Buhari, Trump hold press briefing; speak on killings in Nigeria

Nigeria’s fight against the Boko Haram jihadist group was expected to top the agenda in talks Monday between President Donald Trump and Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, leader of Africa’s most populous and wealthiest country.

President Donald Trump of the US (r) dicussing with visiting President Muhammadu Buhari during a meeting at the White House, Washington, USA.

Buhari became the first leader from sub-Saharan Africa to visit Trump when he arrived at the White House at midday.

As they opened discussions in the Oval Office, Trump said it was important to meet face-to-face, “especially on terrorism and terrorism-related” issues.

See photos here

“We have a very big trade deal we’re working on for military equipment, helicopters and the like,” Trump added.

Buhari is seeking support in the battle against Boko Haram extremists, who for nine years have attacked cities and towns in the country’s northeast, killing more than 20,000 people in a bloody quest to establish an Islamist state.

But Trump said he is also focused on the killings of Christians in Nigeria.

“We’ve had serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed,” Trump said, an apparent reference to the attack on April 24 on a church in central Nigeria, where 18 people, including two priests, were murdered.

“We’re going to work on that problem and working on that problem very, very hard,” Trump said.

.@POTUS: “We’re deeply concerned by religious violence in Nigeria, including the burning of churches and the killing and persecution of Christians.” pic.twitter.com/cvPogJj5Ue

— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 30, 2018

– Nigeria wants attack aircraft –

Both security and business were on the menu for discussion.

Buhari wants to seal a deal to buy a dozen A-29 Super Tucano turboprop light attack aircraft for use in the fight against Boko Haram, a deal worth a reported $496 million.

In January 2017, then-president Barack Obama froze the deal after Nigeria’s air force bombed a refugee camp, killing more than 100 people, on a mission against Boko Haram.

Washington is now ready to allow the sale to go forward, officials say. But it has come under scrutiny inside Nigeria, where lawmakers are accusing the president of illegally withdrawing funds to purchase the planes.

Nigeria is also seeking support for its farm and transport sectors. Buhari is scheduled to meet with potential investors in Nigerian farming and food processing.

Amid intensifying competition with China and Europeans for the business of oil-rich Nigeria, officials accompanying Buhari also will be meeting with aviation giant Boeing, according to his office.

On Friday, General Electric announced that an international consortium it leads has signed a deal for a $2 billion project to refurbish Nigeria’s narrow-gauge railway.

Trump, meanwhile, has to overcome the hard feelings left by his insulting reference to “shithole countries” in questioning why the US should accept immigrants from Africa and elsewhere.

The US president also raised eyebrows in March by firing Rex Tillerson as secretary of state while he was visiting Nigeria, in part to prepare the ground for Buhari’s visit.

But Trump’s receiving Buhari at the White House just after visits by France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel is a positive signal, analysts say.

“The fact that the president of Africa’s most populous country is visiting Washington at all may be more important to strengthening the US-Africa relationship than any discussion of policy during the trip,” said John Campbell, a former US ambassador in Abuja who is now at the Council of Foreign Relations

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