public trust when he said this and I quote:

A government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent not coercion you must respect the rights of minorities and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients elections alone do not make true democracy.

Although these words were said by the President of the United States I believe they ring true for each person and every nation that believes in the democratic experience. I am the product myself of the success of a democratic experience.

According to the World Bank $1 trillion dollars is paid every year around the world in bribes and according to the United Nations more than $400 billion dollars has been looted from Africa alone. This is money not spent on health care education roads and employment generation; money not spent on improving the lives of those very people that government is meant to represent. In Nigeria as of 2008 roughly 500 billion Naira in cash and property gained through corruption was recovered in the last five years.

One other important pillar of democracy is fighting corruption. Nigeria has taken critical steps to lay the framework to combat corruption at every level; however this anti-corruption framework needs to be used – not selectively but across the board – to ensure that no individual can go without impunity and that government revenue meant to benefit all the Nigerian people does just that.

The other key pillar in democracy according to my President is respect for religion. Nigeria is a religiously diverse nation with proud rich traditions in both the Muslim and Christian faiths. My President stressed that "people in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul." And indeed there is a great deal of respect for religion in Nigeria – mosques and churches stand side by side and freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution.

However we have all seen too often in the press over the past year here in Nigeria where economic or political conflicts have led to religious or sectarian violence; and how some have used religious differences to divide people for short term political gain.

Even in the heat of conflict however we can find the cooling waters of tolerance. A pastor from Jos relayed to me recently that a mob came to burn his church during the November, 2008 violence in that city. But it was the Imam from across the street together with his Muslim congregation who stood up to the mob and defended the church Muslims and Christians side by side. We heard stories in Jos and Bauchi of neighbors of different religions sheltering neighbors – and even strangers – regardless of their faith.

These are important steps, which is why we have been asked to train three Conflict Mitigation and Management Regional Councils (CMMRCs) and assist with the Interfaith Mediation Center to effectively anticipate and mitigate ethnic and religious tensions.

I have been reading throughout press commentary that Nigerians also welcomed President Obama's observations on the issue of women's rights. He said "Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential." This too is a key pillar in democracy.

We are also actively supporting education programs as education helps mitigate conflict. We have a U.S. Ambassador's Scholarship Program which includes Islamiyyah primary schools as well as non-formal education for Almajiri boys. There are currently 333 recipients of the U.S. Ambassador’s Scholarship Program in 12 schools in the North East Region of Nigeria with 166 Scholarship students right here in Borno State alone.

One other key sector that helps build democracies is a functioning health care system. The people of America are helping to support Nigeria’s efforts in reproductive health HIV/AIDS and polio primarily through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief known to many Nigerians as PEPFAR in which the American people have committed an estimated $68 million in the past four years to reach over 94,000 orphans and vulnerable children and about 9,000 caregivers. We also have HIV/AIDS outreach efforts on the radio in Hausa which opens up dialogue about health and other key issues affecting northern Muslim communities.

Turning to the commercial aspects of our development engagement with Nigeria the U.S. and Nigerian governments are working closely through our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement to increase Nigeria’s exports to the United States thereby adding jobs and more importantly reducing poverty in Nigeria. The African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA provides Nigeria with an important avenue to export its products to the United States and we recently opened an AGOA Resource Center in Lagos with the Bank of Industry to further enhance our trade relationship. But for you in this region I know agriculture is so important. So I want to assure you that we are very much focused on that sector and on food security where my government has provided and plans to provide depending on our Congress over $25 million per year in food security for Nigeria.

The last area I am going to highlight in our engagement today is peace and security. We are listening carefully to the discussions going on now on amnesty in the Niger Delta. We are friends of Nigeria and we want what you want to see a conflict-free region that can develop and thrive and where the lives of civilians are always protected. We also all know that peace and security are fundamental pillars of democracy as well so I want to highlight for you what President Obama has said about another global peace and security issue you follow closely – the issue of Israel and Palestine.

On Israel and Palestine the President reaffirmed in his Cairo speech that the United States of America will align its policies with those who pursue peace including Israelis and Palestinians who deserve to live in peace and security in two states. He called on all parties to fulfill their obligations agreed to under the Road Map.

Israel's right to exist cannot be denied. At the same time Israel must recognize that building Israeli settlements must stop and that the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security adding that Israel must live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society.

Palestinians must have dignity opportunity and a state of their own. At the same time Palestinians and Hamas must abandon the violence that kills the innocent and surrenders moral authority.

I work for the President of the United States of America and the New Beginning he stressed between Americans and Muslims is also for Nigeria and the United States. We share common principles of justice and progress; tolerance and dignity; and respect and understanding. He has said we as Americans will listen and I have listened and learned from you today.

There is a strong friendship between the people of America and people of Nigeria and a strong bilateral relationship of mutual respect. Through our partnership we will continue to support you and all Nigerians to strengthen democracy encourage respect for human rights invest in the people of this great country promote women’s rights respect for the diversity of religion the diversity of political views and the diversity of perspectives on the world so I have come I have listened and I have heard you today. We are friends we are one. May God's peace be upon you.

Askir-Nyena. Thank you.

# # #

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Town Hall, Memorial, Farewell Lunch and International Meet and Greet

December 25, 2009: Tough. There is an attempted attack on a U.S. airliner.

December 22: Gave major USG policy speech on our concerns about the slow movement on election reform, the need to do more to fight corruption. Goal is to put markers down early about USG focus on these issues. Event held at NIIA and sponsored by former Humphrey fellows. Also expressed USG best wished for the recovery and health of the Nigerian President.

November 24: Ailing Nigeria President leaves Nigeria for medical treatment in Jeddah.

November 22: Abuja Marine Ball. Hosted a table of fellow Ambassadors and High Commissioners. Gave remarks on my respect for the Corps, their love of country, and that I never forget that detachment members are also the sons and daughters of our great nation. Spoke about my background as a daughter of a military man, and the importance that my parents instilled in me for love of service. Always make sure I stop by the Embassy to say happy birthday to the standard bearer Marine on watch that night.

November 20: MOU with Katsina signed. Had opportunity to sign MOU with the Governor of Katsina to solidify areas of focused outlined in the July 2009 visit. This includes he USG work on education with the University and building university level exchange programs and linkages. Right now looks like Lincoln University will move forward with both a student and teacher exchange program. In addition farmers from Katsina will be involved in the USG Foreign Agricultural Program exchanges, food storage and other programs. Three schools will be refurbished by humanitarian assistance through Africa Command, and help with irrigation and waste incineration.

November 7: Lagos Marine Ball. Hosted a table of friends. My remarks highlighted long relationship between the Marine Corps and the Department of State. Introducted all the members of the detachment and saluted their service and listed their home towns.

