AMBASSADOR MCCULLEY: (In progress.) And thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to meet with our great mission team. In Nigeria, they say that rain brings a blessing. And based upon the rain we had two hours before you arrived and the rain we’ve had, your visit is quadruple-blessed. Friends and colleagues, join me in welcoming our Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you all very much. And let’s just feel blessed. (Laughter.) It’s a great pleasure to be back in Nigeria to see so many of you here today, even some familiar faces from my last trip.
But I do want to start on a somber note and take a moment to remember the friends and colleagues that were lost in the airplane crash two months ago. And I want to express my personal condolences to the families of Anthony Okara and the five Nigerians who worked for our local partner organizations. I know many of you worked closely with him. They were your friends. They were vital partners to all that we are doing together to really advance this important relationship. And we are very, very grateful.
It’s been three years since I was last here, and in that time Nigeria has made a lot of progress. We’ve seen elections that were free and fair, a government working to institute transparency and reform, admirable leadership in regional and global affairs. And at the same time, we know Nigeria is facing serious threats from extremism. But through every one of these issues and many, many more, you have provided invaluable assistance to the Nigerian people.
And I especially want to thank the Ambassador. Ambassador McCulley, you have led this mission through all the difficulties of the last year. You endured terrorist threats against the Embassy, the bombing of the UN headquarters, a strike that brought Abuja to a standstill, and still you and this team kept going. You all never wavered or put off your responsibilities. I understand that some of you were leaving home at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. to get to work before protestors barricaded the roads back in January. And that kind of dedication is extremely admired.
I also know that the security measures we have put in place, the curfew and travel restrictions to keep you safe, can be a real burden. But please know that nothing is more important to us than your safety, and making sure you have secure places to live and work is our top priority. So we are counting on the efforts moving forward toward completing construction on the new Embassy annex and a new residential compound. In the meantime, I want to make your lives a little easier, so I’m happy to say that we have officially approved a third R&R leave for post staff. (Applause.)
Now, I think that these gestures really speak volumes about the quality and quantity of work that is being done by the people at Mission Nigeria. Everyone at our Embassy, at our Consulate General in Lagos, our USAID and CDC staff, our Defense Department’s Walter Reed Program, and so much else, you work to deepen one of the most important strategic partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we know that what you do is really making a difference.
I also want especially to thank our locally employed staff. Will all of the Nigerians who work here for the U.S. Embassy raise your hands, please, so we can give you a round of applause? (Applause.) We are so glad to have you as our colleagues on this team. We know that it’s not always easy, for all the reasons I mentioned, plus I’m sure others as well, but you are so valuable. And very honestly, ambassadors come and go, Secretaries come and go, everyone comes and goes, except our locally employed staff. And you remain kind of the memory bank, the continuity of everything that we do here and will do into the future.
So thank you again. Nobody ever wants to admit that you’re going to celebrate my departure on this very short trip. (Laughter.) But I don’t mind if you do. I will soon be the responsibility of Ghana and – (laughter) – but seriously, it was a short trip because of scheduling challenges, but it was a very important stop. And it just goes to underscore how much we count on you in every way regarding this vital relationship. So please keep up the very good work.
Thank you all. (Applause.)