Africa Regional Media Hub Alert
Telephonic Conference Call with Ambassador Terence P. McCulley on U.S. Policy in Nigeria
On Wednesday, April 4th, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley briefed journalists across the continent on U.S. policy to Nigeria. Ambassador McCulley discussed the strategic partnership between the United States and Nigeria; the ongoing U.S. commitment to democracy, stabilization, trade and economic development both in Nigeria and the region; and answered questions from journalists.
MODERATOR (ABUJA): Thank you Carrie, and thank you everyone for joining us today. It is a great pleasure to introduce to you Ambassador Terence P. McCulley who has a wealth of experience in the African continent. He has been the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria for the past year plus, year and a half, close to, and we are thrilled that he is here with us today to talk about the US-Nigeria relationship. Ambassador, thank you.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Thank you very much Deb. Thanks to everyone for joining in on this event. Thanks to our public affairs sections who have welcomed journalists into their facilities, and Carrie, thanks very much to the Media Hub for setting this up. I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to talk about U.S. engagement in Nigeria.
The United States considers Nigeria to be one of its two most important strategic partners on the African continent, and I would say that, parochially, I consider Nigeria to be its far most important partner on the African continent. We have a very complex and active bilateral agenda with the government and people of Nigeria. I wanted to talk a bit about U.S. engagement in Nigeria and then would be very pleased to answer any and all questions that you might have about this important relationship.
As I said, our bilateral agenda is very broad. The most important vehicle for that agenda is the Binational Commission which we established with the Government of Nigeria in 2010. That Binational Commission has five very important working groups, including one on transparency, good governance, and integrity; another on energy; another on agriculture and food security; another one on regional security; and a final one on the Niger Delta. And that pretty much covers the complexity and the richness of this relationship.
We have a very strong development program in partnership with the government and people of Nigeria. We execute that through a variety of U.S. Government agencies including the United States Agency for International Development, CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], and the Walter Reed Program through the Department of Defense. The largest component of that development assistance is our PEPFAR [President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] program helping with $500 million annually to those living with HIV and AIDS here in Nigeria, a number of about three million people. We also have programs dealing with education, with economic growth, intervening and providing technical assistance in the agriculture sector. And we have a very strong democracy and governance program which worked, I think, very effectively with Nigerian institutions like INEC, the Independent National Electoral Commission, as well as with Nigerian civil society last year in helping to support what I think most international observers, and certainly most Nigerians, termed to be the most successful elections in Nigeria's history.
Most recently we have had a meeting of the Binational Commission Working Group on Regional Security and, of course, a big topic of conversation at this was the situation in the North. We have followed with interest and concern the extremist insurgency in the North. Our hearts go out to all those who have lost their lives or have been injured by these horrible attacks. We have witnessed an attack in January in Kano which killed as many as 250 people.
In our discussions with the Nigerian Government, we focused on the importance of a security component in addressing this insurgency, but really focusing as well on the need for a whole of government, a really an holistic approach, which targets extremists in a way that doesn’t cause collateral damage, which doesn’t injure innocent civilians. At the same time, encouraging and trying to support Nigeria to better coordinate across the security services. Certainly that is a lesson we learned after 9/11, the importance of coordination.
And then as a third, and really important pillar of that, is the importance of addressing the underlying grievances in the North – addressing the problems of underdevelopment in education, in sanitation and clean water, in infrastructure, in power. Recognizing that the extremist ideology that is promulgated by groups like Boko Haram is really alien to the way that most Nigerians practice the sacred religion of Islam. But that government, by failing to deliver services over the years, has really ruptured the social contract in making people in the North perhaps feel that government isn’t relevant in their lives. And so that has been very much part of the conversation.
For the past three years we have also looked at how we can expand our outreach in the North. Since 2009, we have been exploring ways to open a consulate in Kano. Many of you may know, certainly our Nigerian audience, may know that prior to the opening of the embassy here in Abuja, for many years we had a consulate in Kaduna. We closed that consulate when we opened the embassy here in Abuja, and we felt since then that we don’t have enough of a presence in the North.