Oct 15-17: Finally making my official visit to the headquarters of Africa Command (aka Africom) in Stuttgart, Germany. Was hosted by the 4-star Commander and his components. Great visit, wonderful support for the U.S. Mission in Nigeria from Africa Partnership Stations training, mil-to-mil relationship.

Oct 5-7: At USG Ambassadorial conference called, Chief of Mission Conference in Washington, D.C. -- an opportunity to dialogue with all U.S. Ambassadors assigned to the Africa Continent -- sharing views, dialoging on policy, hearing goals on U.S.-Africa relationship

August 11: U.S. Sectary of State (SecState) Clinton visits Nigeria for 1st time as SecState. Held key bilateral mtgs, announced a Binational Commission with Nigeria, held a one of a kind town hall with key non-government players, fielding great questions from Nigerians on their concern about corruption and good governance. TownHall seen as best practice. For me had the opportunity to greet SecState on arrival, participate in bilats, and host her at the USG official residence with key political leaders, including several former Presidents of Nigeria. She also held an Interfaith Dialogue.

July 15: Took Interagency USG team Katsina as part of our Pilot Engagement with States Program (PES) which seeks to work with states who are doing positive social sector development in health, agriculture, and education. Katsina is the home state of the President of Nigeria. Visited the wonderful University there and my team did a presentation of what they can do to further help the goals and vision of the state. Our humanitarian assistance folks will help with refurbishing schools and clinics, and building waste incinerators for hospitals. On agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service will expand exchange programs while USAID will look to focus on the health sector.

July 5: Had Birthday gathering with friends in Lagos. Nice day and good food

June 23, 2009: Today was a mix of several emotions as I held my second community-wide town hall meeting, said farewell to a colleague, remembered the life of a fallen member of our local guard force, and sought to provide a friendly venue for members of the expatriate community to come together to have a non-policy night in order to get to know each other better. As for the town hall meeting, it was an opportunity for me to thank the many staff members who are leaving this summer, welcome the newcomers, and highlight in broad terms the vision and focus of the U.S. Mission to Nigeria, and have my management, community liaison, and security officers brief the Mission community on efforts to improve customer service to residential homes, emphasize what is on tap for community activities for the summer, and reinforce the importance of personal security. The latter point on personal security was particularly noteworthy as we would all move after the town hall session to the outside grassy knoll area of the U.S. Embassy Compound to hold a memorial service for a fallen member of our broader community – the guard force – who had been shot and killed on June 11, 2009, in the execution of his duties. During the memorial service with all U.S. Mission community members present, I planted a tree on the grassy knoll after speaking to the guard's assembled family members noting that with every year of growth of the tree, may the life of the fallen guard be remembered. I then presented flowers to his niece who was representing the bereaved widow, followed by a moment of silence. It was a solemn occasion for all.

Later that evening, I hosted the Mission's first International Meet and Greet Reception at the official residence for nearly 200 people from various walks of life in the expatriate community, from NGOs to the private sector to the diplomatic community.

Friday, June 19, 2009

American Citizens Helping the Enugu Community

June 18 late evening: I had the opportunity to meet with a group of great American citizens living in Enugu, including our longest serving American warden. (Wardens help the U.S. Mission keep in touch with all Americans living in a particular community overseas, really providing a contribution to the American people.) . Most of them had attended or worked at a wide range of U.S universities -- from a couple who had taught at Clemson to those who went to the University of Maryland. Their professions ranged from a medical doctor working with our PEPFAR HIV/AIDS program, a retired librarian, and a businessman to a microbiologist and Catholic sister. We made sure that those who were not registered with us registered, and we had a good time. It was an interesting group and we talked about a variety of things including re-establishing an American Corner in Enugu with a Foundation of one of the couples at the gathering, with the possibility of the retired librarian serving as coordinator. We all got so excited we ran off to see the location in the middle of the night. It was great -- a perfect two-story modern building, computer and Wi-Fi ready, right in the center of town between all the Enugu universities. I am already dreaming of commissioning the Corner. Now I just have to convince my librarian. :)

Am Now the Mother of Ebonyi

June 18, 2009 afternoon: Late this afternoon, I was made a Chief today for the fourth time while serving in Nigeria. This time it was in Ebonyi State following my meeting with the Governor of the state, and during my meeting with his dynamic wife and the council of traditional rulers. I am now also Ndeoma of Ebonyi, mother of Ebonyi, in recognition of the support the American people have provided to the state in health. The USG, through USAID and an implementing partner, has provided resources, equipment and training to a clinic that was built and supplied by the First Lady of Ebonyi. I had an opportunity to visit the clinic and see the operating rooms for VVF repair. The First Lady has done a magnificent job as she allows women from other states to benefit from the clinic, and the head (and at one time only) surgeon should be commended for doing nearly 15 VVF surgeries a day. All in all it has been a busy couple of days covering all this while answering emails, clearing thank you letters for those who had participated in the June 9-10 agricultural event, and approving cables back to Washington on top of monitoring events in the Niger Delta. I must say the Blackberry (r) is a wonderful thing.

Trying to Preserve the Uli Cultural Practice

June 16-18, 2009: For the last two days I have been traveling in the southeast states of Enugu and Anambra to the villages of Enugwu-Inyi and Nkwelle-Ogidi to meet with the few traditional practitioners of an Igbo cultural practice called Uli who were being trained under a USG grant by a renowned Igbo professor, artist, and academic, who I consider an Uli activist, to preserve Uli designs through crafts from jewelry to pottery to clothes. I actually bought a set of placemats with Uli designs from CAD, hand painted pottery, and a pair of earrings. Traditionally Uli symbols were painted on the body in place of clothes or on huts (homes) or shrines, but modern times have put pressure to abandon these wonderful ways. I met and had the opportunity to have conversations with the most fantastic women in their 60s-80s who are the last of their kind trying to hold on to the ways of the past that their mothers and grandmothers taught regarding Uli. Although many of them no longer know what the individual Uli symbols mean, except to say that their spirits tell them what to paint, they were all beautiful women (one claimed she was old-age beautiful!), with wonderful spirits and full of life. They all told me they were renewed by the training and the possibility of the economic empowerment that selling crafts would bring them. With this grant, the USG has not only given these women hope, but also helped in transforming their lives. This means a lot and makes me not only pleased that the U.S. Mission is involved in projects like this, but that the giving nature of the American people can be seen through the eyes of these incredible women!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Self-Help Program helps Trains Young Entrepreneurs

