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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>U.S.Senate Hearing: 'A Closer Look At Nigeria: Security, Governance, and Trade'
Monday, 02 April 2012 04:25

U.S.Senate Hearing: 'A Closer Look At Nigeria: Security, Governance, and Trade'

Senator Coons Senator Coons us senate

Nigeria: Opening Statement At U.S. House Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing - 'A Closer Look At Nigeria: Security, Governance, and Trade'

Washington, DC — Opening statement of U.S. Senator Chris Coons, as prepared for delivery on March 29, 2012:


I am pleased to chair this hearing of the African Affairs Subcommittee, which will focus on Nigeria and issues of security, governance, and trade. I would like to welcome our distinguished witnesses - Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Sharon Cromer, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa at USAID; and Paul Marin, Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency - and thank them for joining us today. Our witnesses have extensive experience and expertise in a range of issues relevant to Nigeria, and I look forward to their testimony.


I am especially pleased to be joined by my good friend and Ranking Member, Senator Isakson, with whom I traveled to Nigeria last June. Our trip came on the heels of last year's elections and President Goodluck Jonathan's inauguration. It was a time defined by uncertainty about Nigeria's future and cautious optimism about President Jonathan's leadership. The elections - while far from perfect - marked a dramatic improvement from the violence and lack of transparency that marred past elections. At the same time, there was post-election violence that killed hundreds and demonstrated lingering communal tensions that continues to this day. During our visit, we were particularly impressed with the Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, for his leadership and commitment to electoral reform, which allowed Nigeria to hold the most transparent elections in its history.

Concentration of wealth in Nigeria

One year later, Nigeria today faces serious challenges, including an increasingly sophisticated and deadly wave of extremism, pervasive corruption, and growing levels of income inequality and poverty. With more than 155 million people, Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and its second-largest economy after South Africa. As Africa's largest producer of oil and one of the top five suppliers of oil to the United States, Nigeria plays an important role in the global economy. The maps that I will refer to illustrate the underdevelopment of the North and the growing need for President Jonathan to bridge persistent geographic, sectarian, and economic divides between North and South.


The wealth in Nigeria is largely concentrated in the South, as demonstrated by the first map, which also indicates the southern concentration of oil resources. Nigeria's economy continues to rely disproportionately on oil, which accounts for 80 percent of government revenues and 95 percent of export earnings. Poverty levels are rising, with more than 60 percent of the population living on less than a dollar a day, and indicators such as income distribution, health, and literacy indicate a sharp North-South divide.

Literacy among females in Nigeria

The second map demonstrates the clear distinction between northern states, where less than 10% of children are typically vaccinated and southern states, where the percentage is significantly higher, often 30% or more. And this map demonstrates a clear distinction between North and South when it comes to female literacy rates, which is less than 20% in a majority of northern states and more than 50% in a majority of southern states.


Nigeria also faces nationwide problems including corruption, instability, and economic mismanagement which have hampered economic opportunity. With its growing population and significant resources, Nigeria holds enormous economic potential and I believe the U.S. can play a critical role in helping to diversify the Nigerian economy beyond oil and gas, expand its power system infrastructure, address widespread transparency problems, and strengthen rule of law.

Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria

In this regard, I was pleased that the State Department recently led a trade mission to Abuja and Lagos focused on expanding U.S. investment in Nigeria's energy sector. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about prospects for deepening U.S. economic engagement in Nigeria and partnering with the public and private sectors to address problems with the electric grid, which remains one of the biggest obstacles to Nigeria's economic expansion.


Nigeria's growing population represents an important market for U.S. goods, but rising security concerns have hampered investment. In the past two years, Boko Haram, a violent northern-based Islamic extremist group, has launched increasingly sophisticated attacks on civilians, government and police installations, and the United Nations headquarters building in Abuja. In fact, only six months after Senator Isakson and I met with the Archbishop and Imam of Abuja, Boko Haram launched attacks on Catholic churches in and around Abuja, killing dozens of people after the celebration of Christmas mass.


This last graph demonstrates the sharp rise in the number of attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram in the past year. As you can see, between 2003 and 2009, the number of attacks was minimal, averaging one or two annually. In 2010, however, the number of attacks rose to 30. Alarmingly, the number increased more than five-fold in the past year, with more than 150 attacks in 2011 alone, and this does not include the multiple coordinated bombings that led to hundreds of deaths in Kano in January of this year.

Vaccinated one year-olds in Nigeria

The Nigerian security services and police have faced significant challenges addressing the growing threat posed by Boko Haram, elements of which may be affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other transnational terrorist organizations. The bulk of its followers, however, appear to be focused on domestic issues, primarily the lack of jobs and growing economic inequities that have disproportionately impacted northern states.


The essential component to addressing economic and security challenges is governance, and we have seen clear examples of the importance of democracy and good governance in West Africa just in the past week with developments in Mali and Senegal. It is clear that Nigeria plays a critical role in the region, and there is more that could be done by President Jonathan to encourage meaningful reform to root out endemic corruption and strengthen transparency.


We are pleased to have with us three Administration witnesses who will consider these issues and assess the difficult questions surrounding governance, economics, and security in Nigeria and how they are interrelated. We look forward to hearing from each of you, but first, let me turn to Senator Isakson for his opening remarks.


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