We need to open a consulate in Kano so that we can continue our public outreach. So we can organize programs to explain American policy to populations in the North. So that we can organize speaker programs and enrich our very active exchange program. So, we need the consulate so that we can explain to Nigerians who live in Kano and surrounding regions what the U.S. Government is thinking about, but equally importantly, to be able to engage with Nigerians in the North, to explain to the embassy here in Abuja, and to a larger Washington audience, what's on the minds of northern Nigerians. So, while the United States has been challenged by the world economic crisis, we continue to try to identify resources and hope in the next few years to establish a permanent presence in Kano.
In the meantime, by the summer of 2013, we hope to have two officers assigned here in the embassy in Abuja, a public diplomacy officer and a political officer, who will have for their portfolio expanding our outreach to the North. It is a very important part of Nigeria, the most important country in sub-Saharan Africa. I am going to stop there and look forward to answering any questions you may have.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you very much Ambassador. First, let me invite our callers to join the question queue. If you have a question, please press star and then one on your touchtone phone to join the queue. Our first question will come to us from Freedom Radio in Kano, Nigeria. Your line is open.
QUESTION: My name is Faruk Dalhatu from Freedom Radio, Kano, Nigeria. I would like to know what the American Government is doing to help Nigeria with its current security challenges.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Thank you and good afternoon to Freedom Radio. I remember with fondness my visit to your station during my last visit to Kano. And thanks for the question. We are working on a variety of areas. Let me start with the development piece because, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, we think that addressing the development challenges that people in the north of Nigeria face is an important part of this. And so, as part of our USAID program, we have identified Bauchi and Sokoto states as areas of focus where, from education to public health, we are going to devote a lot of resources to try to build local capacity so that the state and local authorities can deliver better education to children in these states to improve their quality of life and give them hope for the future.
At the same time, we are working to try to build the capacity, and this is at the request of the Nigerian Government certainly, to build the capacity of the Nigerian Security Services to address the challenges that these extremist attacks have presented. And so, for instance, we have a variety of programs to help the police counter IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices], recognize IEDs, develop the forensic capacity to investigate post-blasts to help them identify and deter potential suicide bombers. We are working also with the Nigerian Government to help them develop a counterterrorism strategy which could include perhaps a center even that helps them better coordinate information and intelligence that they receive. This is a longstanding program. We have had it for a number of years. We have ramped it up, doubling it to about $3 million this year with ongoing training activities and events.
We have also, for years, had a very strong relationship with the Nigerian Navy, particularly the Special Boat Service, to develop and built the capacity of that entity, not only to deal with maritime security issues in the Gulf of Guinea, but individuals who have gone through that training are deployed as part of a joint task force to help counter the threat presented by elements of Boko Haram. So we have an active program of security cooperation, principally training, and we have an active development assistance program that seeks to address the issue of underlying grievances that I mentioned earlier.
MODERATOR (ABUJA): Thank you, Sir. I’ll now turn it over to have a few questions from Abuja. I would like to remind those that are in the room to please state your name and affiliation first before you ask the question, and to try to avoid asking similar questions please, for the interest of time. First question.
QUESTION: Yes, my name is Zakari Ya’u Nadabo. I am from Radio Nigeria. Mr. Ambassador, sir, I would like to know whether your presence in Kano also includes military presence for security.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Zakari, thank you for that question. I can state unequivocally that the plans to open the consulate in Kano include no such security presence. We will obviously have our usual physical security package that goes along with any U.S. diplomatic institution. We will have our own regional security officer who will be deployed to assure the security of the Americans and the Nigerians who work in that consulate, but the idea of deploying US security forces into northern Nigeria is completely off the table and is not under consideration at all.
QUESTION: My name is Bilkisu Babangida. Poverty is one of the main problems in the northern part of Nigeria. I don’t know what effort are you making to complement the Nigerian Government efforts to eradicate poverty as one of the major causes of instability and other problems in the North.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Thank you very much, and I agree with you that poverty is one of, one could say, is the drivers of extremism, and we believe that the government's agenda, its Transformation Agenda, offers a very ambitious program to address poverty and underdevelopment. Specifically, we think that there are incredible opportunities, if one looks at diversifying the economy, particularly the agricultural sector. And to that end, our MARKETS program managed by USAID has worked in Kano specifically, on a project to support a rice mill. We recognize that rice is an important consumer good for Nigerians, and Nigeria imports a lot of rice adding to the budget burden. Nigeria can produce more domestic rice for domestic consumption. That is going to help alleviate poverty.