June 13 - I had the opportunity to go to a creative self-help activity under the Ambassador's Self-Help Program. It is run by a wonderful young woman who had been a recipient of our International Visitors Leadership Program, better known as the IVLP program. Her project seeks to train unemployed youth in the greater Lagos area, particularly the mainland area of Maryland. Under the Ambassador's Self-Help program we provided resources to assist with the training of 31 unemployed youth for free for three months in the areas of carpentry, fashion design, and food catering. The training center -- called the Foundation for Skills Development -- is a wonderful place that provides employment opportunities for many young Nigerians. In addition, even young people from the neighboring states of Ondo and Ekiti are coming to the Center to learn new skills. Most of the recipients are young women, and I had an opportunity to talk to each and every one of them during my visit (there were about 35 trainees there who had either been trained at the Center before or are currently enrolled). I had a conversation with each trainee and asked how the Center had changed their lives and told them they were leaders in their own right -- just by reaching out and coming to the Center to find a way to provide for themselves and their families. "Economic empowerment and independence," I stressed, "was the first step for anyone to have a better life." One young woman told me how much she was making for food catering and that no one could pay her the salary she was earning now because of the training she received at the Center. This was a great visit as it showed the power and synergy of two USG programs -- the IVLP and the Ambassador's Self-Help program -- where the leadership of the Center's Director and the additional skills she learned during her IVLP visits were brought back to help the development of her nation. The Self-Help Program was a tool she used to further the development of the young people of Nigeria. The Director also started a "Smart Kids" book program, another idea she picked up from her IVLP visit to the U.S., where books are donated to area schools. I had an opportunity to meet many of the kids and teachers involved in the Director's "Smart Kids" program as well. I really enjoyed my visit and meeting not only the wonderful Director, but the marvelous young people at the Center. My hat goes off to the Director, she is great!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Signing A PPP Supporting Fulbright Program

June 12 - This evening the CEO and Managing Director of Bank PHB held a dinner in my honor at the Medici restaurant in downtown Lagos on Victoria Island. The CEO invited his most celebrated clients and friends and it was a lovely evening attend by some 30 people in a lovely resturant. I tend to want these events to have a purpose besides just a good meal and a wonderful atmosphere, so I suggested that we use the evening to formally sign our next Public Private Partnership (PPP) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement with Bank PHB. This MOU-PPP is the only one the U.S. Mission has with a Nigerian Bank that supports one of our premier education programs -- the Fulbright Program -- where Bank PHB funds one Fulbright Senior Scholar to study in the United States each year. The MOU was originally to be for three years, but during my remarks that evening, I highlighted President Obama's recent speech in Cairo on a new beginning for America. Thus, I suggested on the spot that as part of the President's new beginning and given that his inauguration was in January, 2009, we make the MOU-PPP for fours years to coincide with the inaugural year of the U.S President. This got a bit of a laugh by the esteemed group, and by the time I got back to my seat next to the PHB CEO he agreed to extend the MOU to four years. Now we can fund four instead of three Nigerian Senior Fulbrighters with the support of Bank PHB. We signed the MOU following my remarks and penned in the changes. It was a good night for the U.S. Mission, Bank PHB, and education in Nigeria!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

AISA's First Senior Graduation Class

June 8: This evening I had the honor to be the keynote speaker for the first-ever graduation class -- all four of them! -- of the American International School of Abuja (AISA). It was a wonderful event. I highlighted for the grads that because of their time at AISA, and at the mid point of the 21st Century, they are global citizens, and as the next generation of leaders, they need to be humble, provide service to their nation and community, and think globally as they act locally.

Successful Agriculture Event with BOI

June 9-10: Over the last two days I chaired along with the Nigerian Bank of Industry T(BOI) Managing Director a joint U.S. Mission-BOI agricultural event where six USG agencies provided their expertise to help the Nigerian agriculture sector develop by providing information on access to financing, offering technical assistance on agro-processing, food labeling, and how to scale up exports using AGOA. Six of the 14 Nigerian bank that are partners on either EXIM or the Foreign Agricultural Service's (FAS) financing facilities also sponsored the practical two-day event where over 400 people attended. The financing and capital equipment segments were moderated by my staff assistant, Rob Anderson, while the interactive food labeling sessions were handled by a superb FAS consultant from Portland. The event received first class media coverage and I believe a good and productive time was had by all participants. We certainly moved U.S. policy forward over these last two days on agricultural development and AGOA.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Key Leaders Discuss President's Cairo Speech

June 4 – I was able to host today a substantive roundtable with key leaders at the U.S. Mission to Nigeria on President Obama's first major policy speech on the African Continent from Cairo, Egypt. We watched the speech together and had a lively discussion – Situation Room Style – following the speech, with a variety of views and takeaways as to the messages in the speech. The universal take away by many not only highlighted the President's "extraordinary delivery" of the speech but the content of the speech and its seven key points, not only were for the "Muslim world, but for the whole world," many said, adding that "what he said was applicable to Nigeria and that it was important for us all to work together to achieve these goals as brothers and sisters in humankind.” They all applauded the desire of America to have a "new beginning" with Islam and the global community. One participant noted that the President's speech "will go down as a defining moment in policy speeches and possibly one of the greatest speeches in history." I agree.

Related Story: Ambassador Sanders Takes Reactions on President Obama's Speech in Cairo

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Joining General Powell in a Democracy Event

June 3: I spent the morning with the renowned global citizen and former Secretary of State - General Colin Powell - in a breakfast session organized by Tell Magazine to explore Nigeria's ten years of uninterrupted democracy. This followed an afternoon session of both formal presentation on Nigeria's democratic experiences by General Powell, former Nigerian Head of State Gowan, the current Nigeria Vice President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. For me the most interesting points that General Powell made is the importance of a government being of the people and by the people, and that Nigeria's democracy, and any democracy, had to include the voices of all -- including civil society and the press --to truly be representative of the people.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

U.S. Company Lands Hallamrk Agreement

May 28: Was a great day for U.S.-Nigeria relations as a U.S. Company signed the first-ever company-to-country agreement in Sub-Saharan Africa with Nigeria. I was proud to be there with the VP of the U.S. Company and with the President of Nigeria, along with my staff members Bob and Carolyn as we all worked hard to make this happen over the last year. I look forward to more U.S. companies believing in Nigeria as a place to invest and build strong ties.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Handshake with the Nigerian President and Meetings with Governors

May 22-23 had me traveling to Imo and Abia states in southeastern Nigeria following my second visit to Rivers State in the Niger Delta. Not only did I have fruitful discussions with both Governors, but I visited a school and presented school supplies to the most gifted students of the Orlu secondary school and also visited a potential site for our next American Corner. On May 25 I had the singular honor to be with the President of Nigeria and a U.S. Company to sign an agreement on U.S. investment.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ambassador's Scholarship Fund Makes a Splash in Rivers State

May 21 - I just had a great time speaking to 620 Niger Delta students in River State in the city of Port Harcourt about Peace in the region and their dedication to better lives and education. I also met with the USG-funded Peace Clubs through the IFESH CALM project who sang and danced for Peace!

