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Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Following Meetings Between the President and General Obasanjo in Lagos, Nigeria

April 02, 1978


Q. Mr. President, is there any connection between your public position on southern African policy and how you take your votes at the Security Council on southern Africa?

THE PRESIDENT. We have, as you know, only recently as a nation been deeply involved in trying to bring peace to southern Africa. We have taken the initiative, along with the British, in Zimbabwe, to try to bring out a resolution of those very serious problems—peace, majority rule, the melding of the liberation forces as a base in the future security of Zimbabwe. And we have also taken the initiative, along with Germany and France, Great Britain and Canada, under the United Nations, to bring a resolution of the problem in Namibia—again, majority rule, free elections, the right of the blacks to have their rights honored.

I think that is accurate to say, too, that the recent action by the United Nations to implement an arms embargo against South Africa was preceded by our own unilateral action implementing an arms embargo long before the U.N. acted, and we support that arms embargo completely.


Q. Can you tell us if you talked about the oil situation and the fact that Nigeria wants more technology from the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We discussed the oil situation in Nigeria. We also discussed the prospect of purchasing liquefied natural gas, which Nigeria will be ready to produce by 1983, and the need of Nigeria for technical assistance not only in petroleum, but in other aspects of economic development.

There are now, as I said in my speech yesterday, 15,000 Nigerian students and, in addition, a thousand more who are getting specific middle-level technical training in the United States. Five hundred are already there, 500 more are coming. In addition, the Nigerians have requested senior assistance, retired executives from the United States who have knowledge in economic development and petroleum to come here to work with them. And we will pursue that through the Secretary of State.

The Eximbank loans, the OPIC insurance, which I think we now have 31 applicants who are ready to come into Nigeria to make investments—this will be expedited.

In addition, we have established, after General Obasanjo's visit to the United States in October, detailed discussions between our own Commerce Department and other officials and the Nigerians on how we can increase investment and technical assistance for Nigeria.

It is a very good country in which to invest. There is a stable government with a prospect of constitutional government that will be equally stable. I think the past problems with American investors have now been overcome. I know that several major companies—Ford, Mack Truck, Bechtel, and others—are now coming into Nigeria to invest.

So, I would guess that all the needs of Nigeria—technical assistance and development-will be met.


Q. Did the General ask you, Mr. President, to take stronger action toward South Africa and Rhodesia, perhaps more embargoes?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the General would be more inclined to take additional embargo action against South Africa than would we. As I have said, we have cooperated in the United Nations actions, and even before the U.N. action, we took unilateral steps to declare a complete arms embargo against South Africa.


Q. Mr. President, what specific areas of bilateral cooperation would you like between your country and Nigeria on any issue, or on any important project to use for this important visit?

THE PRESIDENT. We have got now four committees set up, one for the development of Nigerian agriculture. This is a joint effort where we help Nigeria and we learn in the process. Another one of the subcommittees is on education. And we have always had, for many years, a very good relationship here. We want to improve it.

Another one is in economic development. I mentioned that we have 31 applicants right now of American business investments that are waiting to be made in Nigeria. And the fourth one is technical assistance, where we will provide technical training in the United States and send technicians here who are expert, to help with the future development of the Nigerian economy.

These efforts are all very fruitful, and they will be better in the future. We have decided, for instance, this morning that the joint study commission that was set up last October, that already met in Nigeria in November, will have another meeting in the United States in April, this month, the last of this month, will make a report to me and to General Obasanjo by the end of May to identify any remaining problems, so that he and I can personally resolve those problems and remove the obstacles to the further economic development, on a joint basis, between our country and Nigeria.


Q. You said the General would be more inclined to have stronger embargoes. Did he urge you to do anything that your administration is not doing now to take steps in other areas in support of the change in South Africa?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We have had a very thorough discussion not only between myself and General Obasanjo and his Ministers (Foreign),1 but yesterday we had a foreign-level discussion with other nations, including the frontline countries around Rhodesia.

We now will move as quickly as possible to call together the parties who are in dispute concerning Zimbabwe, those who are identified as a patriotic front, the frontline nations who surround Rhodesia, and also the parties to the internal settlement—Smith, Muzorewa, Sithole, and Chirau.

