Friday, July 9, 2010

My Interview with THISDAY Newspaper

On Thursday, July 8, 2010, I was interviewed by THISDAY Editors when I was received at the Ikoyi residence of THISDAY Chairman Nduka Obaigbena. The story was titled: Sanders: 2011 is transformative for Nigeria with a rider Govt free to pursue legal case in NLNG bribery scam. The highlight of the interview was featured on the July 9th edition of the newspaper.

According the newspaper, "United States ambassador to Nigeria Ms Robin Renèe Sanders has urged the Nigerian government and Nigerians to muster enough political will to make democracy work by ensuring free and fair elections next year. She also said the Federal Government is free to initiate a legal case against companies such as Halliburton who have been heavily fined by the US for giving bribes to Nigerian public officials in order to secure contracts..."

Furthermore, I encouraged "the voters and politicians in Nigeria should do the right thing by choosing their candidates and show they are committed to democracy." I was quoted as saying that my "country's offer of technical assistance as no sufficient guarantee for free and fair elections, stressing the need for adequate political will from all participants in the process which 'must have to be enforced by someone down the line'.”

I told them ... “It is your election. It is your voice and your choice and all about voting for a change that would make Nigeria strong and vibrant... We provided technical assistance in 2007 and we’re providing a lot of technical assistance now…2011 is a transformative time for Nigeria. You’ve got to have the political will to get to a point where a lot of things would happen in a sustainable manner.”

On the visa revocation of the former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, I was quoted by the paper that “Yes, we revoked the visa and that’s how it was, the rest is a privacy issue. I won’t go into the details of why there was a visa revocation."

On whether Nigeria should receive part of the $338 million fine which a US court ordered Technip to pay, in respect of the $180 million bribe allegedly paid to unnamed senior government officials by Halliburton, I said “The department of justice has executed the case and they were fined after criminal charges…Nigeria's attorney-general is at liberty to pursue his own case against the companies"

On the blacklisting of Nigeria by the US after the attempted downing of a Detroit-bound Delta Airliner by Umaru Farouk Abdulmutallab last December, I said that “the type of policy we had that time was not a nationality designated one. I and my staff had to go through the same security check as well. It was not a nationality designation and unfortunately that is how it is viewed here. It is a worldwide policy and we had a number of meetings with Nigerian aviation authorities to enforce safety regulations.”

On whether US President Barrack Obama may likely visit Nigeria in the near future, I noted that that President Obama and President Goodluck Jonathan met in April and held fruitful discussions.

The following is quoted directly from the paper:

"She recalled the speech of the US president where he stated the importance of Nigeria on the world scene including the leadership role the country has to play on the African continent.
'They talked about credible election, development and moving forward. We have respect for the leadership role of Nigeria on the continent and you’re now a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We want the best for Nigeria because you are one of our best friends,' Sanders said. On Nigeria’s quest to become a permanent member of the UN, she said that the US currently supports article 23 of the world body which outlines the steps to becoming a permanent member."

"The ambassador also spoke on the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission, explaining that the working group on the Niger Delta would meet soon. On food security and agriculture, she stated that the 'US is doing a lot towards food security and Nigeria is one of the recipients of the largest food security programmes that we have and this year, $25 million will be worked out as the year goes forward,' she said."