Key U.S. NGO Figure and I talk about Election Reform

Over the last three days I had the privilege, with IFESH President Dr. Julie Sullivan, of listening to issues from over 100 representatives of Nigerian civil society from all over the country expressing their views about the need for progress on key Nigerian democracy issues from election reform, building voter awareness and women's issues, to helping young people. On the Niger Delta, protecting civilians caught in the crossfire of the conflict and finding a peaceful comprehensive settlement to issues so that education and development can thrive was extensively discussed. The U.S. Government helps in development in Nigeria, including in the Delta, and calls for the protection of all civilian lives.

Related story: U.S. Ambassador Hosts Second Series of Civil Society Forums on the Values of Democracy and Election Reforms (Abuja, Monday May 19, 2009)

Friday, April 24, 2009


For publication on April 25, 2009 in local newspapers
Abuja, Nigeria
April 24, 2009

By Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria

Today, we commemorate World Malaria Day with you, to celebrate your achievements, and rededicate the historic partnership between Nigeria and the United States to defeat this preventable and treatable killer.

For about half the world’s population, malaria remains one of the greatest threats to public health. It is a disease that causes poverty, disrupts the livelihood of families, and far too often, steals the future of Africa's children. In tropical Africa, the disease kills nearly 3,000 people each day with young children and pregnant women at greatest risk. Nigeria, with Africa’s largest population, has the world’s greatest burden of malaria illness and an estimated 300,000 children die here each year from this disease.

World Malaria Day is observed April 25 to call attention to the disease and to mobilize action to combat it. On World Malaria Day, Americans stand in solidarity with Nigeria and communities across the globe in the fight against malaria, On behalf of the American people, the United States Government (USG) has taken extraordinary steps to curb the spread of this preventable and curable disease both in Nigeria and throughout Africa. Under the President’s Malaria Initiative, $1.2 billion is being made available over five years to expand resources to fight malaria.

The strategy in Nigeria, as elsewhere in Africa, is straightforward. First, prevention: the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets or the provision of indoor spraying to provide protection from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and preventive malaria treatment to expectant mothers during pregnancy. Second, treatment: new and highly effective medicines are distributed and health workers are trained on the proper use of those medicines.

In Nigeria all of the above measures have been introduced but need to be greatly expanded to achieve national impact. The Nigerian government, working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development, World Health Organization, UNICEF and others, is poised for a dramatic expansion of its control program over the next two years, including a target of reaching 80% of all households in Nigeria with long lasting insecticidal bednets by the end of 2010. The U.S. Government through USAID has doubled its contribution to $16 million this year in order to play a larger role in this historic effort.

Similar programs in Rwanda, Zambia, and Tanzania are already showing signs of major reductions in the proportion of people infected with malaria. At the same time in Rwanda and Zambia, there has been a striking reduction in deaths among children under the age of five. On the isles of Zanzibar in Tanzania, malaria infection rates have dropped to less than 1% throughout the population of 1 million. Malaria prevention and treatment measures are associated with and can contribute to these reductions. Regional and district-level impact has also been reported from Mozambique and Uganda. With national expansion of key interventions, Nigeria should see similar reductions in infections and deaths.

Sustainability of malaria control programs is a critical goal of USG efforts. In Nigeria, the U.S. Government through USAID is helping to build capacity by training people to manage, deliver, and support the delivery of health services, which will be critical for sustained successes against malaria and other infectious diseases. We also partner with community groups and faith-based organizations. They bring tremendous value to malaria control efforts given their credibility within their communities, their ability to reach the grassroots level, and their capacity to mobilize significant numbers of volunteers.

Across Nigeria and all of Africa, children and their families are sleeping under bed nets; local groups are teaching mothers to take anti-malarial drugs when they are pregnant and seek proper treatment for their sick children. In schools and villages, community centers and places of worship, clinics and hospitals, optimism is growing that we can and will succeed. We share that optimism. The United States will continue to galvanize action and spur grassroots and private sector efforts to control this disease.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ambassador Robin R. Sanders' Remarks at the First National Employment Summit

Remarks of U.S. Ambassador Robin R. Sanders

On the Occasion of the First National Employment Summit:

"Meeting the Employment Challenges of the Global Economic & Financial Crisis"

Remarks as delivered.
April 23, 2009, Transcorp Hilton
Abuja, Nigeria

All protocols duly observed.

Good morning. The timing of this summit is very appropriate. Today, we are experiencing a global economic and financial crisis that is challenging our confidence, creating insecurity in world markets and disrupting the lives of those who make up the backbone of our global economies –the men and women who make up the global work force. This also includes the workforce of tomorrow--our youth-- who face a bleak employment outlook and are at risk of not realizing their full potential.

The U.S. Government's efforts to ease the burden of the financial crisis are not just aimed at home. To assist those countries hit hardest by the crisis the United States and its global partners are moving to increase significantly the resources available to international financial institutions, and to modernize the governance of these institutions to better reflect the realities of today's world economy. Just two days ago, President Obama asked the U.S. Congress to increase U.S. contribution to the International Monetary Fund to one hundred billion dollars ($100 Billion).

In Nigeria, through our Framework for Partnership with the people and government of this country, my team at the U.S. Mission is investing in the people of Nigeria by emphasizing the rule of law and accountability of government to its people, and by supporting diversified economic growth so that people can support themselves and their families. I want to highlight for you a few examples of how we are working with you on job creation in Nigeria:

First of all, the U.S. Government's Africa Growth and Opportunities Act, or AGOA, provides trade preferences for duty-free entry of more than six thousand five hundred (6,500) different goods into the United States. By accessing AGOA, Nigerian companies have the opportunity to drastically increase exports to the United States, which in turn creates real jobs and real opportunities for real people.

Over the last two years, our Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites program, or MARKETS, created nearly forty-five thousand (45,000) jobs along the value chains for rice, sorghum, and cowpeas. This program generated revenues of over $75 million and leveraged $20 million in credit. Productivity in these sectors increased by an average of 118%.

Another project of the U.S. Government, the Cassava Enterprise Development Project, created more than 7,000 jobs during the first nine months of 2008. It increased incomes by an additional $800,000 over the same time period and boosted productivity to over 25 tons per hectare from a baseline of less than 10.

