Remarks in Joint Statement and Signing with President Obasanjo, Abuja, Nigeria (8/26/00)
                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                                (Abuja, Nigeria)
                 For Immediate Release    August 26, 2000

                          REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON
                             AND PRESIDENT OBASANJO
                        IN SIGNING OF JOINT DECLARATION

                               Presidential Villa
                                 Abuja, Nigeria

1:55 P.M. (L)

     PRESIDENT OBASANJO:  Mr. President, distinguished ladies and
gentlemen, members of the press, let me say how pleased I am for this
opportunity to welcome President Bill Clinton to Nigeria.  I am confident
that by now President Clinton must have felt from the personal meeting to
the enthusiastic crowds that greeted him the extent of our delight to have
him among us.

     President Clinton and I have had very friendly and fruitful
discussions covering all the items and subjects that make up the content of
our joint declaration which we have just signed and exchanged, and even
more.  I just want to emphasize that for all the shared strategic interests
between Nigeria and the United States of America, President Clinton and
myself share a common view that is based on human welfare, human
development, and human well-being in both our countries, our continents,
and throughout the world.

     Of course, whatever strategic interests, economic, political or of a
social nature, the essence is based on the fundamentals of humanity.  Also
deriving from this is the issue of Nigeria's role of peacemaking and
peacekeeping in our sub-region, our region of Africa, and under the
auspices of the U.N., the whole world. Needless to say that this goes for
the United States, by virtue of her status as the number one world power

     President Clinton has only just begun his visit, designed so far that
it will be a memorable one, and we wish you a very pleasant day in Nigeria.
We welcome you once again.  (Applause.)

     PRESIDENT CLINTON:  President Obasanjo, members of the Nigerian
government, members of the press, I think I can say on behalf of the
members of the United States Congress who are here and the members of the
American delegation, we are delighted to be in Nigeria.

     Two years ago, I came to Africa to begin building a new partnership
between this continent and the United States; one in which Americans look
upon Africa not simply as a continent with problems, but also as a
continent which presents the world's next great opportunity to advance the
cause of peace, justice and prosperity.

     When I came here two years ago, one of the biggest obstacles to a new
relationship with the entire continent was the fact that the democratic
hopes of Nigeria's people were being smothered by military misrule and
corruption, with your finest leaders being killed, banished, or in the case
of President Obasanjo, forced to languish in prison.

     My greatest hope then was that some day, I could come to Africa again,
to visit a Nigeria worthy of its people's dreams.  Thanks to President
Obasanjo and the people of Nigeria, I have the high honor today to visit
the new Nigeria --(applause)-- and to pledge America's support for the most
important democratic transition in Africa since the fall of apartheid.

     All of us in the American delegation know that after so many years of
despair and plunder your journey has not been easy.  But we are also
committed to working with the people of Nigeria to help build stronger
institutions, improve education, fight disease, crime and corruption, ease
the burden of debt and promote trade and investment in a way that brings
more of the benefits of prosperity to people who have embraced democracy.

     We are rebuilding ties severed during the years of dictatorship.  I am
very happy that last week the first direct flight since 1993 left Muritala
Mohammed Airport for the United States.  (Applause.)  Today, we have signed
our first open skies agreement.

     With patience and perseverance, Nigeria can answer the challenge your
President issued in his inauguration two years ago -- a speech I got up
very early in the morning in the United States to watch.  I remember that
he said, "Let us rise as one to face the tasks ahead and turn this daunting
scene into a new dawn."

     With one-fifth of Africa's people, and vast human and natural
resources, a revitalized Nigeria can be the economic and political anchor
of West Africa and the leader of the continent.  We need your continued
leadership in the struggle for peace.  I am pleased we have begun this week
to help to train and equip the first of five Nigerian battalions preparing
for service in Sierra Leone.  (Applause.)  We also need your continued
leadership in the struggle against poverty and infectious disease,
especially AIDS.  I thank President Obasanjo for his offer to host an AIDS
summit in Nigeria next year.  (Applause.)

     Finally, we need Nigeria to keep leading by example as a successful
democracy and a nation that has managed, despite many years of repression
and strife, to prove that for democracies, our diversity can be our
greatest strength.

     These are just some of the issues we discussed today.  Later, I will
have the honor of speaking to the Nigerian Parliament, and I will speak in
greater detail about the challenges ahead and the promise of our growing
partnership.  But let me just say, I begin this visit with enormous
admiration for the progress you have made and the highest hope for the
progress you will make in the future and the depth that our partnership
will assume.

     Thank you again, Mr. President, for making us all feel so welcome.

     PRESIDENT OBASANJO:  We will now take questions from the members of
the media.

     Q    Mr. President, you're going to meet with President Mubarak of
Egypt.  Can you give us an idea of what you're going to discuss with him
and whether this portends another Mideast peace summit?

     And, President Obasanjo, I'd also like to have your perspective on
these efforts to reach peace in the Middle East.

     PRESIDENT CLINTON:  Well, let me say, first of all, I think it's
inconceivable that we could have a peace between the Israelis and the
Palestinians without the support of President Mubarak.