Additionally, I have seen interest by American agri-business in investing in Nigeria. In Taraba state for instance, Dominion Farms, run by an American from Oklahoma, is going to put 36,000 hectares into production, creating jobs for more than 1,000 Nigerians and producing rice for the domestic market. I think these are the sort of opportunities both participants from the private sector, which ultimately is going to be the engine of economic growth, but also from the government side. We are supporting capacity building in the agri-sector to improve farmers' production, help then get their produce to market and create more jobs.
QUESTION: My name is Temitope Ponle of News Agency of Nigeria. I just want to find out, this [sentence/audio indistinct], maybe government hasn’t focused enough on development. What is your take on that?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Thanks for your question, Temitope. I think it is an important part of the discussion that we've had with the Government of Nigeria. I believe that, certainly in the last three months, we are seeing very positive signs that government writ large, from the highest levels, understands that a whole of government approach needs to be taken, that development is critical to an ultimate resolution of the extremism which northern Nigeria has seen. And, certainly, as government begins to communicate that to people living in the North and elsewhere in Nigeria and identifies programs where the United States can add value, we are certainly prepared to assist through our various development agencies.
QUESTION: (Follow-up question from Temitope Ponle/NAN) Sir, I want to ask does the U.S. think that the full burden of development should be on the government? Don’t you think the people have a role to play to assist or help with the efforts of government?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Absolutely. As I said, ultimately it is going to be the private sector. As you are looking at development in the north, as Nigeria looks to diversify its economy, government can create an enabling environment and government certainly has an important role to play in the provision of basic services like health and education and construction of infrastructure. But, ultimately, the private sector is going to be the engine of the growth, the kind of growth that northern Nigeria needs, indeed the entire country needs, creating investments as I have just mentioned, like in Taraba State in the agri-sector, in manufacturing. And stakeholders – civil society, farmers, business people – all need to be involved in that discussion.
MODERATOR (ABUJA): At this point, I will turn it back over to you Carrie, but for those in the room in Abuja there will be opportunities to ask additional questions further on for those who did not have a chance at this point yet, in addition to Lagos. Carrie.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Great, thank you. And just a reminder to all of our callers to press star and then one to join the question queue. The next question comes from Debo Oshundun, with News Agency of Nigeria in Johannesburg.
QUESTION: Ambassador, I want to ask you about the feelings of American Government on the situation in Mali. As we know that what is happening in Mali poses security challenges to the sub-region. The ECOWAS leaders have taken a decision to impose sanctions in Mali. What is the feeling of the American Government about this? Because if things are not done urgently about the situation in Mali, it has a possibility of what is happening there to have a spillover event on other West African countries.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Thanks for the question, Debo. I will remind you that I am the U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, not to Mali, and so for a more extensive discussion of that, I would defer to my colleague, Mary Beth Leonard in Bamako, and to Washington. I can state that the United States has categorically condemned the illegal actions of the Malian officers who performed a coup d’etat against the constitutionally elected government of Amadou Toumane Touré.
We have called for the immediate return to constitutional order in Mali, and we have strongly supported the position taken by ECOWAS which has condemned the coup, which has called for the immediate restoration of rule of law and constitutionally constituted government, which has threatened the imposition of sanctions if the junta does not respond to the ECOWAS demands.
We have very much been supportive of the very strong position bilaterally the Government of Nigeria has taken. The Government of Nigeria came out within a day of the coup with a very strong and very helpful statement along exactly the same lines. I think the international community is united in condemning these illegal actions which overturned nearly 20 years of Mali's successful democratic development. I agree with you that the coup presents consequences for the stability of the sub-region.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you. The next question is from Jon Gambrell with the Associated Press in Lagos. Operator, could you please open the line for Jon Gambrell with the Associated Press?