One of the major roles of the U.S. Government's Commercial Service is to facilitate entry and participation of American companies into the Nigerian economy. In one example, at the end of last year the American company Cisco Systems had established 75 academies across Nigeria that trained over 6,000 Nigerians in technologies that will help them find and create jobs, to secure their livelihoods and their family's future.

As you develop your National Employment Program of Action, I encourage all of you to focus not only on creating employment opportunities but more broadly on promoting opportunities for decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equality, security and human dignity —for both men and women. These same fundamental rights apply to Nigeria’s children as well, who are especially vulnerable to the worst forms of labor as well as child trafficking. I urge you to not only prosecute and punish those who commit these horrible abuses, but also urge you to provide opportunities for children to enjoy their right to a good education and a bright future because, after all, they are your future.

I encourage you to reach out to all sectors of society to hear about their issues. In this way you can ensure that what is being done is what you as Nigerians truly want, need, and desire. The ultimate success or failure of an initiative depends on the buy-in of the people it aims to support.

This also includes organized labor. In closing I want to say that organized labor has a key role to play in the development of your National Employment Plan. Although in the past few months we have witnessed frustration from several of Nigeria’s unions, organized labor and management must come together to work toward mutually beneficial solutions for all Nigerians. And government must be a partner in development, fundamental to extending and strengthening your economic growth. The U.S. Mission to Nigeria is also ready to work in partnership with the people of Nigeria as we move together toward a new era of increased trade and investment, improved transparency, the transfer of best business practices, and support for government organized labor, and the private sector so that all Nigerians can realize their right to dignified and decent employment.

Thank you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Remarks by Robin R. Sanders at ECOWAS Conference

Remarks by Robin R. Sanders

Permanent Representative to ECOWAS And U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria

For immediate publication
Abuja, Nigeria
April 20, 2009

All protocols duly observed

It gives me great pleasure to be here this morning to participate in the opening ceremony of this conference on Security Sector Reform sponsored co-jointly by the esteemed and respected West Africa regional body ECOWAS and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (or ACSS) of the United States of America.

I believe that we are all here today not only because we recognize and appreciate the leadership of ECOWAS under its august President, Dr. Chambus but also because we all know the importance of regionalization in order to further the political security economic social and developmental integration of the West Africa Region.

West Africa has come along way with ECOWAS at its helm on these issues and I am pleased to say that the United States of America through programs capacity building and training provided by the ACSS has played a supporting role in this progress.

Part of the reason why we are all here today is to ensure that there is continued movement on the things most important to a fully integrated West Africa that include first and foremost cooperation understanding coordination interoperability and -- last but not least -- respect among the militaries and civilian leadership of this region.

This conference is another step along the road to realizing all of these goals. During the next four days the participants in this conference will have not only the opportunity to discuss the future security framework of the region and the continent from governance to maritime issues but also how we can all work together to help post conflict countries make that delicate transition from elections to stability -- all key elements in the global society today and key parts of the global challenges that the world faces today particularly right here on the Continent.

In addition security sector reform for the region must be at the forefront of any resolution to these issues. We have all seen recently the fragile environments in some of the neighboring states including a number of coups which have tried to set parts of the region back. However we have seen the role and appreciate the leadership that ECOWAS as well as Nigeria as chairman has and is playing to ensure that the clock does not get turn back and that democracies continues to become the order of the day for the region.

For the conference participants I want to say something specifically to you. You represent not only the best thinkers and strategists of your nation but I see you as the planners of our future and how we work together to address conflicts build the peace and bridge differences across regions across nations and across continents.

You will be the civilian and military leaders at the mid-point of the 21st Century and it is your participation in conferences like this that will serve you and your nation well as we work together to ensure a peaceful future for the region and certainly for the Continent of Africa.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Remarks of Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders at the Nigerian Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Graduation


Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

Nigerian Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Graduation

Abuja, Nigeria March 16, 2009
Remarks as prepared for delivery.

All protocols duly observed.

Good morning. At the outset, I would like to congratulate Minster John Odey on his recent appointment by President Yar’Adua as the Minister of Environment, Housing, and Urban Development. I wish you, Honorable Minster, success in the many opportunities and challenges your new appointment brings, and I look forward to working with you in areas of mutual interest.

I would also like to thank Dr. Bamidele Ajakaiye, the Director General of the Nigerian Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), for his strong leadership and commitment in building this young organization. Your leadership is very important for an economically and environmentally sustainable oil and gas industry in Nigeria.

I also want to recognize and congratulate each and every one of the graduates here today for successfully completing this U.S. Government funded course on Oil Spill Detection and Recovery. As environmental officers, you are the first responders to assess the disasters that oil spills can cause. You lead all efforts to mitigate their impact, and you restore areas that they have impacted. You are also entrusted with prevention; that is managing risks so that they do not eventually cause oil spills. It is my sincere hope that the skills and knowledge you have acquired through this three-week course will enable you to perform your important duties more effectively and efficiently.

But your technical and scientific skills are only one element of the arsenal you will need to conduct your duties to the best of your abilities. You will also need to develop close working relationships with counterparts in the oil and gas industry, and with federal, state, and local law enforcement and other emergency responders. Most importantly, you will need to work with the communities that are disproportionately impacted by oil spills, particularly in the Niger Delta.
Nigeria, as we all know, is endowed with vast oil and gas reserves. It is crucial that these resources are tapped in an economically and ecologically sustainable manner that does not jeopardize the livelihoods of the people and their environment. Every year, unacceptable levels of oil spills occur from deteriorating oil and gas infrastructure, industrial accidents and incidents, and illegal activity normally referred to as “bunkering.” Addressing these challenges requires the commitment and cooperation of all.

The U.S. Government will continue to partner with you, providing you with technical assistance for capacity-building and fostering dialogue among all stakeholders. Let me again thank our partners, the Ministry of Environment, Housing, and Urban Development, and NOSDRA. I congratulate all of you and wish you continued success in this very important work that you do.

Thank You!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at the Lagos Business School Executive Breakfast

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

The Economic Hard Choices We All Need To Make For Our Nation

Lagos Business School Executive Breakfast
Lagos Business School
March 3, 2009

  • Professor Doyin Salami, Host of LBS Breakfast Session
  • Members of the Lagos business community
  • Members of the U.S. Mission
  • Faculty and students
  • All other distinguished ladies and gentlemen
  • All other protocols duly observed.
I have been wanting to do this breakfast for several months now, and I am happy we were finally able coordinate our schedules to make it happen. This advanced educational institution, while still young, has contributed significantly to the training and development of business leaders, and has provided a forum for practical learning and discourse through events such as this monthly Executive Breakfast session. It is apropos for me to come here this month as one of my last activities in the U.S. Mission to Nigeria’s two weeks of National activities and following the inauguration of our 44th President of the United States, President Barak Obama.

