By Elizabeth Archibong:
Ahead of his official visit to the United States tomorrow, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday met with Umaru Muttalab, the father of the 22-year-old Nigerian, Farouk Abdulmuttalab, who allegedly attempted to bomb an American aircraft on Christmas Day last year.
Dressed in white Babanriga, Mr Muttalab came to the Presidential Villa alone and met with the acting president behind closed doors for close to an hour, but he refused to speak to the press afterwards.
He is, however, believed to have discussed his earlier trip to the United States during which he met with American security officials who were after more clues about his son’s attempted terrorism on American soil, for which the young man is currently facing trial.
Washington immediately placed Nigeria on a 14-nation terror watch list after the attempt and ordered a thorough screening of Nigerians travelling to the States, a development that was bitterly criticized by the Nigerian government.
Earlier this week however, the US announced that it will implement new airline security measures to replace mandatory screening of air travellers from the 14 listed countries. The Nigerian ministry of foreign affairs which released a statement signed by the ministry’s spokesperson Ozo Nwobu, yesterday, welcomed the de-listing of Nigeria as a ‘country of interest’ in the U.S. anti-terrorism crusade, following the new guidelines.
A few days to Mr Jonathan’s visit to the White House, the US and Nigeria signed a U.S.-Nigeria Bi-National Commission (BNC) on Tuesday. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton signed the agreement on behalf of the US, while the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Yayale Ahmed signed for Nigeria.
Mrs Clinton described the document as “a new vehicle for cooperation,” which grew out of discussions that started during her visit to Nigeria last August. She said the agreement was signed at a very challenging moment in Nigeria’s political history, which “reflects the commitment of the US to this absolutely critical bilateral relationship.”
The US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, Johnnie Carson who recently visited Nigeria, recently described the relationship between the US and Nigeria as ‘special’. He was giving his testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which was examining the US-Nigeria relation last February.
“Our bilateral relationship with Nigeria remains strong and we can continue to press forward our mutual strategic goals,” he said. He identified free and fair elections, building capacity and commitment to fight corruption, promoting economic development, resolving internal conflict, enhancing Nigeria’s role as a regional leader in conflict mitigation, and developing other influential actors such as the state governments and faith communities as mutual goals for both nations.
Mr Jonathan goes to the US on the invitation of America’s President, Barack Obama to attend a maiden nuclear security summit, organised by the American government. The trip will avail the Nigerian leader an opportunity to personally present the federal government’s demands to the American president.
The Obama administration was the first government to congratulate Mr Jonathan after the National Assembly declared him the Acting President to avert an impending constitutional crisis as the ailing President stayed away in Saudi Arabia for treatment on a heart condition without appropriately delegating his power.
The Acting President is expected back home by Thursday next week.
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