Continuing his courtesy calls to government officials, agencies, and parastatals, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle on January 20 paid a courtesy visit to Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“I came over to introduce myself and have a discussion” Ambassador Entwistle told his host. The ambassador said that as Nigeria moves towards elections in 2015, the government of the United States stands with the people of Nigeria as they move towards open and transparent elections that the Nigerian people want and deserve.
Nigeria is scheduled to hold federal elections in 2015, with increasing demands for transparency and accountability by stakeholders. There is also the need to adhere to global best practices in election administration and operations.
Commenting on specific areas of support to Nigeria, Ambassador Entwistle said the U.S. government and other international partners will focus mainly on supporting the technical capabilities of INEC, especially indigenous Nigerian observer groups.
On the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act recently signed by President Jonathan, Ambassador Entwistle noted that although the issue of same-sex marriage is controversial, including in the United States, the new law puts significant restrictions on freedom of assembly, association and expression for all Nigerians. “It seems to me that such is a very worrisome precedent,” Ambassador Entwistle said.
Ambassador Entwistle said the United States has no plans to withdraw financial support from Nigeria in the fight against HIV/AIDS in light of the recently signed law. He cautioned however, that the new bill might put some restrictions on what the United States and other donors can do to help Nigeria fight HIV/AIDS.
“As you know, we put millions of dollars in the fight against HIV/AIDS. And again, I am not a lawyer; I read the law, and it seems to me that it may put some restrictions on what we can do to help fight HIV/AIDS in this country. These are the issues we are looking at as we review the law,” Ambassador Entwistle said.
The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has provided more than $2.5 billion to fight HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.