As business leaders, I imagine that you are focused on the global economic crisis which is really going to be the platform for my remarks today. I want to begin with the U.S. approach to the economic crisis; discuss the challenges that Nigeria may be facing; the way forward in the U.S. as outlined by my President; and what and how the cooperation between the U.S. Mission to Nigeria and Nigerians can affect these challenges, including what we see your government doing to address these issues.

On February 17, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- an economic stimulus package designed to create over 3.5 million jobs while investing in priorities like health care, energy, and education that will jumpstart economic growth in the U.S. The Act focuses on investing in several things, from new technologies to produce clean energy, to science and infrastructure development to improving our health care system and schools. All together, these changes will lay the foundation for our nation for a rebirth in our values and American leadership.

But how did we get to this point?

President Obama attributed the current U.S. financial crisis and economic slow-down to the "greed and irresponsibility on the part of some" and "also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age," the Information Age. The rising rates of unemployment, housing foreclosures, and businesses going under have forced Americans to examine what went wrong and why and to recommit ourselves to the hard work of rebuilding the economy, reinvesting in the growth of American society, and remaking our institutions, particularly our banking sector, to being more transparent with effective macro economic solutions. The President, through his Treasury Secretary, has instituted for example, the Financial Stability Plan will:

Infuse fresh capital into banks deemed healthy and with at least $100 billion in assets;
Establish a public-private investment fund with up to $1 trillion to buy and manage bad asset-based securities; and;

Expand effort for small business lending, commercial mortgages, and consumer loans.
In addition, I know there are questions about the “Buy American Provision,” but that is just what it is, a provision, not protectionism. It does not apply to iron, steel , and manufactured goods produced by least developed countries or LDC’s. It will ensure that our trading partners will continue to have access to procurement in accordance with current WTO and FTA agreements. And, it does not apply to all manufactured products. It only applies to public buildings and public works that are funded by money appropriated by the U.S. Congress.

My president has also said he plans to increase our foreign assistance to our overseas friends from $25 billion to $50 billion, pending of course approval of the U.S. Congress, which will help if passed, all of our friends and all of our partners such as Nigeria.

Now turning to Nigeria. What are your challenges? I think you know them as well as I do.

First and foremost, I want to state for the record that I think Nigeria has the potential to be one of the largest burgeoning emerging markets in the world. Although there was a lag of about six months from when the global financial crisis hit the developed world and when it caught up to the developing world, there is no doubt that it has now arrived in Nigeria.

So what are we seeing here: problems to access capital markets, high interest and lending rates in your banking sector, pressure on the naira, signs of inflation, and economic growth around 3.5 per cent, down from earlier estimates of 6 to 7 per cent for 2009. There is a constriction in your economy registering itself slowly, but surely as the economic downturn takes hold here.

Your Government, under the able leadership of your new Finance Minister, has created several economic committees to look at macro economic issues, to review Nigeria's financial and monetary health, calling on the service of public and private sector experts, which I understand include a few members of this very audience to holistically examine what can and should be done, including action-to-consequence scenarios to help Nigeria weather this financial storm. These will protect some of the good economic decisions that have been made in the recent past and develop workable solutions to include enhancing financial transparency, better utilizing your revenue and wealth to help the common man, and diversifying your economy, with particular focus on the revitalization of your agricultural sector. Other issues on the top of this list include further reducing restrictive trade bans and barriers to help spur investment, particularly on Foreign Direct Investment and enhance trade relations with the U.S. and other countries.

As for the U.S. – Nigeria bilateral business relationship, we think the current economic environment might serve as a platform to encourage more two-way trade, lower trade barriers, and for Nigeria, to better utilize the benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA which Nigeria has been eligible for since 2000, but has failed to fully capitalize on using this provision.

Nigeria was the second largest export market for U.S. goods and services in 2007, totaling $2.7 billion dollars with the total two-way trade figure between our two countries standing at $35.5 billion. However, for me the real indicator of the potential in our trade relationship is that total U.S. imports from Nigeria were $33 billion. This figure constituted about 48% of all U.S. imports from all of Sub-Saharan Africa with over $70 million coming from non-oil imports, up 45 per cent from 2006.

But the United States and Nigeria can do better as trading partners. Let's be honest, it is in both our best interests to do so.

We at the U.S. Mission to Nigeria will continue to seek ways in which we can engage and assist the Nigerian government, Nigerian businesses and Nigerian civil society in addressing key issues during these difficult financial times under our Framework for Partnership.

What we have been doing over this last year has been: helping spur more business ties through our export credit workshops; holding nation-wide AGOA related workshops to help explain the AGOA legislation and what it takes to be export ready for the U.S. market; sending Nigerian business people and poultry farmers to U.S. trade shows; and holding energy sector seminars with our export-import bank and our trade and development agency to demonstrate our commitment to help Nigeria in this sector.

I cannot forget, however, our efforts to help Nigeria reach international aviation standards through our seminars and workshops so that it achieves category one status and TSA approval, so Nigerian airlines can at last fly direct to the United States. However, both your airline industry and regulator still have a lot of work to do.

Going forward, we plan to continue our practical workshops, focused particularly on agriculture through 2009 and have asked other U.S. government agencies to send experts on power and energy issues to dialogue with your government and the private sector.

We hope that we can really jump start, and further advance negotiations with your government on our U.S. -Nigeria Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or TIFA, as well as at last have a Bilateral Investment Treaty or BIT, so that we can have the same trade frameworks that we have with so many other countries, but not with Nigeria, and not for our lack of trying to do so. As long as we have been friends, we have not had these standard trade frameworks with Nigeria.

On energy, we have also invited your financial leaders to attend a sub-Saharan Africa infrastructure conference in May 2009 in Dakar where your officials can interact with U.S. private sector representatives about shaping the legal and regulatory framework to assist in your efforts in the power sector.

On development, we are working with other donors and your government on a Country Partnership Strategy to ensure Nigerian Government priorities are reflected in donor efforts to increase the effectiveness for Government of Nigeria assistance and foster Nigerian ownership of its development strategy.

On agriculture, through our $25 million Global Food Security Response Program, we are focusing on your agricultural sector with capacity building, value chain and processing improvements, including help with crop yields.

In the Niger Delta, we have conflict abatement programs and a range of development projects that help with clean water – particularly in the oil-polluted creeks of the Niger Delta, and helping with vocational and educational programs.

Of course, I cannot leave out education, which is one of our key areas where we have educational exchanges and training for teachers as well as scholarships for primary school children.

Much remains to be done, and the U.S. Mission is ready to work with willing and able partners to advance our common goals of ensuring economic freedom and prosperity for the Nigerian people and for generations to come.

