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Acting President Goodluck and US President Obama Meet On Niger Delta, Oil Reform

Published on Tuesday 13th April 2010 Acting President Goodluck and US President Obama Meet On Niger Delta, Oil Reform

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday met with US President Barack Obama at the White House, Washington DC, to discuss issues relating to the Niger Delta, oil industry reform, electoral reform and Nigeria's role in global peace, among others.

THISDAY had, last week, exclusively reported the planned meeting between the two leaders ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit currently holding in the US, which Jonathan is attending on the invitation of the American president.

Jonathan also met with the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, yesterday a few hours before his meeting with Obama.

It is being speculated that Jonathan will offer an advisory role to the former. anti-graft Czar in an effort to boost the war against corruption in the country, but the details of yesterday's meeting were not made public.

The Acting President arrived the White House at 10.30pm (Nigerian time) for the historic meeting with Obama. Very rarely has an American president met with a non-substantive president of a country.

Details of the meeting were still sketchy at press time, but THISDAY learnt that the two leaders used the opportunity to discuss outstanding issues between the two countries most of which would have been discussed all along but for the ill-health of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.

The newspaper gathered that Jonathan used the opportunity to discuss the peace efforts in Nigeria's oil-producing region in the light of the amnesty programme put in place by President Yar'Adua which has led to a considerable reduction in militant activities and boosted oil production.

The US is Nigeria's biggest customer in the international crude oil market and much of its energy security is directly affected by militant activities in the Niger Delta.

Another issue of interest to the two countries, sources told THISDAY, is Nigeria's proposed reform which seeks to radically restructure the oil industry.

Multinational oil companies have expressed worries over the revised fiscal regimes which they claim are unfavourable to their operations.

THISDAY learnt that Jonathan thanked the US for standing by Nigeria "in these difficult times" and asked for continued support as the country seeks to reform its electoral system in the interest of electoral justice, democracy and good governance.

He also reinterated Federal Government's commitment to the anti-graft war and sought the co-operation and support of the American government in this regard.

The Acting President, THISDAY gathered, pledged Nigeria's support to the US in the move against nuclear proliferation but asked Obama to take note of Nigeria's "variegated" multi-ethnic and multi-religious make-up.

The US is currently seeking UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear development programme and Jonathan's statement is understood to mean Nigeria may abstain from voting when the matter comes up.

Jonathan had arrived the US yesterday via the Andrew Airforce Base in Washington DC at about 9:30am (2.30pm Nigerian time) to the waiting hands of members of Nigerian mission in the US, led by Ambassador Adebowale Adefuye.

The Acting President was accompanied on the trip by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Odein Ajumogobia, and Nigeria's former Ambassador to the US, Alhaji Hassan Adamu. The other ministers and governors who were billed to accompany him had arrived the US earlier.

Also on hand to receive the Acting President, who arrived 30 minutes later than the scheduled, were the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Robin Rene Sanders, and Deputy Head of Nigerian Mission in Washington DC, Ambassador Baba Gana Wakil.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries with members of the Nigerian mission and other dignitaries, Jonathan headed for Westin Grand Hotel on M Street, Washington DC, where he was received by Governors Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State and Aliyu Shinkafi of Zamfara State.

THISDAY reliably gathered that the governors stayed back at the hotel to receive the Acting President because of the restriction of dignitaries at the Airforce base as a result of tight security. Journalists were also denied access to the place.

At about 3:15pm (local time), Ribadu, wearing a white caftan, walked into the lobby of the hotel and, after exchanging greetings with some Nigerians at the lobby, went up for scheduled appointment with the Acting President.

Ribadu left the country in controversial circumstances two years ago following his removal as EFCC chairman by President Yar'Adua and a chain of events which saw Ribadu demoted and dismissed from the police force.

Federal Government recently withdrew criminal charges against Ribadu for allegedly failing to declare his assets while in office.

The charges were reportedly dropped because of lack of evidence to press the case to a logical conclusion.

Ribadu insists the charges were politically motivated, maintaining that he had declared his assets in accordance with the laws governing the code of conduct of public officers.

Critics of the decision to enter a no-case submission by the Federal Government are of the view that the government should have allowed the judiciary to deal with the charges and free Ribadu if indeed there was no evidence to prove the allegations against him.

Ribadu is expected to be named Special Adviser on Anti-Graft to the Acting President.

He was recently quoted as saying he was ready to work with Jonathan.

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