U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged the federal government yesterday to boost Nigeria’s intelligence capabilities to better combat growing extremist violence.
Clinton, who was in Abuja on a nine-nation, 11-day Africa tour, is proposing that Nigeria create an “intelligence fusion cell” that would combine information from the military, spy services, police and other federal, state and local agencies.
The cell would also coordinate counter-terrorism activities and serve as a contact for foreign intelligence services, said US State Department officials.
The officials, who were speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US was ready to assist the cell with organisational expertise, training and equipment, including computers, and would offer the aid to President Goodluck Jonathan and his new National Security Adviser, Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), on whom the U.S. has high hopes for expanded intelligence cooperation.
The US has become increasingly concerned about the threat posed by militant groups in West Africa such as the Islamist Boko Haram in Nigeria and cells of al-Qaeda linked fighters in northern Mali.
It also worries that Boko Haram’s rise might destabilise the broader region, particularly in Mali, where Islamist militants are taking advantage of a post-coup power vacuum to sow unrest in the north.
Clinton arrived at the State House, Abuja, at exactly 3.54 pm. She first met behind closed doors with Jonathan and Dasuki for about 20 minutes before an expanded meeting involving ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Petroleum Resources, Justice, Power, Chief of Defence Staff, security chiefs and the Inspector General of Police.
After the meetings, President Goodluck Jonathan and Mrs Clinton jointly addressed a press conference where they both spoke on their two countries’ commitment to each other.
Jonathan especially commended President Barack Obama for his interest in Africa, and Nigeria in particular.
He said the United States of America under the leadership Obama “is quiet passionate about Africa and Nigeria,” adding that the US president “has always been very supportive of us for the past five years.”
Jonathan also commended Clinton for her support to Africa, saying that she has raised the relationship between Nigeria and America to a very high level within the period of her being the Secretary of State.
In her remarks, Clinton said the US would continue to support the country to address issues of corruption and insecurity.
She said the US is committed to the Obama partnership with Nigeria which it considered as “absolutely vital to our Bi- National Commission which, as you have mentioned, has helped us to expand and deepen our cooperation on full range of issues.”
Clinton added: “We were also very supportive of anti-corruption reform efforts, more transparency in the work that you and your team are also championing because we really believe that the future for Nigeria is limitless.
‘But the most important task that you face, as you have said, is making sure that there are better opportunities for all Nigerians.”
Oil-rich Nigeria is the fifth leading exporter of oil to the US.
Clinton’s brief stop in Nigeria comes as she winds down her tour of Africa that began in Senegal and has then taken her to Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. She will wrap up the Africa portion of her trip in Ghana, where she will attend the state funeral for the late President John Atta Mills, who died in late July, and Benin.
After Benin, Clinton will fly to Turkey for talks on the growing crisis in Syria.