QUESTION: Okay, thank you very much. Ambassador, it is a pleasure to talk to you this afternoon. I wanted to ask you about the World Bank. As you know the Nigerian Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala has been put forward as a possible candidate, but the U.S. President Barack Obama has put forward its own candidate. People in Nigeria looked at the Okonjo-Iweala nomination as a sign of Nigeria moving forward and some are kind of upset by the fact that President Obama has picked somebody else from the U.S. to lead the World Bank. The World Bank is obviously being led by a representative from the U.S. since, I believe, the end of World War II. Why not let Okonjo-Iweala go forward and be the nominee and be the next leader of the World Bank? Isn't that something that would, sort of, be a sign that the developing world is ready to take over these challenges in an institution that has direct affects on it? And how do you address the anger that, or the resentment that some Nigerians feel that President Obama has picked another candidate from the U.S.?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Jon, thanks for your question. It is better directed to the White House or the Department of State. I can say that I don’t sense a great deal of resentment in my discussions with Nigerians. We obviously have the greatest respect for Minister Okonjo-Iweala. She is a supremely talented individual. I believe that President Obama's nomination of Dr. Kim, someone with impeccable development credentials in his own right, was a strong commitment by the United States, and we believe that we have an outstanding candidate.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you. We will take one more question from our callers at the moment. Please press star one if you would like to join the queue and then we will move to the journalists who are gathered in the room in the consulate in Lagos. The next question is from Voice of America, Anne Look. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hello, hi Ambassador, how are you?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Good, Anne, how are you doing?
QUESTION: Good thanks. I am just wondering what is the United States' evaluation of reported links between Boko Haram and AQIM? And I know you don’t want to speak directly about the situation in Mali, but are there any concerns of possible ripple effects from northern Mali from the recent advances and recent successes by the AQIM-linked group Ansar Dine in northern Mali?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: As I said a few minutes ago, I think that we are worried about the destabilizing effects of the events in northern Mali on the sub-regions and since the fall of Colonel Qaddafi, we have seen a proliferation of arms in the region, which obviously also causes us some concern.
With regard to any links between elements of Boko Haram and AQIM, I think it is important to note what we call Boko Haram is really mini-groups, some of which are more extreme and violent than others. Ever since I was ambassador to Mali 2005-2008 we have seen open source reports of so-called Nigerian Taliban or Boko Haram travelling into northern Mali for training with AQIM. If that continues, it is obviously something that we monitor with great concern. I believe that Boko Haram indicated with its attack on UN House here Abuja of August 26 of last year that it sees an advantage in targeting the international community, or the West, to advance its domestic agenda, and we continue to monitor with great concern any links between extremist groups beyond Nigeria's borders and elements of Boko Haram. It is something we need to monitor. We don’t see significant evidence of operational links at this time, but it is obviously something that we are watching with concern.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you. Next, we will move to the journalists who are gathered in the U.S. consulate in Lagos. So I will turn it over to you to moderate three questions there. Lagos?
QUESTION: Hi Ambassador, this is Mike Smith from AFP news agency. I just want to ask, amid the efforts right now to reduce Iranian oil exports linked to their nuclear program, the U.S. is going to be looking for countries that will supply gas, and I suppose this would mainly come from Saudi Arabia. Have you discussed with Nigeria the potential of doing that? My sense is that, no, they can't boost production at this time, but is that something that you could possibly be looking to Nigeria to help out with?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Certainly it is a concern. As I have mentioned, we have an energy working group that is part of the Binational Commission. It is headed by our new Assistant Secretary designate for the new energy bureau. That is much on his mind and is part of the discussions that we have had with the Government of Nigeria. I think that you are right, that it might be difficult at this time to boost production, but we certainly hope that Nigeria can maintain its current production and perhaps even increase it a bit.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you. Lagos, do you have more questions in your room?
QUESTION: Yes we do.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you.
QUESTION: My name is Amarachi Ubani. I am calling from Channels Television. I just wanted to ask, recently the Friends of Syria said they will be supporting the rebels to fight against President Bashar al Assad. I wanted to ask what sort of precedent it sets for other rebel groups maybe in Africa or in other parts of the Middle East.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Amarachi, that is a bit beyond my brief. I would like to be able to answer that, but I would prefer that, to direct that question to the spokesman at the Department of State. I am the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, and I don’t really want to comment on Syria.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Any more questions in Lagos?
