Abuja – From April 8-11, 2014, United States Ambassador James F. Entwistle made his first visits to Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states, all in the middle belt region of Nigeria. The visit was part of Ambassador Entwistle’s continuing tour of northern Nigeria, to interact with the people, learn more about the security issues in the region, and to share the United States’ wishes for peaceful elections, good governance, development opportunities, and a better future for Nigeria.
During the trip Ambassador Entwistle visited the cities of Makurdi, Lafia and Jos. He paid courtesy calls on Governors Gabriel Suswan, Umaru Tako Al-Makura, and Jonah David Jang, respectively. He also met with civil society, religious, and community leaders, including leaders of farmers and cattle breeders’ associations in Benue and Nasarawa States.
While in Makurdi and Jos, Ambassador Entwistle paid courtesy calls on the vice chancellors of the Benue State University, and the University of Jos, and also interacted with students of both universities. The ambassador also gave a speech at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) , Nigeria’s foremost thank-tank institution, in Kuru near Jos, Plateau State.
Ambassador Entwistle toured two U.S. Government supported projects in Markurdi on health and agriculture. He learned about the successes of USAID’s technical support on HIV/AIDS to the General Hospital, North Bank, Makurdi. He also learned about the progress and growth of the rice value chain being promoted by the MIKAP rice mill, working through USAID’s MARKETS project, to stimulate commercial production and processing of rice in Benue State. He visited the American Corner in Jos, and met Plateau State alumni of the U.S. Government-sponsored Youth Exchange Studies (Y.E.S.) program, who are making immense contributions to positive change in their communities.
In his comments during these meetings, Ambassador Entwistle emphasized the importance of U.S.-Nigeria bilateral relationship in terms of trade and economics, democracy issues, partnering on shared security, and advancing access for all Nigerians to education and health resources. He said the 2015 elections will be an important test for Nigeria, and urged politicians, the media and individual Nigerians to make a pledge “that they will not advocate, support or condone violence before, during or after the elections.”
He said, the United States will lend its support to Nigeria’s efforts, but will not dictate to Nigeria. “Democracy is a journey. As a friend and partner, the United States is not here to do things for Nigeria, we are here to do things with Nigeria, as two equals working together to make the world a better place,” Ambassador Entwistle stressed.
The ambassador further said, “Nigeria has great potential. Your diversity should be a source of strength, not strife. People must learn to tolerate and get along with each other. Across the globe, history has shown that countries that make progress are those whose communities live in peace with each other.”
He said with the North’s strong tradition of inter-faith cooperation, the United States will support efforts aimed at promoting tolerance, and assist both government and civil society to promote transparency and accountability, strengthen media, and support national and local elections.