US Secretary of State to visit Nigeria

One of the major discussions Mr Tillerson will have with African leaders is combating terrorism in the continent.

The United States Government has announced that its Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, would visit Nigeria and some other African countries next week over terrorism challenges in the continent.

Speaking on Tillerson’s visit, the spokesperson for the State Department, Heather Nauert, said in a statement: “On his first official trip to Africa, Secretary Rex Tillerson will travel to N’Djamena, Chad; Djibouti, Djibouti; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Nairobi, Kenya; and Abuja, Nigeria, March 6-13, 2018.

“Secretary Tillerson will meet with leadership in each country, as well as the leadership of the African Union Commission based in Addis Ababa, to further our partnerships with the governments and people of Africa.

“In particular, he plans to discuss ways we can work with our partners to counter terrorism, advance peace and securities, promote good governance and spur mutually beneficial trade and investment.”

The United States Government also said it believes the attack on Dapchi might have been carried out by ISIS West Africa and not Boko Haram as widely believed.

The US State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator, Ambassador Nathan Sales, disclosed this during a press briefing held in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

Sales is the one mobilising law enforcement efforts to defeat ISIS.

“Let me just say the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent kidnappings. We understand there are reports that this operation may have been carried out by ISIS West Africa. As you know, previous kidnappings in the region have been carried out by Boko Haram, and so it looks like this is a technique that ISIS West Africa is copying,” he said.

Robust assistance
Sales said the US would continue to support Nigeria by training the Nigerian military and police.

“One of the things that we can do is to stand up law enforcement capabilities. We have robust assistance programming for a number of countries in Africa that we use to increase the ability of local cops to address all forms of crime, including terrorism-related crimes, including crimes committed by transnational criminal organisations.

“And our hope is that that kind of assistance will pay dividends and that local authorities will be better-equipped with the tools they need to investigate these kinds of atrocities, but more importantly, to prevent them from happening again in the future,” the American envoy said.

According to him, the US is concerned about “growing terrorist threats in that part (Nigeria) of Africa, in the Maghreb, in the Sahel, and elsewhere in Africa.”

The US State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator said: “This is a part of the world where there are overlapping terrorist groups. Not just al-Qa’ida elements, but also ISIS-affiliated networks and others. Because of that group of threats, it’s important for us in the United States and for our partners in Europe and elsewhere in the world to remain engaged.

“Our goal here is to continually improve our local partners’ capabilities: help them secure their borders, help them investigate terrorist-related crimes, help them prevent terrorist-related attacks from happening, help them respond to attacks when they do take place, in real time.”

Ambassador Sales added that ultimately, the interest of the US is ensuring that “our partners have those skills themselves and need not turn to outsiders to provide security for them.”

Meanwhile, the on-going search for the abducted 110 Dapchi girls has been extended to the neighbouring countries, the Nigerian government has announced.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, also added that top military and security officials on Thursday travelled to the North-east to add more urgency to the search.

The officials include the nation’s top military officer and Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; Chief of Army Staff; Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai and the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura.

They joined the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who had earlier relocated to the North-east.

The Nigerian government had earlier released the names and other details of the 110 girls who have yet to be accounted for, following the attack on the GGSTC, Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19, 2018.

PR/Sammie Idika