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…As US lawmakers stop $875m defense equipment sale to Nigerian

…Notes President Buhari’s policy drift toward authoritarianism, jihadist insurgency, etc

…Britain says security challenges in Nigeria completely overwhelming government

…Adds that Nigerian authorities trying their best but must go by human rights standards

THERE are indications that the world’s most powerful country, the United States of America, and her formidable ally, the United Kingdom are descending heavily on the Muhammadu Buhari-led government. This is because information currently circulating in the media space has it that the United States lawmakers are already holding down a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defense systems to the Nigerian military. This development comes after a recent delivery of six Super Tucano aircraft which were ordered some years earlier.

The deal now being held back is worth some $875 million and the reason for US lawmakers’ decision is rising human rights violations in Nigeria, amongst others. According to the report, the top Democrat and Republican members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have also blamed the delay being experienced on clearing the proposed helicopters on Buhari’s drifting policy toward authoritarianism, saying that his government is besieged by multiple security challenges, including a jihadist insurgency. Chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria during a Senate hearing with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June. It was however reported that both Menendez and Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have placed a hold on the proposed arms sale, according to multiple U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The details on the proposed sale were first sent by the U.S. State Department to Congress in January before then former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. “In addition to the helicopters, the proposed sale included 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems—laser-guided rocket munitions, according to information sent by the State Department to Congress and reviewed by Foreign Policy.” Information has it that the United States Department is not unaware of the bilateral relationship that exists between America and Nigeria. “The U.S.- Nigeria relationship” as noted by the US lawmakers is “among the most important in sub-Saharan Africa” and the US has provided some funding for various military training and education programs. Some experts said the United States should hit the pause button on major defense sales until it makes a broader assessment of the extent to which corruption and mismanagement hobble the Nigerian military and whether the military is doing enough to minimize civilian casualties in its campaign against Boko Haram and other violent insurrectionists.

There doesn’t have to be a reason why we don’t provide weapons or equipment to the Nigerian military,” said Judd Devermont, Director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. Anietie Ewang, a Nigerian researcher at Human Rights Watch cited the Nigerian military’s killing of unarmed protesters during the country’s massive #EndSARS demonstrations against police corruption and brutality last year as well as cases documented by human rights organizations of abuses in the military’s campaign against Boko Haram as instances of poor human rights record of the Buhari government. “There are so many conflicts springing up across the country now. The authorities are trying to do the best they can to save lives and properties. But this must be done in accordance with human rights standards.

You can’t throw one out just to be able to achieve the other.” British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing also noted that security challenges facing the Nigerian government were “completely overwhelming.” Speaking on the sidelines of the reception for returning 2019/2020 UK Chevening Scholarship beneficiaries, Laing said that the United Kingdom government was keen on helping the federal government win its fight against insecurity. According to her, the UK military team that arrived after the kidnap of the Chibok girls was still on the ground and helping in training the Nigerian military and facilitating campaign plans on how to counter IEDs. She noted that the recent visit of the UK Minister of Armed Forces, during which he interacted with the Nigerian government at the highest level, including the service chiefs, also showed the commitment of the UK government.

While urging the Nigerian government to be a bit more precise about the support needed from the UK and what the UK could offer, Laing said: “So, we are here for the long term. This is a Nigerian partnership. ‘Your insecurity becomes our insecurity if we don’t help you tackle it. So, we are here and we are trying to do our best to support you.” On the Chevening Programme, Lang said it was an initiative by the UK government to prepare future leaders, who would not only excel in academic qualifications but also be ready to return to their respective countries to give back. She disclosed that Nigeria already had 1,300 Chevening alumni, currently occupying important positions in power, thereby providing the UK both access and influence. “We are extremely concerned about the deteriorating security situation. I mean, Nigeria is facing a lot of problems everywhere – in the North-East, terrorism; in the North-West, banditry, kidnapping; in the Middle Belt, farmers-herders conflict; in the South, the Niger Delta conflict; and the secession movements in the South-East.

So, Nigeria is really struggling,” Catriona said. Expressing worry over the kidnapping of schoolchildren by ransom-demanding bandits, the UK envoy said that criminal activities would be a viable alternative for those without jobs, adding that sustainable employment opportunities are needed. “I think the government is grappling with this. The range of insecurity challenges that this government is facing is just completely overwhelming. And so I really do understand the challenges they have got, particularly with kidnapping in terms of paying a ransom. We have in the UK — very clear policy not to pay ransoms. “Of course, the more you play, the more likely the cycle repeats. If it was my child, I’m sure this is what I would want to do. I think we have to recognize what parents are going through in this terrible time. “I think the government is developing a pretty comprehensive strategy which is dealing with the security issues while looking at the long-term ways of tackling it. For example:

On the economic side, as I mentioned, where we see farmers-herders conflicts and kidnappings associated with that. The program of the government still revolving around livestock launching, it is going to be crucial because we have to have means of livelihood of people. “A sustainable employment opportunity is a way to deal with different security threats. In the South, you see cultists and so on. In the Middle-Belt, you got this farmers-herders sort of conflict and kidnapping increasingly spreading around the whole country. In the North-East, it is the Islamic State of West Africa. “If you are a young man without a job, they present to you a viable alternative. Ultimately, economic growth, employment opportunities are probably the single most valuable way to solve this underlying problem,” she said during an interview with a television station.

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