QUESTION: My name is Paul, I write for This Day newspaper. My questions are why is it that it has taken the United States so long to classify Boko Haram as a terrorist organization? And then, are you not concerned that your consulate, the new consulate in the North might be affected by this group. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Thanks Paul. Well, obviously we are not going to establish a presence in the North if it puts Americans and our Nigerian colleagues who work for the consulate at risk. And the facility that we build, I hope, will be very secure. For those of you who have visited the Embassy in Abuja and the Consulate General in Lagos know that we have very robust security procedures in place. Those procedures in Kano, when we open, will be equally robust. With regard to the designation of Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization, that discussion continues within the U.S. government. No decision has been made. It does have certain consequences with regard to financing of extremist groups. It is a discussion that is ongoing and when we arrive at a decision, we will certainly let people know.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you. At this time, we will turn it back over to the embassy in Abuja for some questions, but first I want to remind callers to press star one to join the question queue. So Deb, I will hand it back over to you.
MODERATOR (ABUJA): Great, thanks Carrie. Next question?
QUESTION: My name is Ramoke Ahmad. I write for Daily Trust. What is your assessment of the government of Nigeria's security services? And when do expect to open a consulate in Kano?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Let me take the second part of that question first because we are, as I said, have been discussing the need for a consulate in Kano since 2009. Unfortunately, that discussion corresponded with the world wide economic crisis from which the United States has not been exempt. Opening a new diplomatic presence anywhere is an expensive proposition in both human terms and in terms of finding resources to construct or modify bricks and mortar. I think, realistically, it is going to be at least two to three years before we are able to establish a permanent presence in Kano, but as I mentioned at the outset, I hope by the summer of 2013, we will have two officers here at the embassy in Abuja, who will have as part of their brief public outreach and reporting, and interaction with populations in Kano and beyond in the north.
With regard to the capacity of Nigerian Security Services, obviously the challenge that Boko Haram has presented would strain the capacity of any security service to address, and I would note that 230 members of the Nigerian Security Services lost their lives in attacks by Boko Haram, in addition to the 500 plus civilians who lost their lives in 2011 due to attacks from Boko Haram. We are committed to a partnership with the Nigerians and, as I mentioned, we have a variety of programs with the Nigerian police to build their capacity. I would note that there has been some success in recent weeks, although tragically the lives of the Italian and British hostages were lost, there was significant success in capturing and detaining members of a very extreme faction of Boko Haram. And so, I think there will continue to be challenges, and Nigeria can count on partners like the United States to help build capacity to address those challenges.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Deb, this is Carrie. I think we have time for a few more questions there, and if I could just ask your journalists to speak a little bit louder. We are unable to hear the questions. Thank you.
QUESTION: My name is Augustine Ehikioya of the Nation Newspaper. I just want to know why is it so hard for Nigerians to get a visa?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Thank you Augustine for that very unexpected question. Look, visas are an important matter for any country. I would say that the demand for U.S. visas here in Nigeria has increased substantially in the last 24 months. We value the interest of Nigerians going on holiday, going on business, going to universities in the United States. We value that diversity. We recognize that not all applicants are going to be qualified, but I would tell you that more than 50% of the applicants who apply for visas to the United States do receive them. We understand that not all applicants can be found qualified.
Our consular officers, I think, do a fabulous job. They are required to follow U.S. law and regulation, and unfortunately that means that some applicants who would like to go to the United States, for whatever reason, are not able to receive their visas. But what I tell our consular officers in Abuja and in Lagos is that they are the windows on America, and that the interaction that Nigerians have with a consular officer, at the Embassy or at the Consulate General, may be the only encounter they have with a U.S. diplomat, and that we want all applicants to be treated with respect and to feel that even if the decision went against them, that they have been treated as individuals, and they have been allowed to make their case. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to qualify, but I would say that thousands and thousands of Nigerians go to the United States each year and around 7,000 students study in the United States. More Nigerians are studying in the United States than from any other country in sub-Saharan Africa.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, my name is Zakari Ya’u Nadabo with Radio Nigeria. Do you have anything to say to the people of northern Nigeria?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: I would say, Zakari, that we express, as a people and as a government, our deepest condolences to those who have been victims of these horrible acts, people who have lost property, who have lost family members, who have lost friends. And that as a people and as a government, we are committed to doing what we can to build the capacity of the Nigerian Government and to encourage the Nigerian Government to take actions which are needed to address the insurgency and to create the kind of employment opportunities and economic diversification which is going to solve, in the long term, the problems of people living in northern Nigeria and elsewhere in this great country.