We thank you for being our friend and for your regional leadership in so many areas, certainly your political stance on Zimbabwe, your peace keeping efforts in Darfur, and we are counting on your fulfilling your promise to send troops to Somalia.

I must close, however, by stating something that I truly believe. Nigeria is a country with incredible natural as well as intellectual wealth. You, in this room, are an example of this. I have a challenge for you and it is my expectation of you. Your country faces challenges economically as we have already highlighted, politically, certainly with the need for election reform, and on ethno-social issues with pockets of religious tension, particularly in the Niger Delta.

You are leaders here with impressive knowledge and talent, and the best solutions for Nigeria must come from you. You need to be engaged with your leaders and your populous, particularly civil society in making things better for the overall Nigeria public. This is what I expect from you. And this is what I know the Nigerian people want from you. We can be supportive, but you must lead.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Policy Speech at University of Benin

Remarks of Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

Work to Be Done: Your Role As the Next Generation

University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria
February 26, 2009

  • Acting Vice Chancellor, Prof (Mrs.) Uche Gbenedio
  • University Librarian, Mr. Samuel Ogunrombi
  • Acting Registrar, Mrs. Ojomo
  • Bursar, Dr. (Mrs.) Nwoye
  • Faculty and Staff of the University of Benin; Students;
  • Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press
  • All protocols observed.

Thank you for welcoming me this afternoon to this historic university and this historical city. I have always wanted to come here and I am happy to be able to make my first visit not to long after returning from the U.S. following the historic transition of power that took place in my country with the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama.

With the ushering in of his administration, there is a new face and a new energy underscoring traditional American values. You may be asking what these values are, what should these mean to me and what does democracy really mean? I think if the new U.S. President was here today, he would tell you that democracy is what you want for your country based on the enduring principle that everyone has the right to life Liberty Justice, food to eat clean water education good health care faith in their government and the right to have better future.

Today more than at any other time in our modern history, Americans are harking back to these basics that we had walked away from for many, many years and in some cases forgot what made us strong, what made us respected, and what we needed to do to ensure that America’s tomorrow are not only bright for us in the short-term, but more importantly for the next generation of American leaders. He has said that the way for us to do this is through education, including rebuilding our educational structures, retraining our teachers, and focusing on science and technology to name just a few steps.

Our President has called "education the currency of the Information Age,” a “prerequisite" that we as the current leadership generation owe to the next generation, making sure a college education is within reach of every American – particularly those who volunteer for public service.

But before we get there or achieve these lofty goals that reconnects us to our enduring values, my leadership generation has a lot to do to correct the past mistakes in mismanagement of our financial and economic resources in order to pave a better path for our next generation. This applies to Nigeria as well. Just as my leadership generation must not further squander our wealth Respect financial and economic security neither must your current leaders do that to you.

Your leadership generation is responsible now to you to ensure you have a good education job opportunities better health care services end corruption and poverty and provide food to eat by developing your agricultural sector. My team and I have focused on all these issues through our Framework for Partnership with the people of Nigeria, particularly on poverty alleviation, educational exchanges, micro credit programs, and assisting farmers by helping them increase their crop yield and by providing them with partial loan guarantees from Nigerian banks.

For the people of Nigeria, it is about how you see your future. You must ask yourself do I like what I see? If not, why not? What do I need to change? What do I want to change in my country and how do I go about being a change agent for a better Nigeria. It is for you to choose act and decide to improve your economy and your democracy, have better election processes, end your pockets of ethno-religious tensions, and find peace and development for the Niger Delta.

President Obama has said in a renewed America that from the “grandest capitals of the world to the smallest villages of Africa” America is a friend of each and every nation man woman and child who seeks a future of peace dignity and prosperity. This means that the United States commitment to Nigeria will not change, but in fact will be stronger.

For example President Obama has been one of the strongest advocates for the Millennium Development Goals, which prior to his inauguration, the U.S. Government did not totally endorse. In his administration he has embraced the MDG’s and some of the particulars of his policy for my government to help the developing world achieve these Goals include:
-- Doubling our annual foreign assistance from $25 billion to $50 billion;
-- Lifting the 33% cap on US contributions to the Global HIV/AIDS Fund … ensuring that at least 4.5 million people are on Anti-retroviral treatment by 2013 … preventing 12 million new infections; and,
-- Focusing more on malaria treatment and prevention by
building on the USG‘s current $1 billion dollar per year commitment.
-- On education -- for Nigeria -- we have given 1,200 primary school scholarships, and trained 20,000 primary school teachers.

These additional tools by the Obama Administration will be used by my Mission to further enhance our partnership with you and your generation, and also continue to seek ways to assist the Nigerian government Nigerian businesses and Nigerian civil society.

Let me also speak briefly on the topic of Peace and Security. President Obama has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that security can be bought at the price of human rights. Only by defending our core values - respect for human dignity, diversity, equality, and freedom of conscience and expression - can the United States ever be secure.

Enduring peace and security can never be based on force and compulsion. It can only rest upon deep-seated mutual understanding. This is why the U.S. Mission in Nigeria is actively engaged in supporting development projects in the Niger Delta and seeks to encourage non-violent solutions to the conflict there. We believe that by addressing the causes of the unrest rather than the symptoms lasting peace can be created and spur development, like our programs to: promote cultivation of export quality cassava; our technical assistance to the Lift Above Poverty Organization our efforts to expand access to credit for small and medium-size enterprises in Rivers Bayelsa Delta and Edo States; and, our CALM project that develops non-violent solutions by raising cross-cultural and inter-religious awareness and sensitivity.

But these things alone will not solve all your challenges. Knowledge and creativity must be combined with hard work, teamwork and commitment to goals. We know that hard work courage and tolerance are all virtues which Nigerians have in abundance. I have seen this as I have traveled throughout Nigeria. These virtues can become the energy for growth here in Nigeria no less than they are in America. These attributes along with unity of the nation and a refusal to allow diversity of opinion to tear the fabric of the nation apart are the attributes of the common people of Nigeria. These are core values of the American people and we know these are also the core values of the Nigerian people. One of the key phrases from the U.S. Declaration of Independence is "all men were created equal." President Obama from his own experience knows how hard one has to work to achieve one's destiny and to ensure that equality.

