ABUJA — Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, Wednesday assured British Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May, that he was committed to conducting a free, fair and credible election in 2019.
The assurance came as Nigerian and British governments signed agreements on defence, security and economic development to strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
This is even as the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting that normally takes place every Wednesday was shelved and there was no official explanation from government.
In a bilateral meeting with the visiting Prime Minister, which held behind closed-doors at the New Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari welcomed UK’s support at strengthening democratic institutions in the country.
I’m out for free, fair, credible polls—Buhari
The president in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, said: “I assure you that I’m all out for free, fair and credible elections. I’m very pleased that my party is doing very well.
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"The High Commissioner will brief you more. The recent successes in polls in Katsina, Bauchi, and Kogi states have boosted our morale greatly.
“Nigeria has accepted multi-party democracy and that is putting politicians on their toes, forcing them to work harder.”
President Buhari applauded the support by the British government to the country in the fight against corruption, noting that the success of the fight was very important to ordinary people in the country.
He said: “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 dollars per barrel.
“What we have been doing since 2015 is to focus on infrastructure development, despite low earnings. Work is ongoing in roads, rail, power, and many others.”
Buhari lauds Britain over support on fight against terrorism
While welcoming his guest, President Buhari appreciated the support Nigeria was receiving from the UK in the fight against terrorism.
“Madam Theresa, I welcome you most sincerely to Nigeria and I am very grateful to the British government under your leadership for the help you are giving us in the area of security. The training team that goes to our institutions in Kaduna and the operations in the North-East mainly, we thank you very much for that.
“I also thank you very much for the improvement in trade relationship between us since you assumed office.”
On Brexit, President Buhari noted that it provided an opportunity to strengthen the historic ties between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
He said: “We are nervously watching the development about Brexit because we know that the relationship had been on for a long time. I assure you that I am prepared to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.”
We do not want to hold anything that belongs to Nigerians—May
In her remarks, Prime Minister May, who welcomed the assurance by the Nigerian government on credible elections in 2019, said she was pleased to be in Abuja to continue the “excellent discussions” she started with President Buhari in London in April, this year, particularly on security, trade, asset recovery and the fight against corruption.
“Security and defence cooperation are very important steps to address Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa,” she said.
On asset recovery, the Prime Minister told President Buhari: “We do not want to hold anything that belongs to Nigeria people, but we follow the judicial process, which can be slow.”
The Prime Minister appealed to President Buhari to use his position as ECOWAS Chair to keep the issue of human trafficking on the front burner in the sub-region. She said the exit of the UK from the European Union had given the country the opportunity to seek more economic ties with Nigeria, pledging that the United Kingdom will assist Nigeria in the fight against terrorism as well as human trafficking.
Nigeria, Britain sign pact on security, economic devt
President Buhari and Prime Minister May witnessed the signing of two agreements on security and defence partnership as well as Economic Development Forum. Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said the two countries signed bilateral agreements that highlighted the two priority areas in their relationship.
The minister also noted with delight that Nigeria will benefit immensely from the UK’s BREXIT, as coming out from the European Union had given Britain the free hand to engage with other countries on bilateral levels in building up trade relations.
Credit: Vanguard Nigeria