     As you know, when I leave here I'm going to Tanzania to support
President Mandela and the peace process that he has been working on in
Burundi, and then we have to make a refueling stop on our way home.  I had
hoped to see President Mubarak at the United Nations summit, which will be
at the end of the first week of September, but he can't come to that.  And
so we were having one of our regular telephone conversations the other day
and decided that since he would not be in New York, that I ought to refuel
in Cairo and we ought to reconnoiter on the peace process.
     I don't think you should read too much into it, other than we are
working with a sense of urgency, given the timetable the parties have set
for themselves.  And we don't underestimate the continuing difficulties,
but I'm pleased they're still working, and working under enormous

     PRESIDENT OBASANJO:  I must take this opportunity to commend the
efforts of President Clinton in the Middle East.  I believe that the fact
that the door is not completely closed, and the fact that areas where, in
fact, a few years back one would infer that there would be no advancement
at all, whether Jerusalem could be negotiated on, is now an issue that can
be put on the table to be negotiated -- I believe that should give all of
us some hope.

     And as President Clinton just said, all the people that should be
involved must be engaged, to be involved.  And we should never be tired
until we achieve success.  And I believe success will be achieved.  I have
no doubt.

     Q    President Clinton's attitude to Africa and the poorer nations of
the world is very well-known.  He is sympathetic to those nations.  But
America does not make up the West, only America does not.  Now, at a -- in
Ghana in April, a position was adopted on the issue of the strangulating
debt burden in the poorer countries of the world.  Now, President Obasanjo,
as the chairman of the -- was given the mandate to present that position to
the G-8 at the July Okinawa summit.  Both President Obasanjo -- on that
issue came out at that meeting expressing disappointment at the lack of
concrete commitment on the issues by the richest nations of the world.

     Is there any indication that the contact today with a key member of
the G-8 would open up new vistas on the issues of debt cancellation for the
poor countries of the world?  And America is perhaps the strongest
supporter of democracy around the world, and we know that democracy turns
on the face of the huge debt burden.  What is the way out?

     PRESIDENT CLINTON:  Well, let me say, first of all, what I believe the
G-8 was saying.  You may know that I, because of other commitments, and
because of the Middle East peace process, unfortunately, had to miss the
first day of the G-8 summit and, therefore, I missed the President's

     At Cologne, Germany, we got the G-8 to make a commitment to a debt
relief program for the poorest countries in the world, and we had some
problems implementing it, but the basic idea, I think, was sound, which was
that we should give debt forgiveness in return for a commitment to spend
the freed-up resources on human development, and to have a responsible
economic reform program.  That was basically the agreement.

     I strongly support that, and I would favor expanding the number of
eligible nations once we've actually taken them in some proper order.  Our
Congress has before it now legislation that would pay America's share of
the debt relief for the countries that have qualified under the program
that the G-8 adopted.

     My own view is that the G-8 would be willing to go beyond those 24
countries as long as it was clear that there was a commitment to economic
reform and a commitment to democracy and a commitment to use all the
savings for human development purposes, not for military purposes or other
purposes that were inconsistent with the long-term interest of the

     But I think that the real issue is not whether they can afford the
debt relief -- in most of these countries they actually have to budget the
debt relief even if they're not going to get repaid.  And to be fair, the
United States does not have the same dollar stake in most of these nations
in the multilateral forum as some other countries do.  So it is a little
more difficult for them than it is for us.

     And I think that you are seeing the beginning of a process that I
believe will continue, since I believe that we'll have more countries doing
what Nigeria is doing -- embracing democracy, having a program with the
IMF, a commitment to economic reform that will commend itself to the
creditor countries of the world for debt relief.  And I think that you'll
-- it will happen.

     But, your right, we have been in the forefront of pushing this.  But
to be fair to the other countries the relative size of the American economy
make our -- makes it easier for us to do than for some of these other
countries.  And the real problem is not the money itself, because many of
them don't expect to be repaid.  The real problem is that they all have
budget rules like we do that require them to budget that in their annual
budgets -- the forgiveness of debt -- just as they budget for education or
health care or defense or anything else, even thought it's, arguably, an
unnecessary thing since they don't expect to get the money back from the
poorest countries.

     But you need to understand that's the political problem that a lot of
these leaders have.  And since the European countries and Japan have a
bigger percentage of their income tied up in debt than we do, it's a little
more difficult for them to do.  I think we have moved them in the right
direction and I think Nigeria, in particular, and other countries following
behind will find a much more ready response.  I think that what happened in
Cologne, the call of His Holiness the Pope, and others for debt relief in
the millennial year will lead to a process that I expect to play out over
the next few years that I believe will result in significantly greater debt
relief than we have seen, as long as it's coupled to maintenance of
democracy, economic reform and honest economies, and using the savings from
debt relief for the real human benefits and needs of the people in the
affected countries.

     Q    Mr. President, would you urge President Obasanjo to reduce -- to
work within OPEC to reduce oil prices?  And did you offer him any
commitment on rescheduling or -- of debt for Nigeria?

