by Toye Olori
"It is purely an economic trip. It is to persuade President Olusegun Obasanjo to opt out of OPEC to ensure that the U.S. has a hold on the country's oil," claims Segun Jedege, program director of the Lagos-based Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR).
Nigeria, the world's sixth-largest oil producer, and a member of the powerful Vienna-based Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries (OPEC), enjoys huge U.S. investments, especially in the oil sector.
"Bush's visit is not going to benefit the poor masses of Nigeria. The trip will further impoverish the masses through promoting unpopular economic policies like privatization and removal of subsidies," says Jedege.
More than 30 youths were arrested at the U.S. embassy in the Nigerian capital of Abuja last week. They carried a protest letter to the U.S. embassy, saying Bush's visit would give legitimacy to Obasanjo's government which, they claimed, did not legitimately win the April 19 elections
U.S. oil giant Chevron/Texaco is one of the leading prospectors in Nigeria. It says it has spent $5 billion in Africa in the past five years and it will spend another $20 billion on the continent in the next five.
West Africa, of which Nigeria is a leading producer, is regarded as the fastest-growing source of oil and gas for the U.S. market.
African oil already provides 15 percent of American imports and it is likely to rise to 25 percent by 2015, according to Energy Policy Report.
Nigeria produces two billion barrels of crude oil per day.
The government denies that Bush's trip will only focus on oil. President Obasanjo's spokesperson, Remi Oyo, says Nigeria will also be looking for U.S. investment in other areas.
"Bush's visit will be significant because it is in recognition of Nigeria's leadership role in Africa. The visit will feature talks between the two presidents on bilateral relations," says Oyo.
The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) also will be discussed, she says.
NEPAD, a program for the economic development of the continent, commits African governments to good governance in exchange for better trade and aid deals from the developed economies.
NEPAD is seeking $64 billion a year from foreign investors for Africa's recovery.
The war in Liberia also will feature prominently in the talks between Bush and Obasanjo.
Nigeria spent over $350 million in peacekeeping operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the past decade, according to official statistics.
More than $104 million will be required by West African troops to enforce the peace in Liberia for six months, according to the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
A force of more than 5,000 is being proposed for the operation because of the nature of the terrain and the tasks expected to be performed.
ECOWAS Executive Secretary Mohammed Chambers has expressed the hope that the United States would lead that force.
Britain and France, which recently sent troops to quell political crises in their former colonies of Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire, have called on the United States to intervene in Liberia, its former colony.
Though Washington is yet to decide on sending troops to Liberia, last week President Bush called on the beleaguered Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, to step aside. President Obasanjo visited Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, at the weekend to persuade Taylor to go into exile in Nigeria. Taylor agreed but only after an international peacekeeping force is deployed to his country "to avoid bloodshed."
President Bush is also expected to press Nigeria to make more progress in fighting corruption. Nigeria is rated as one of the most corrupt nations in the world.
Bush has promised $10 billion in increased foreign aid to countries that pledge to fight corruption and open their markets.
HIV/AIDS and terrorism will also feature in the talks, according to analysts. Bush has pledged to spend $15 billion in Africa to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. This money will help Nigeria where about five million people are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Lagos-based National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA).
Though terrorism is not much of a problem in West Africa, the support for terror leader Osama bin Laden in northern Nigeria during the war in Afghanistan is a source of concern for Bush.
Nigeria has porous borders and airspace which makes America nervous about possibility of terror attacks in the region. U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998 and an Israeli tourist resort was attacked in Kenya recently.
Bush has offered $100 million for East Africa to improve the security around airports and seaports. The same gesture may be extended to Nigeria during Bush's visit to Abuja on Friday.
He arrived in South Africa on Tuesday, after spending a day in Senegal. From South Africa, the U.S. leader will travel to Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria before returning to Washington.
July 10, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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