President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday assured British Prime Minister Theresa May of his commitment to credible elections in 2019. He made the pledge when May visited Abuja.In a meeting with the prime minister, Buhari welcomed U.K.'s support for strengthening democratic institutions in Nigeria. He said: "I assure you that I'm all out for free, fair and credible elections. Nigeria has accepted multiparty democracy and that is putting politicians on their toes, forcing them to work harder."
Applauding the support of the U.K. for his administration's anti-corruption campaign, Buhari noted: "We had great opportunities and resources between 1999 and 2014, due to high oil prices. But when we came in 2015, oil prices plunged to as low as $37 per barrel. What we have been doing since 2015 is focusing on infrastructure development, despite low earnings. Work is ongoing on roads, rail, power and many others."
On Brexit, Buhari, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said his government was "nervously watching developments," stressing that he was prepared to strengthen the relationship between both countries.He also thanked the U.K. government for its support on security and counter- insurgency operations in north east Nigeria and for improved trade relations.
Earlier, in remarks before the meeting, the Nigerian leader underscored the need for U.K.'s support for reviving Lake Chad, a means of livelihood for millions of people.The prime minister appreciated Buhari's assurance on credible polls, saying she was pleased to be in Abuja to continue the "excellent discussions" she started with him in London in April, particularly on security, trade, asset recovery and the fight against corruption.
"Security and defence cooperation are very important steps to addressing Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa," May said. On asset recovery, she told Buhari: "We do not want to hold anything that belongs to the Nigerian people, but we follow the judicial process, which can be slow."She appealed to the president to use his position as ECOWAS chairman to keep the issue of human trafficking on the front burner in the sub-region.
The leaders witnessed the signing of two agreements on security and defence partnership and economic development forum.Answering questions after the meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama explained: "This clearly highlights the two priority areas in our relationship at the moment. The defence and security pact is a comprehensive agreement that covers all aspects of security challenges.
"Apart from military training, there is also support for policing, civil policing, human rights aspect of security and close cooperation that the two countries will have."On the economic deal, the minister said: "This is a forum that really aims at co-prosperity. The prosperity of our two countries will leverage on areas where we have comparative advantages - the financial centre that London is and the investment opportunities in our country, being ready to build that up with the private sector as well as the government level."
He added: "Everything will be comprehensive and involve different stakeholders. This is in the context of U.K.'s Brexit. Coming out of the European union, they feel freer now to engage with countries on bilateral level and build up trade relations with those countries."
The prime minister also visited Lagos State and was received by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and other state officials. Ambode, who affirmed that Lagos remains a choice destination for investors from the United Kingdom, noted that the relationship between Britain and Nigeria dates back to the 19th Century.
"The important part of this visit to us, more or less, is to discuss how investment in Lagos can be improved upon by British investors and you would realise the fact that Lagos is the commercial capital of Nigeria and a whole lot of British investments are actually domiciled in Lagos," he said.
Speaking to journalists at the airport, May said: "I have had a fantastic visit to Nigeria and we have outstanding relationship between U.K. and Nigeria. But there is much more that we can do in the future. I enjoyed being able to come to Abuja and also to Lagos to see the thriving business community here. We want to see increased trade between Nigeria and U.K. and increased investment."
The prime minister expressed the desire of the British government to assist Lagos in the development of its creative industry and alluded to the fact that the jacket she wore was made in Nigeria.She also pledged to facilitate export credit finance worth £750 million (N354,467,010,250 billion) to boost the state's economy.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), meanwhile, stepped up its criticism of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, accusing it of reneging on its promise to restructure the country.According to the PDP, a comment by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo dismissing agitations for restructuring has further confirmed that the ruling party lied to Nigerians to win the 2015 elections.
The PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said APC made the issue of restructuring a cardinal agenda in its manifesto, alongside other bogus promises, which it failed to fulfill. It said the ruling party's dodgy approach to the issue has earned it the odious reputation of the most deceptive political organisation in the history of the nation.
"The APC, in line with its duplicitous script, went ahead to set up a deceptive committee on restructuring, which made several recommendations they never contemplated implementing. It was only to create an impression that their dysfunctional party and incompetent government are committed to their promises.Also, a former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, alleged that the poor quality of governance and widespread poverty across the country was responsible for the rising spate of insecurity in the country.His criticism was backed by a former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who while declaring his intention in Abuja to contest the 2019 presidential race, promised he would "vigorously pursue institutional reforms in security and paramilitary agencies and the justice system that would serve as a huge disincentive for crime and criminality."