MODERATOR (ABUJA): We will take one more question here in the room and then turn it back over to Freedom Radio in particular, in Kano, and also Lagos. Or not. We will turn it over to Freedom Radio and to Lagos.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Okay, so we will, let's take a question from our consulate in Lagos. Lagos your line is open.
QUESTION: My name is Kehinde Adeaga. I report for Radio Continental, 102.3 fm in Lagos. The question I want to ask is [the Ambassador] talked about partnering with Nigeria in the areas of energy, the Niger Delta, education, and agriculture. What I would like to know, in terms of investment in these areas, what are we looking at in terms of the figures, and when is the American government likely going to come in for the partnership to the [word indistinct].
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Thanks for that question, Kehinde. Let's start with energy. I know the central government has a very ambitious agenda in the power sector. When the CEO of the U.S. Export / Import Bank, a U.S. government entity, came to Nigeria last November, he signed a memorandum of understanding with Honorable Minister Nnaji, pledging $1.5 billion for projects in the power sector. I think that is a considerable investment.
Additionally, in the month of February, we had a very strong trade delegation led by our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bill Fitzgerald, who came to Abuja, went to Lagos for discussions with government and private sector in Lagos about opportunities for private sector investment in Nigeria. That was companies like Symbion Power, like AES, like General Electric. So, I think there is considerable interest from the private sector in investing in the energy sector in Nigeria. And there is certainly a commitment by the United States government through U.S. Ex-Im to support projects in the energy sector.
With regard to agriculture, we believe, the government has a very ambitious agenda. It is 43% of your GDP, and yet it is principally subsistence farming. So it is an area which offers enormous opportunity for not only job creation but for providing food and addressing food security gaps in this country. There again, I think there is considerable interest and activity in the U.S. private sector. I mentioned the project in Taraga State. There is another American company looking at a rice project in Sokoto. Through USAID, we support aquaculture projects in Uguru State. We are present throughout the Delta with similar kinds of activities. So, I think that, both in terms of government and private sector, there is significant interest in investing and engaging in partnerships with Nigerian government, state, local, federal, but also more importantly perhaps, the Nigerian private sector.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you. We will turn it over to Freedom Radio in Kano if you have another question.
QUESTION: Yes I do. Mr. Ambassador, I would like to know how will you assess Nigeria's democracy so far in terms of transparency and good governance.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Sorry, how will I assess the Nigerian Government's commitment to transparency and good governance?
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Thanks for the question. I think there have been enormous steps forward in the past year. I mentioned at the outset of this broadcast the successful elections which Nigeria held. The nomination of Professor Attahiru Jega – who taught for many years at the University in Kano, a respected member of civil society, as the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – was a strong signal of President Jonathan's personal commitment to the conduct of free and fair elections. I think Professor Jega and the Nigerian people deserve to be congratulated for that successful outcome, which I think contributed significantly to advancing the good governance and transparency agenda.
I believe that President Jonathan's nomination of chairman Lamorde to head the Economic Financial Crimes Commission was another positive signal of government's commitment to root out corruption which sapped people's confidence in their institution and prevents the establishing of an enabling environment for investment by the private sector. Clearly there is a lot more that needs to be done. We need to see prosecutions. We need to see follow through. But I believe that certainly in the last 12 months we have seen significant progress. I know the Nigerian people want to see more, and Nigeria's partners want to see more.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you. We have one more question from Johannesburg, and then I will turn it back over to you in Abuja for final questions. We have Debo Ushundun, with News Agency of Nigeria.
