Buhari Gives Amaechi, Dambazzau Key Roles At US Meetings

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As President Muhammadu Buhari arrived in the United States of America on Sunday night Nigerian time, indications emerged that former Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and former Chief of Army State Staff (COAS), General Abdulrahaman Dambazzau may play key roles in the new administration.

The two are non-state officials who are attending some of the highly sensitive meetings with the Nigerian leader.

The Daily Times of Nigeria exclusively obtained the itinerary of the President and his entourage.

Ahead of the visit, the US government announced readiness to help Nigeria recover looted funds.

The President’s plane touched down at the Joint Base Andrews International Airport in Washington DC at 4.00 am local time in the US.

He is billed to begin a whistle-stop series of meetings afterwards, starting with a breakfast meeting at 7am.

This will be followed by a breakfast meeting with the US Vice President Joe Biden at 9.15 am. That meeting will be attended by Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, Amaechi and Ambassador Ade Adefuye as well as Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The meeting will be followed by a US Government lunch on power to be hosted by the Secretary of State John Kerry. In attendance will be Governors of Ondo and Imo.

There will also be a bilateral meeting with Deputy Secretary of State (Defence), Robert O. Work. On the Nigerian side will be Gen. Dambazzau, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Amaechi, the two non-government officials playing prominent roles.

Between 11 am and noon, President Buhari will meet his US counterpart, Barrack Obama at the Oval Office in the White House, followed by a 20-minute media chat.

At 12.35pm today, the President will be joined by the Governors of Nasarawa and Borno states at a meeting with the United States Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker .

From 1.30pm to 2pm, he will receive in audience ECOWAS Ambassadors and at 2.35pm, the President will hold a meeting on tackling corruption in Nigeria with the US Attorney General, Lorreta Lynch. In attendance will be Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice and the Solicitor General of the Federation.

The busy schedule also includes a meeting with the Secretary of Treasury, Jack Lew. Buhari will be joined at that meeting by the Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, as well as the Director General, Budget Office. At 16.40 hrs, he will meet with potential investors in Agriculture and at 16.45hrs with the Chamber of Commerce. At 7.00pm, he will be treated to an interactive dinner by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Council for Africa.

On Tuesday, the President will hold an interactive meeting at 8.00am and at 10am, he will meet with the President of the World Bank, as well as the representative of the Bill Gates Foundation and former Nigerian Minister of State for Health, Mohammed Pate.

At 11.50 am, he will be hosted by the US Department of State at a function to be attended by the Director og the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.

At 4:00pm, President Buhari will receive the Class of 1980 US War College of which he was a participant.

The American government also reaffirmed its earlier pledge to help Nigeria root out terrorists.

Nigeria’s stolen wealth stashed in different foreign accounts is believed to be in trillions of Naira.

The President’s Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu, confirmed the report by the Daily Times on Tuesday last week that the Nigerian leader will be hosted at the official Guest House of the United States government, the Blair House, and not in a hotel, a major break in tradition by the hosts.

Shehu posted on his tweeter account, a photograph he took with a US-based Nigerian tax consultant, with the message: “The Blair House will be the official residence of President @MBuhari all through his stay in Washington DC.”

Washington also seeks to “reset” ties with Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy.

Buhari’s visit is viewed by the U.S. administration as a chance to set the seal on improving ties since he won a March election hailed as Nigeria’s first democratic power transition in decades, according to Reuters.

U.S. cooperation with the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, had virtually ground to a halt over issues including his refusal to investigate corruption and human rights abuses by the Nigerian military.

“President (Barack Obama) has long seen Nigeria as arguably the most important strategic country in sub-Saharan Africa,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken told Reuters. “The question is would there be an opportunity to deepen our engagement and that opportunity is now.”

It said that the improving ties with Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, come as U.S. relations have cooled with two other traditional Africa powers – Egypt and South Africa.

U.S. officials have said they are willing to send military trainers to help Nigeria counter a six-year-old northern insurgency by the Boko Haram Islamist movement.

Since Buhari’s election, Washington has committed $5 million in new support for a multi-national task force set up to fight the group. This is in addition to at least $34 million it is providing to Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger for equipment and logistics.

Buhari’s move on July 13 to fire military chiefs appointed by Jonathan clears the way for more military cooperation, U.S. officials say.

“We’ve made clear there are additional things that can be done especially now that there is a new military leadership in place,” a senior U.S. official said.

Another senior U.S. official said Washington was urging Buhari, to step up regional cooperation against the militants and to provide more aid to afflicted communities to reduce the group’s recruiting power.

Buhari has said his priorities are strengthening Nigeria’s economy, hard-hit by the fall in oil prices, boosting investment, and tackling “the biggest monster of all” – corruption.

“Here too he is looking to deepen collaboration and one of the things he is focused on is asset recovery,” the official said. “He is hopeful we can help them recover some of that.”

In 2014, the United States took control of more than $480 million siphoned away by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his associates into banks around the world.

Washington has broad powers to track suspicious funds and enforce sanctions against individuals.

Johnnie Carson, a former assistant secretary of state, said Washington should not let security issues overshadow the need for closer trade and investment ties.

“Nigeria is the most important country in Africa,” said Carson, currently an adviser to the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Now more than ever, “the relationship with Nigeria should not rest essentially on a security and military-to-military relationship,” he added.

Lauren Ploch Blanchard, an Africa specialist with the non-partisan Congressional Research Services, said the U.S. challenge was to work with Buhari while giving him time to address the country’s vast problems.

How Buhari will handle the campaign against Boko Haram is still an unknown, Blanchard said.


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