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Uzra Zeya: Nigeria Matters, Africa Shaped America’s Past, It’s Shaping Our Present and Future

The US Undersecretary of State said the recent interest in Africa by American officials is not a coincidence.

The United States Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya, has said that the United States is very consistent in pursuing relationships and building partnerships with Africa because Africa is the continent that will shape the future of the world.

After Nigeria hosted the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on his diplomatic visit to Nigeria as well as other African countries, Undersecretary Zeya, also undertook her own diplomatic visit to Nigeria and Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.

In an exclusive interview with ARISE NEWS Anchor, Ayo Mairo-Ese, Zeya said that the recent trend of visits to Africa from the United States was not a coincidence, but a purposeful pursuit of partnerships in a bid to build the world.

The Undersecretary speaking on the reason for the diplomatic visits, said, “It’s because Nigeria matters. You are Africa’s largest democracy, largest economy, and President Biden has asked all of us, all of the senior officials in the US government, to building partnerships, genuine partnerships, with African countries, with African societies, with African entrepreneurs, and the progress of these partnerships in Nigeria, they matter. 

“Not only for about 200 million Nigerians, but they matter for Africa, they matter for the world. Because in the end, Africa has shaped America’s past, it’s shaping our present, and it will shape the world’s future.”

 Zeya, who has strengthening and building democracy as part of her portfolio as undersecretary, addressed the recent trends of coups that have gone through West Africa, which recently ended up with Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso- countries that are currently run by the military- leaving the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Speaking about the US’ way of supporting democracy in Africa, she said, “In our view, democracy is a work in progress, democracy is not a destination, it is a journey, and it is something that cannot be taken for granted and be complacent about. We have to continually work to strengthen our own democracy, to defend democracy and to protect it. And in this context, I want to say with respect to the developments in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mai, we absolutely support the efforts of ECOWAS, and we support and appreciate Nigeria’s leadership as ECOWAS president.

“We want to see a restoration of elected democratic governments in these countries. In the case of Niger, we want to see the immediate release of President Bazoum, and we also see the centrality and the crucial aspect of ECOWAS’ role, not just in these contexts, but in terms of the overall objective of a more peaceful, a more prosperous, and ultimately, a more successful region.”

Zeya then addressed the insecurity in Nigeria, which had in turn led to a violation of human rights, saying that the US has provided support to Nigeria to battle insecurity. She revealed that since 2017, the US has provided over 650 million dollars in security assistance to Nigeria.

The Undersecretary then said that one of partnerships that she has built for security, the Complaint Response Unit- which is an aspect of the Nigerian Police Force and has been active in Lagos State, will not be spread to four other states in Nigeria asides for citizens to be able to easily report crimes that will be promptly attended to, so that there can be trust built between the security agencies and the people, which will in turn lead to safer societies that will give room for more progress.

She stated, “That I think is one of the strongest guarantees that we can have, that societies will progress, and rights will be upheld.”

Zeya also said that the US is working closely with Nigeria to kill corruption in the governance of the country as she said, “The partnerships that we’ve seen between our two countries has really produced results. Just the cooperation between the US Department of Justice and your government has helped return more than $350 million in stolen assets that were held, hidden overseas by former government and corrupt officials, and returned them to the people. So, that’s a very concrete way that we are delivering on anti-corruption.”

She went on to say, “We want to continue to work closely with Nigeria and other partners because we have to do more to strengthen our own systems, our own protections to ensure that kleptocrats are stopped in their tracks and held accountable.”

 Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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