I think this is an important message for Nigerian youth. I know that sometimes when you look at the environment around you it is easy to get discouraged. But that is no reason for not trying to change those things. You are responsible for your destiny. You are responsible for the legacy of your life and the legacy of your nation. But this journey, your journey cannot be for the faint-hearted or for those who prefer leisure over work or seek only riches and fame. Rather you of the next generation must be the risk-takers the change agents and the change makers for Nigeria ensuring that it is free of corruption improves its democratic base through free and open elections and provides the best enabling environment for the development and well being of all Nigerians

So that generations that follow you can look back and be proud of the foundations that you have laid and be able to turn around and say to you job well done!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at the Island Club's Business Luncheon

Remarks of Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

The Role and the Responsibility of the Nigerian Private Sector in the Current Global Financial Environment

Island Club's Business Luncheon
Lagos, February 24, 2009

  • Chairman, Island Club
  • Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth
  • Chairman, Island Club Board of Trustees
  • Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
  • Ladies and gentlemen of the press
  • All protocols duly observed.

Good afternoon! Let me start by thanking the Island Club for the invitation to be your Guest Speaker this afternoon.

As I looked at what I wanted my topic to be today, for a group of august, current and former business persons and business academics, it was not hard to determine what I wanted my message to be, or what I wanted you to leave here thinking about! We all recognize that we are in a new economic environment where the rules and regulatory frameworks that we all had become so accustom, are being reexamined, reviewed and redressed.

These are tough economic times for both the developed and the developing world and each and every segment of our societies has a responsibility to ensure that they examine what they can do for their nation, and that brings me to you.

As current or retired business people and business academics, you have a responsibility to help your government and help your fellow Nigerians figure out what Nigeria can do to weather this economic and financial storm. You cannot sit back and criticize, be concerned without action, or fail to step up and provide your expertise to policy makers at this time. Nigeria still has – even in these tough economic times – the potential to become a burgeoning emerging market. The question is, whether the global financial crisis is going to further derail this path, or are you going to tread water, or are you going to really survive with a paradigm shift, particularly in development.

As Nigerian business people, I would hope that you would choose the later option – surviving by developing the right macro economic policies that further insulate Nigeria, allowing it to still grow, even in these difficult times. This is where politics and regionalism need to be set aside so that the vast intellectual capacity that I have seen that exists in this country can be used for unity of purpose – unity of better economic management, unity of sacrifice, when sacrifice is needed. Although I am outside of your economic framework we follow the same signs that you do. So what are they for Nigeria: pressure on your currency; trade barriers that need to be revisited and changed; 70 per cent of your population living below poverty; endemic corruption; insufficient energy for your needs; red flags in certain banks; and the need to diversify your economy, particularly toward agriculture – not only so farmers can feed the nation, but so Nigeria can become a net exporter of key commodities. Today you are the second largest importer of foodstuffs.You are far behind this now, but the real kicker is – that with all your wealth, and all your creativity this should not be the case!

Yes, these are worrying signs, signs that have always been there, but become more exacerbated in tougher financial times. You in this room have the answers, even though you many not know it, but I would find that hard to believe. No one says that all the answers rest with policy makers, but the answers to all of these issues do rest with you as Nigerians and you must extend yourself in that direction.

You know, we just had a unique, historic transition of power in the United States of America with the election of the 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama. His focus for America is on the same issues I have outlined above for Nigeria. President Obama came to office at a time when America as a nation faces enormous economic crises of such scale and magnitude not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. To address our myriad of issues, President Obama has reached out to all in America- political opposition, academics, legislators, and the average American through a website in an effort to have our best and our brightest, our hard working citizens, and their families, our creativity and our values- all helping us to find our way. You may want to do the same for Nigeria, but this is up to you.

As further examples, President Obama moved boldly and forthrightly to address our economic challenges by signing into law a comprehensive economic stimulus package called the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan designed to jumpstart the American economy, address issues in our financial framework, assist homebuyers with their mortgages, and support our banking sector. The Plan also will help save, or create, up to 3.5 million jobs and re-awaken American values on improving human development, taking care of our teachers and taking care of our future. As of yesterday, if you were watching the news as I was, you saw my President lead his first ever White House Fiscal Responsibility Summit with the nation's governors, legislators, and other eminent personalities, with a health care summit next week and a major address to the nation- all to address the issues on the minds of Americans.

In America, as in any democratic society, the people form and shape the fabric of democracy, and the ultimate success, or failure, of an initiative depends on the buy-in of the people. In your case, you must reach out to the Nigerian people to hear their plight and struggles, and then you and you alone are responsible as the private sector to work with your policy makers both in the executive and legislative branches to ensure that what is being done is not only being done in the name of the Nigerian people, but what the Nigerian people have said they want, they need and they desire.

President Obama had instilled a sense of hope in the American people for a better time ahead, and he succeeded in doing so by inspiring us around one goal – a goal for us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, recognize the hard task ahead, and work even harder and longer to get it right, and change the past – all under the umbrella of the commitment to the Rule of Law and transparency. When he talks about transparency he is clear – it is the “end of deceit, and corruption,” and using the public good and wealth for personal gain. He reminds us that America's strength comes not just from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from our enduring values. I know and have seen the enduring values of Nigerians. And I know that these values are shared in so many ways between our two nations.

These are the questions you must answer as the elite of Nigeria. What is your role and what is your responsibility in these troubling financial times? I shared with you today what my President is doing, the outreach of my President across all spectrums of political and religious views.

What is Nigeria going to do? Do you want a Fiscal Responsibility Summit, and Development Summit, a War on Poverty Summit -- or all three? And what about the Niger Delta? What are you going to do for peace, security and development there? It is for you to use your leadership positions as members of the private sector in some way to change or improve Nigeria’s economic, political (especially election reform) and development outlook. We, the U.S. Government, can support your efforts but you must be in the lead on things like anti-corruption, fiscal transparency and an independent electoral commission.

I have been told by Nigerians that Nigeria has a long road to travel on these issues. Democratic institutions need to be strengthened, democratic principles and values need to percolate through every level of government, federal, state, and local. Economic growth, fiscal transparency and pro-human development go in tandem. But there is no real growth, no real change for the Nigerian people that can come at the expense of development for the Nigerian people. As the elite you need to roll up your sleeves and develop ways to reach a hand back and help out in whatever way your expertise will allow. In the end it is about leadership, your role and your responsibility as citizens of Nigeria to ensure, that this wonderful county, on the cusp of being an emerging market, weathers through the financial clouds, and comes through this period with all Nigerians being better off.

As I conclude, I want to go back to something President Obama said recently, invoking the words of another famous American President who himself was seen as a change maker: "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men [and women]. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. [but] Pray for powers equal to your tasks." These words were originally those of President John F. Kennedy but can aptly be applied to both our nations today. Our tasks in today‘s environment, both for the American people and the Nigerian people are great. And it will take all of our powers to ensure that both our countries enter out of the financial storms stronger than ever with a secured future for the next generation. These will be the tasks that your powers will face!

Thank you.