The United States Consul General in Nigeria, Jeffery Hawkins, has identified corruption as a key element hindering the country from attaining its full potential.
He also said the United States government was concerned about the activities of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, and reports of right abuses in Nigeria.
Hawkins, who described the people of Nigeria as those with “phenomenal potential,” said stemming corruption was fundamental to the country’s prosperity and economic development.
Hawkins spoke during a courtesy visit to the PUNCH Place, the corporate headquarters of PUNCH Nigeria Ltd in Magboro, on Wednesday.
Hawkins said, “The potential of the people of Nigeria is absolutely phenomenal; Nigerians are forward looking with a whole lot of entrepreneurial expertise, but this potential is not being harnessed because of the potential risk element of corruption in the polity, especially in the power sector.
“Corruption is a Nigerian problem and it does not only have its impact on Nigerians because there are also American companies here. Besides, we have over $5bn investment in Nigeria. Without addressing this issue of corruption, we are not likely to see this country get to where it should be.
“The US government will continue to support Nigerian efforts on transparency issues and engage civil society groups, anti-graft agencies and other stakeholders in stemming the tide of corruption in the country.”
Hawkins added that Washington was “seriously concerned” about the activities of Boko Haram in the North and reports of rights abuses on the part of government forces in combating the group’s terror activities.
He said, “No country is more concerned than the US as regards the activities of Boko Haram that have attacked both Muslims and Christians in Northern Nigeria. We have come to the understanding that the Boko Haram is not a monolithic oraganisation as members operate on different strengths.
“We are of the view that labelling some of their leaders as terrorists was a major step in the right direction. The US will continue to share information and intelligence with Nigerian security agencies in this regard.”
Hawkins added that Nigerians seeking visas to the US would now enjoy first class consular services as more consular officials had been redeployed from various countries to Nigeria
“There has always been issues with visa applications and it has long been a perennial problem as hundreds of people visit us everyday.
The US State Department has redeployed some officials from countries like Brazil, China and others to Nigeria so that we can provide the Nigerian people with outstanding services,” he said.