By Wahab Akanji, Abuja
The United Kingdom will assist Nigeria to overcome its current economic and security challenges, UK Minister for International Development, James Wharton, has said.Wharton told newsmen in Abuja that he was in Nigeria to assess some of the definite challenges.
According to him, Nigeria in spite of the challenges has great potential in human and natural resources as well as opportunities to overcome the current challenges.
“This is clearly a country with incredible opportunity with amazing people, with a real deep, strong link and friendship with United Kingdom but which faces challenges. The Government of the United Kingdom must help Nigeria to overcome some of the challenges in the overall interest of the people of Nigeria and the UK.
“There are the security and humanitarian issues in the North-East, there are clearly economic challenges, the price of oil hasn’t helped,” he said.
Wharton noted that there were institutional challenges which UK would be able to help and strengthen institutions of government and the civil society.
“We want to be very clear that the UK recognises the scale of the challenges and is committed to supporting Nigeria through what is a very significantly very difficult period.
“But I have no doubt that Nigeria has a very bright and positive future and the UK has a role to play in that,” he said.
He said UK spends nearly 500 million pounds annually in support to Nigeria, from technical assistance, strengthening of institutions to security assistance in the North-East.
The UK minister said he was in Nigeria to ensure that the UK aid was well spent to make a difference to the lives of Nigerian people.
According to him, UK wants to continue to work with Nigeria as a friendly international partner to see Nigeria overcome the challenges it presently faces.
He said he was also in the country to see continuity in the trade growth with Nigeria as a significant trade partner of the UK.
Wharton said that UK was monitoring the situation in the Niger Delta and the negative impact on the economy of Nigeria and the communities that were directly affected.
“It is clearly a very difficult situation and we will work very closely, we will continue to have talks, discussions with those who are currently trying to address the challenges.
“It is important things are done in the right ways and support is planned in the right way and delivered very appropriately.”
Wharton, who is on a three-day official visit to Nigeria, said that his country was committed to the anti-corruption agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
“My colleague, the UK Home Office Minister, Robert Goodwill, was here early this week to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to that effect.
“Generally, we need to go through full judicial process before funds can be repatriated. The Government of United Kingdom is committed to working with Nigeria to do that.
“And indeed, the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Minister of State (Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs) early this week underlies the strength of that commitment,” he said.
Wharton said his visit was a first important step in reaffirming that the success of Africa’s most populous country matters to the UK and to the continent as a whole.
The visit was the first Department for International Development ministerial visit since a new cabinet was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May and since the UK voted to leave the EU.