We will begin now to explore the earliest date when this might be accomplished. We and the British will act as hosts, and we will, of course, encourage United Nations participation as well.

In the case of Namibia, the five-nation group operating as a committee of the United Nations Security Council—these are the permanent committee members in the Security Council that I have named earlier, the Western members—will contact the South Africans to put forward our proposal and also to contact the SWAPO leaders.

The frontline president, then the Nigerian leaders will be in contact with Sam Nujoma, who is head of the SWAPO group. So, in these two major areas of dispute, Zimbabwe and Namibia, we will expedite our action at the urging of and with the cooperation of the Nigerian officials.

In the case of the Horn of Africa, Nigeria has long played a leading role, has been chairman of the subcommittee-under the Organization of African Unity—for the Horn of Africa, and they have begun now to make attempts to get the Ethiopians and the Somalians to meet, to make permanent the peace that has been established in recent weeks, in recent days.

We also hope that there will be an avoidance of bloodshed as it relates to the Eritreans. So, I think in these three major areas, we have reached a common purpose. And so far as I know, there are no remaining differences between myself and General Obasanjo.

Q. At what level will this Rhodesian meeting be?

THE PRESIDENT. At the Foreign Secretary level. The plans are that Secretary Vance and, perhaps, David Owen from Britain would be present and in person.


Q. Mr. President, did you reach an agreement with General Obasanjo about stabilizing the dollar?

THE PRESIDENT. I wish that General Obasanjo and I could act on a bilateral basis to completely stabilize the dollar. The dollar is a very sound currency. It is based primarily upon the economy of the United States, which is strong, growing stronger.

There are several factors that will tend to increase the value of the dollar this year. Our imports of oil will be level this year. They were increasing rapidly last year, which was a bad factor last year. The interest rates in our country are higher now than they were before, which will encourage additional investment in our country, which will also help the dollar.

We need very urgently to have the Congress of the United States act on my proposals concerning the comprehensive energy policy. This will stabilize the dollar, and the prospects for that success in the Congress are good. And I believe that there is a general feeling that our economy will continue to grow at about the same rate that it did last year.

Last year we were growing much faster than our major trading partners-Germany, Great Britain, Italy, France, Japan, and others. This year those other nations will have a faster growth, which means that they can buy more of our goods and cut down on our adverse balance of payments. So, for all these reasons and others that I could describe, I think the prospects for a stable dollar are very good.


Q. Did you discuss human rights and any specifics at all, and particularly, did you discuss Uganda and Idi Amin in regards to human rights?

THE PRESIDENT. We did not discuss Uganda. I did mention in my speech yesterday my gratitude that the Organization of African States has shown fit not only to condemn white nations when they deprive persons of human rights but also condemn black leaders, as well, where human rights are abridged.

We did discuss the question of human rights. There is no difference, of course, between our Government, Nigeria and the United States, because we recognize that within our own countries, we have made every effort to enhance human rights. I think political oppressions and the right of people to participate in their government is one that has good prospects of even greater improvement in the future.

We also discussed the problem of human rights that accrue because of poverty—deprived of a right of a place to live and to adequate food and clothing and education and health care. And through our own contributions to the African Development Bank, our own contributions to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, through direct bilateral aid, which primarily goes to the very poor countries, and through increased trade and technical service to countries that have had good success, like Nigeria, we are trying to alleviate those human rights and deprivations that come from poverty.

So, we have a very close relationship in our commitment to human rights between ourselves and the Nigerians, and also we have a very good, permanent, personal friendship between myself, General Obasanjo, and other leaders of our Government, which is very helpful to us.

We have benefited just as much in the United States from our good relationships with Nigeria as have the Nigerians, and although it has been very good historically and at the present time, we believe that those relations are going to be even better than in the years to come.

REPORTER. Thank you, Mr. President.

1 Printed in the transcript.

Note: The session began at 12:25 p.m. at the State House Marina, following the departure of General Obasanjo.

As printed above, the item follows the White House press release.

Jimmy Carter, Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Following Meetings Between the President and General Obasanjo in Lagos, Nigeria Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244844

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