      And, President Obasanjo, I was wondering if you can give your own
views on -- situation.

     PRESIDENT CLINTON:  Let me answer the debt question first, since it
sort of follows upon the previous question.  I reaffirmed the commitment
that I had previously made to the President that, first of all, the United
States would do all we said to get the entire Paris Club to do what the G-8
has now agreed to do and have a generous debt rescheduling, which will
alleviate a lot of the cash flow requirements, at least, for Nigeria in the
short run; and that now that there was an IMF program in place, once there
was enough experience with this IMF program that we could argue to the
other creditor nations that have a larger -- as I said to the previous
questioner, the gentleman before that these other nations that have a
bigger share of the debt than we do -- that Nigeria has shown a commitment
to economic reform, as well as a commitment to democracy, that I would
support debt relief for them, that I thought they ought to have some debt
relief in return for showing that they've got a commitment to a long-term
itical and economic reform.  That's the position I've had for some time

     On the oil prices, we talked about that, and Nigeria, of course, does
not have the capacity to change the prices, because they're pretty well
producing at full capacity already.  So I asked the President to do
whatever he could to encourage others to increase production enough to have
the impact that OPEC voted to have at the last meeting.

     At the last meeting, they voted for production levels that they felt
would bring the price back closer to its historic average, somewhere in the
mid-'20s.  And that has not worked out for a number of reasons, and so I
asked him to do what he could in that regard.

     PRESIDENT OBASANJO:  I have always maintained that an excessive high
price of oil is neither good for the oil producers, nor for the oil
consumers, particularly developing oil consumers.  Neither is excessive low
price of oil, neither is it good for the oil producers, nor the oil
consumers because you need certain amount of stability.  I believe that
that stability would be there when OPEC brought in the mechanism to trigger
off oil if the oil price is above certain price level, to automatically go
in and produce more, and if it's below certain levels to automatically go
in and withdraw from the production.

     Well, as President Clinton said, what has taken place so far has not
worked.  The OPEC will have a summit meeting in Venezuela next month, and
the price of oil will be one of the major issues to be discussed.  And I
will, by the grace of God, be at that meeting.  And we will work to bring
an element of stability into the price of oil.  It is in the interest of
all concerned that that should happen.

     Q    My question is to President Clinton, and it concerns the U.S.
visa policy of Nigeria.  The policy so far has -- (inaudible) -- going to
do to affect some concrete change in this direction.  And the second
question is will the United States support a seat for permanent
participation -- (inaudible)?

     PRESIDENT CLINTON:  Well, let me answer the first question first.  I'm
very concerned about some of the problems we've had in getting visas to
Nigerians who have legitimate interests in coming the United States and
should have a perfect right to do so.

     If I might say something in defense of the people who have to issue
the visas -- because of the worldwide concern -- that has nothing to do
with Nigeria -- about terrorism and other problems, they have been given
instructions to bend over backwards to make sure that all the documents
that anybody from any country applying for a visa are in perfect order.
Because of a lot of developments here over the last several years, that's
not always possible.  So what we've got to do is go back and take a hard
look at this situation as it affects Nigeria because we acknowledge that
there are many Nigerians who have tried to come to the United States, who
should have been able to come and, therefore, should have been able to get
visas, who haven't been.  And we have to try to find a way to solve that
consistent with our law.

     And I wish I had an answer for you today, but, frankly, I was not
aware of the dimensions of the problem until I was preparing to come here
and preparing for my visit.  And so I don't have a solution today.  But I
can -- I make you a commitment that we will work on it and we will try to
work this out, because I'm quite concerned about it.  When I saw the
numbers and I saw the small percentage of those who had applied who had
been approved, and it was obvious that many, many more had legitimate
interests -- perfectly legitimate interests in coming to the United States,
I realized we had to do something.  And we're going to work with your
government and try to work it out.

     PRESIDENT OBASANJO:  Thank you very much, President Clinton.

     PRESIDENT CLINTON:  Oh, I'm sorry.  Jet lag.  (Laughter.)  The
position of the United States is that the size of the Security Council
should be expanded, that there should be a permanent African seat, and that
the holder of that seat should be determined by the African nations, not by
the United States and not by the permanent members of the Security Council.
I don't think that's our business.  I feel the same way about Latin
America.  I think there should be a permanent Latin American seat on the
Security Council.

     The analog to Nigeria and Latin America, of course, is Brazil.  Brazil
is the most populous nation in Latin America, just as Nigeria is the most
populous nation in Africa.  And we have very good relations with Brazil.
But I think the Latin Americans should decide for themselves if they get
the seat, and I think they should, who should hold it and whether someone
should hold it permanently or not.

     But I strongly believe that Africa should have a permanent
representative with a permanent representative's vote on the United Nations
Security Council.  If it makes sense for it to be Nigeria, then that's fine
with me.  But I think the African people should decide that -- the leaders
of Africa.

     PRESIDENT OBASANJO:  Thank you very much.

     PRESIDENT CLINTON:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

2:20 P.M. (L)

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E