12 June 2012

Nigeria: Energy Dominates U.S., Nigeria Bi-National Commission

Nigeria's oil, gas and power sectors were a major focus of the recent two-day engagement of Nigeria and United States' Binational Commission (BNC) as local and federal authorities from both countries discussed the ongoing power reform and the importance of the country in the global oil market.

Speaking at the closing session, the Deputy Secretary of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Mr. William J. Burns, said the Energy and Investment Working Group sought to expand on Nigeria's progress to date in reforming its power sector.

According to him, the forum held constructive conversations on how Nigeria could attract international private investment, including ways to boost output and address energy deficits.

"We are committed to continuing to support Nigeria's efforts to create a more effective regulatory environment. And given Nigeria's important place in the global oil market, we discussed ways to ensure that the natural riches of Nigeria improve the lives of the people for many years to come," he said.

Burns said the delegations took the opportunity to review progress made in each of the working groups since the establishment of the Bi-national Commission in 2010 and to address a range of shared concerns.

"In particular: The Governance, Transparency and Integrity Working Group looked toward the 2015 national elections - which mark another milestone in building on the most credible elections in Nigeria's history last April. Together we identified electoral reforms and opportunities to improve the electoral process. We discussed the importance of interagency coordination and strategies to build capacity and public confidence in Nigeria's anti-corruption efforts," he said.

He said the Agriculture and Food Security Working Group discussed Nigeria's important role in regional food security, and examined areas for growth in Nigeria's private agriculture sector.

According to him, the commission will continue its support for reforms aimed at strengthening Nigeria's role in regional food security, adding that the commission is looking to bolster agricultural lending in Nigeria.

"As I said, we want to help Nigeria become not just food secure but a breadbasket for the surrounding region," he added.

On security, Burns said the Regional Security Working Group discussed strategies to help educate the Nigerian public about the government's efforts to secure its citizens and prevent the spread of violent extremism.

Burns said the two-day robust engagement demonstrated the importance and depth of the partnership between the United States and Nigeria.

He noted that there would be enormous promise for Nigeria and for the relationship in the years to come.

Burns however stated that relationships like these would not grow themselves but would demand commitment, patience and sustained effort, adding that managing such big and important relationships would be a herculean task.

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