By Modou S. Joof
Jonathan, who has declared a state of emergency in three states in northern Nigeria amid continuing bombings, kidnappings and gun attacks perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect, is visiting the poor West African nation of The Gambia for the first time since his election in May 2010.
Human rights groups have accused the Nigerian Joint Task-force (JTF) army of perpetrating extrajudicial killings in the hunt for Boko Haram suspects.
FPI is told the visit is aimed at “boosting bilateral trade ties” between Africa’s most populous and top oil producer and the smallest country on mainland Africa of 1.7 million people. The visit is expected to further cement the “fruitful bilateral cooperation” between the two West African nations.
Under the Technical Assistant Cooperation, TAC, an agreement signed between Nigeria and The Gambia when President Yahya Jammeh came in to power in 1994 –a high number of Nigerian expatriates work in Gambia’s health, education and judiciary sectors.
Jonathan’s visit comes three weeks after a visit by his special envoy to Banjul on October 5 following The Gambia’s shock exit of the Commonwealth of Nations.
In an October 7 statement, The Gambia told its allies “there is no point sending special envoys to Banjul for us to reconsider this decision [Commonwealth withdrawal]” – two days after Mr Jonathan’s special envoy, Foreign Affairs Minister Nurudeen Mohamed, left the country.
There has been no further information as to whether Mohamed’s visit was linked to the country’s shock withdrawal from the body known as the “Family of Nations”.
But the statement issued by the President’s Office stated: “We urge all African countries planning to send special envoys on this matter not to waste their taxpayers’ money.”
On October 1, the Nigerian High Commission in Banjul observed its country’s 53rd independence anniversary – having gained it from colonial master Britain in 1960.
High Commissioner, Esther John Audu, says Nigerians will continue to play their part in the socioeconomic development of The Gambia to promote trade, regional integration and mutual friendship.
“The longstanding cooperation bear lot of fruits, and is growing from strength to strength every day,” she said, thanking President Jammeh for his tireless effort in ensuring that this relationship is sustained, through his tireless support and encouragement to the government and people of Nigeria at all times.
Madam Audu said: “We shall continue to work, support and collaborate with the Government of The Gambia in relevant areas, for sustainable development of our two countries, in order to achieve success.”
In support of The Gambia government’s development efforts, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has continued to post Technical Aid Corps Volunteers (TAC) to The Gambia, she said.
Such support and sacrifice is based on Nigeria’s conviction and belief in the development of The Gambia and the well-being of its people, she added.