QUESTION: Ambassador, I must congratulate you for a little bit of improvement on the visa issue in Nigeria, but my worry is that a lot still needs to be done about the way Nigerians are being treated when they are in the consulate for visa application. I have been in Johannesburg, and I know what I see here in terms of arrangement of people coming for visa interview, is much better than what I have experienced in Nigeria. Like I said, there is a little bit of improvement if one look at what has happened a few months back. What is the embassy doing to ensure that an average Nigerian coming for visa application at the embassy are treated as human instead of getting them to a lot of unnecessary problems they experience.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: Well Debo, I wouldn’t agree with you that Nigerians coming for visas in Lagos and Abuja are not treated with dignity. In fact, I think that people are treated respectfully. Our officers, as I mentioned at the outset, are required to ask questions to determine whether an applicant is qualified for a U.S. visa in terms of U.S. law and regulation. My charge to all of my visa officers is that they treat all applicants with respect.
We are facing challenges in terms of our physical layout in both Lagos and Abuja, although I am pleased with a new renovation project which was completed earlier this year in Lagos, which provided a better intake facility for Nigerians coming for visas in Lagos, but we are looking at buildings which were constructed many, many years ago when the demand for U.S. visas was far reduced. We have seen an enormous increase in the demand for U.S. visas and that frankly has strained our facilities. We struggle with that on a daily basis. We hope in the next five years to build a new consulate in Lagos which will resolve some of these physical challenges, but in terms of American officers we have to adjudicate visas, in terms of our physical plant, we face constraints. But I do wish to underline that our policy is that all applicants are treated with respect, and that is my charge to every single one of my consulate officers as well as their superiors.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you. Deb I will turn it back over to you for a final question from the room.
MODERATOR (ABUJA): We don’t have any further questions. We will turn it over to Lagos for the final question. Lagos, it's all you, final word.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Okay, Lagos, do you have a final question? Operator, can you open the line for Lagos?
QUESTION: Again I want to repeat my question. My question was what actually is the U.S. doing about corruption in Nigeria? What are they doing to fight corruption, to help Nigeria to fight corruption right now.
AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: I thought I answered the question, but we have a variety of programs to build capacity at the EFCC. We saluted the nomination of chairman Lamorde. We called for a new leadership for a year and a half prior to his nomination because we recognize that they EFCC had not been able to fulfill its mandate. With his nomination and through our Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, we will have a variety of training programs in place to build the capacity at EFCC workers. Chairman Lamorde is going to Washington in a week's time to have senior level discussions within the Department of State and with law enforcement interlocutors.
At every opportunity, and certainly at public speeches, we talk about the need to address the problem of corruption. It is a dialogue that we carry out at the highest levels of this government, and we recognize that it’s a problem. But I think we are deploying resources to assist the Government of Nigeria to address this problem, and it is certainly part of our public diplomacy message, particularly linking it to Nigeria's desire to attract foreign investment and, really, the need to eliminate corruption and to establish a more enabling environment for the private sector.
MODERATOR (MEDIA HUB): Thank you. And that concludes today's call. I would like to thank Ambassador McCulley for joining us and thank all of our callers for participating in today's call. If you have any questions at all about today's call, you can contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at Afmediahub@state.gov. We hope you will join us for future events. Thank you so much.
Ambassador Terence P. McCulley
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria
Terence McCulley is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, with the rank of Minister-Counselor. He was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark from 2008-2010. Prior to this posting, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Mali from 2005-2008. From 2004-2005, he worked at the State Department in Washington, helping to coordinate reconstruction efforts in Iraq. He has been the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassies in Togo, Senegal, and Tunisia and also served as Consul in Mumbai, India.
Joining the Foreign Service in 1985, Mr. McCulley started his career in Niger, followed by assignments in South Africa and Chad. Returning to Washington in 1993, he worked for two years on Central African affairs. He is the recipient of four Department of State Superior Honor Awards.
Mr. McCulley was born in Medford, Oregon, and grew up in Eugene, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in European History and French Language and Literature from the University of Oregon. As a Rotary Foundation Graduate Fellow, he studied political science at the Université de Haute Bretagne in Rennes, France. In addition, he attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. McCulley is fluent in French.
Married to Renée McCulley, the couple has two sons.