President Trump warmly welcomed the president of Nigeria to the White House Monday, the first high-profile meeting with a sub-Saharan African leader for a president who has previously disparaged the continent.
(Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)
Proclaiming a good relationship with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Trump told reporters he appreciated the nation’s role as a “strong democracy in the region.”
Trump said he and Buhari didn’t talk about his reported comments calling African nations “shithole countries,” or his complaint last year that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” after living in the United States.
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And Buhari said he didn’t necessarily believe them anyway.
“I’m very careful with what the press says,” Buhari said. “I’m not sure about the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true or not. The best thing for me is to keep quiet.”
Trump did not deny the remarks, and said they didn’t come up on Monday.
“We didn’t discuss it and you do have some countries that are in very bad shape,” Trump said. “We didn’t discus it because the president knows me and he knows where I’m coming from.”
And he said he’d like to visit Nigeria. “It’s an amazing country, and in some ways — I hear, from the standpoint of the beauty of the country — there’s no place more beautiful.”
Speaking alongside Buhari in the Rose Garden, Trump said the U.S. wants to be a close trading partner with nations on the African continent and he encouraged Nigeria to lower trade barriers he described as “very substantial.”
“We give Nigeria well over $1 billion in aid every year and we have already started talking with the president about taking down the trade barriers,” Trump said.
He thanked Nigeria for buying U.S.-made A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft, and for its cooperation in fighting Boko Haram, the Islamic State-linked group responsible for suicide bombings and the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls.
He also enlisted Nigeria’s help to secure a North American bid for the 2026 World Cup.
Buhari, in turn, praised Trump for his handling of the U.S. economy, the near defeat of the Islamic State (“although some of the remnants have found their way to the Sahara region”) and U.S. forces in Nigeria on what he called a training mission.