Nigeria-Germany: terror threats and trade ties | Africa | DW | 19.04.2012
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Nigeria-Germany: terror threats and trade ties

In Berlin, visiting Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has insisted he can cope with the terror threat from Boko Haram. An embassy warning to US citizens in Abuja underscores the pressure he is facing.

The deadly attacks that have killed hundreds in Nigeria since the beginning of the year were high on the agenda of talks in Berlin on Thursday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

"We did, of course, exchange views on how the threat from the terror group Boko Haram can be overcome, how it can be fought so that it can not claim any more victims, and the bloody attacks on state institutions, on churches, on Christian schools can be stopped," Merkel told the media in Berlin at a joint press conference with the Nigerian president.

"We will help where we can," she added.

Jonathan underlined that Boko Haram was primarily active in the northeast of the country.

Merkel welcomes Goodluck Jonathan

Jonathan: 'We have asked our partners for help'

"I think we can deal with the situation," he said.

He was speaking one day after the United States warned its citizens in Nigeria that Boko Haram might be planning attacks on the capital Abuja in the center of the country. The website of the US embassy in Nigeria referred to "hotels frequented by Westerners".

Technology to fight terrorists

The Nigerian government responded on Thursday by saying terrorist warnings by foreign diplomats "created undue panic" and urged them to "take concerns about the effectiveness of Nigerian security to the government".

In Berlin, President Jonathan said Nigeria was appealing to partner nations, including Germany, for help with training, equipment and personnel when facing up to the terrorist threat.

In a bid to speed up the intensification of their ties, Germany and Nigeria have formed a bilateral commission on foreign, energy, cultural and economic policies.

Germany is particularly interested in Nigeria because of its natural resources, says Hartwig Fischer, spokesman on Africa for Germany's Christian Democrats' parliamentary group.

Hartwig Fischer

Hartwig Fischer underlines Germany's interest in Nigeria's natural resources

Nigeria is one of the world's top 10 oil-producing countries and Germany is among those countries that import Nigerian oil. From 2006 to 2010, Nigeria earned $196 billion (150 billion euros) from oil and gas.

Yet despite such revenues, more than 60 percent of Nigerians live in poverty. Less than half the population is connected up to the electricity grid. Power stations are inefficient and dilapidated as testified by the noise of numerous small makeshift diesel generators.

A man walks past a broken electricity transformer in Lagos.

Nigerians are all too familiar with power supply problems

Germany's technological expertise includes power generation and transmission. In 2008 Chancellor Merkel and the then Nigerian president Umaru Yar'Adua signed an energy partnership agreement. Germany would expand and improve Nigeria's national electricity grid and in return Nigeria would supply Germany with liquid gas from 2014 onwards.

Desire for deeper trade ties

"We want to work more closely with Nigeria in the fields of power generation, gas, oil, coal," Merkel reaffirmed in Berlin on Thursday. "At issue here is (the creation of) good, secure and safe investment and development conditions."

Thomas Mättig

Nigeria is a stabilizing force in the region, says Thomas Mättig

German diplomats view Nigeria as a stabilizing influence in the region. According to Thomas Mättig, resident representative of the think-tank Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, which is affiliated to Germany's Social Democrat Party, Nigeria has great potential as a mediator.

"It has often spoken out very clearly in favor of democracy and stability and against military coups," he said.

Nigeria's army has 80,000 soldiers and is the largest in the region. It participates in peacekeeping missions run by the United Nations, the African Union and the West African regional body ECOWAS which has its headquarters in Nigeria.

"Nigeria is often compared to a giant in chains," says Mättig. "It can't make use of its full strength because it is so preoccupied with its own problems."

Nigeria has a poor human rights record. In its report on the country for 2011, the rights group Amnesty International said the police continued to commit human rights violations, including unlawful killings, torture and enforced disappearances.

"Prisons were overcrowded, the majority of inmates were pre-trial detainees, some held for many years," the report said.

Author: Mark Caldwell (Reuters, AFP, dpa, epd with additional material from Julia Hahn)

Editor: Susan Houlton / rm

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