Security will be key theme in the Nigeria-U.S. Binational Commission meeting starting tomorrow Monday 23 January, the Department of State announced Saturday in Washington DC.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, William Fitzgerald, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense, Joseph McMillan, both with considerable security and policy experience, will lead the American delegations in the two-day meeting. It is unclear yet what the cast of Nigerian delegation will look like but it is expected that Professor Adebowale Adefaiye, Nigeria’s ambassador to the United states, the leadership of the National security advisers office, the army, the permanent secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs, the Nigeria Security Agency will all be on board.
The Binational Commission was set up 20 months ago as the institutional framework for bilateral cooperation between the United States and Nigeria on issues regarding the entire African continent. Its mandate rests on four broad themes of good governance, energy access, food security, and regional security and extremism.
American concern with security situation in Nigeria has been on the rise lately especially in the wake of escalating terror campaign in the northern states. After last Christmas bombing, the White House released a terse but strong statement of condemnation offering to help track down the culprits if the Nigerian government make clear requests.
It is unclear if that request has been made although the national security adviser, General Owoeye Azazi wrote a very groveling opinion article fortnight ago in the marginal newspaper Washington Times, tarring Nigeria’s image, fawning the United States, and enthusiastically asking for assistance to contain the terror challenges in Nigeria.
Nigeria sells 44% of her oil to the United States making her the 5th leading oil exporter to the Americans who have contributed enormous military resources to support Nigeria’s military in the Niger Delta under its defense assistance programme. In addition, the united states have supported Nigeria military through special initiatives like the 1997 Clinton African Crisis Response Initiative later expanded under President Bush into the African Contingency Operations Training Assistance.
The Boko Haram challenge worries Americans because it escalates the insecurity originally isolated to the Niger Delta and 2008 war games at the Army War College at Carlisle in Pennsylvania, code named Unified Quest enacts a scenario of near collapse in Nigeria in 2013 where rival factions struggle over oil fields in the Niger Delta. The operation explored possible resolutions from diplomatic to renewed military rule, and with or without external forces.
In her response to the United Nations Building bombing last year, Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, said of Boko Haram that “we think that its attacks on ordinary citizens, on institutions of the Nigerian state…are absolutely unjustifiable. There is no set or principles or beliefs that can justify taking the lives of innocent people.”
International opinion today suggests that the Nigerian security have largely played a tailing response to the Boko Haram terrorism which appear to be determining the pace of the security response. It is unclear how far tomorrow’s meeting will go in finding answers in this regard. Mr. Fitzgerald who is co chairman of the Binational Commission oversees policy and operations at all U.S. missions in West Africa but has experience working in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Europe, Central Asia and Latin America. From 1993-95, Mr. Fitzgerald worked in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in Washington, where he worked on African security policy. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he had been a reporter and an editor before joining the Foreign Service.
Mr. McMillan oversees the formulation, coordination, and implementation of strategy and policy involving Africa, Europe and NATO, Middle East, and most of the former Soviet Union in the International Security Affairs (ISA) office of the Defense Department.
He served as country director for Pakistan, Jordan, India, and in 2001 moved to the National Defense University, where he focused on issues related to terrorism and radicalism, Middle Eastern and South Asian affairs, ungoverned areas, and management of international coalitions.
Mr. McMillan is a 1992 distinguished graduate of the National War College, a recipient of the Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal (twice) and the Defense Exceptional Civilian Service Medal.