In a sudden twist to the high expectations of Nigeria for collaboration with the United States in the fight against Boko Haram, President Muhhamadu Buhari on Wednesday accused the American government of indirectly aiding the atrocities of the Islamist terrorist sect. Boko Haram has been wreaking havoc in the northern part of the country for six years, killing almost 20,000 people, while an estimated 1.5 million have been displaced from their homes.
President Buhari who spoke in Washington DC, while addressing the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), as part of activities lined up for his four-day working visit, declared that his host government had been aiding the terrorists by refusing to let Nigeria have access to the much needed military arsenal to quell the insurgency. Buhari frowned at the U.S. Government’s use of its ‘Leahy Law’ to deny Nigeria weapons, based on unsubstantiated human rights abuses by the Nigerian military.
Expressing his belief that the U.S. would not want the carnage to continue, Buhari demanded that America provides Nigeria with “far more substantial counter-terrorism assistance with minimal strings”, especially as Nigerian troops have re-written their rules of engagement to better protect the rights of combatants and civilians.
Declined Assistance The US government had in the past declined Nigeria’s request for assistance, especially in the area of procuring military hardware to combat the rising insurgency in the country. Efforts by the Nigerian government during the era former President Goodluck Jonathan were rebuffed as the U.S. government accused the Nigerian military of human rights violations in the use of sophisticated weapons against the insurgents. The American government was also reported to have blocked Nigeria’s efforts to source the hardware from Israel and other countries. Only in January 2015, during the run-up to Nigeria’s national elections, Israel announced that the U.S. had halted the plan to grant aid to Nigeria as well as resell to her some military hardware. That had occurred a day after the United States through its Secretary of State, John Kerry, had given assurances to assist Nigeria in her fight against terrorism.
An aviation-oriented website, flightglobal.com, had posted that Nigeria had shown interest in buying surplus Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters that were phased out of service by the Israeli air force in 2013, as well as an Israeli-produced unmanned air systems. But Washington blocked any transaction of excess American-made weapon systems to Nigeria by Israel, insisting also that Israeli-made equipment should be exported to the country only “under strict conditions”. According to Israeli official, Nigeria also wanted to purchase more Israeli-made UAS. The country in 2006 had procured a number of Aerostar vehicles made by Aeronautics Defense Systems in a deal said to be worth $260 million. An official of the Obama administration had also told The Jerusalem Post that the transfer of such aircraft currently requires a review to determine its “consistency with U.S. policy interests”.
FlightGlobal was told by an informed source that negotiations were said to have been initiated, but Israeli defence ministry ordered them to stop, following a protest from the U.S. It was said that the U.S. government’s stance appeared not to want to be involved in any way in the domestic war between Nigeria’s military and Boko Haram militants, the Israeli source was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, the Israeli defence ministry declined to comment on the matter, saying: “We never comment on the export of Israeli-made weapon systems.” The prime reason adduced for U.S. stand against the transfers has been attributed to fears of human rights abuse by the military, allegation Nigerian officials continue to debunk.
New York Times quotes U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, James F. Entwistle, as telling reporters in October that “The kind of question that we have to ask is, let’s say we give certain kinds of equipment to the Nigerian military that is then used in a way that affects the human situation,” “If I approve that, I’m responsible for that. We take that responsibility very seriously,” he asserted. Buhari According to President Buhari: “In our efforts at combating the activities of Boko Haram, the new Government has sought and obtained the support of not only our neighbours but other international friends and partners.
“Regrettably, the blanket application of the Leahy Law by the United States on the grounds of unproven allegations of human rights violations levelled against our forces has denied us access to appropriate strategic weapons to prosecute the war against the insurgents. “In the face of abduction of innocent school girls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate weapons and technology which they could have had, had the so-called human rights violations not been an obstacle.
“Unwittingly, and I dare say, unintentionally, the application of the Leahy Law amendment by the U. S. Government has aided and abetted the Boko Haram terrorist group in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, in raping of women and girls, and in their other heinous crimes. “I believe this is not the spirit of the Leahy Laws. I know the American people cannot support any group engaged in these crimes. “I therefore strongly appeal to both the Executive Arm and the U.S. Congress to examine how the U.S. Government can provide us with far more substantial counter-terrorism assistance with minimal strings.
“The longer we delay, the deadlier the Boko Haram gets. At all events, we have re-written the rules of engagement protecting the rights of combatants and in particular safeguarding civilians in theatres of conflict.” Still seeking assistance for Nigeria in other areas to enable him build a prosperous, stable, and secure country, Buhari pointed out that the United States can help the democratisation process gain roots by investing in the expansion of Nigeria’s educational, health and economic opportunities for the millions of the country’s youth.
He however, noted that fixing Nigeria’s problems, as formidable as they are, remains essentially the responsibility of Nigerians. “The international community can only assist, but the hard work belongs to Nigerians and their government. “I will as President, lead from the front, but all Nigerians, including the opposition parties, civil society, business and religious leaders, public servants, labour unions, the youth and professional associations all have important roles to play to get our country back on a sound economic footing.”
The President urged the opposition in Nigeria to work with him as it must see itself as an integral part in ensuring development and good governance for the citizenry, especially as “governance in a democracy is always a shared responsibility”. He pointed out that the opposition parties not only has a strong representation in the National Assembly, but also control 14 out of the 36 states in our federal arrangement while in the United States the Republicans are in fact in control of both Houses of Congress.
Nevertheless, Buhari insisted that “despite our current challenges, Nigeria’s commitment to good governance, anti-corruption, democracy and security of lives and property remains firm. “Similarly, I must reaffirm that despite the current challenges that we face domestically, we are ready and willing to face our duties to international peace, stability, security and development as we have done in the past.
“We shall not shirk our international responsibilities and obligations; we shall do what is expected of us.” Gombe Blasts Meanwhile, there multiple explosions, in Gombe State, leaving about 40 dead and scores injured on Wednesday evening at two different bus stations, witnesses told Reuters.
A suspected suicide bomber at the Dadin Kowa motorpark by a mosque detonated one of the bombs, as people went for prayer, two witnesses said.