In line with its promise to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram terrorists, the United States, US, has hinted on its resolve to lift the ban on the sale of arms to Nigeria.
The Barack Obama administration said its action was part of efforts to enhance cooperation between both countries in tackling the insurgents in the North-East zone.
A delegation from the US Congress disclosed this in Abuja yesterday when it met with Nigerian military.
Leader of the delegation, Issah Darrel, who is also part of the Judicial Committee of the US Congress, held talks with the Chiefs of Army, Naval, Defence and Air Staff at a closed-door meeting.
Darrel stressed that the US government would soon relax or completely lift the restriction on military assistance imposed on Nigeria under the Leahy Law.
The law is America’s human rights statue which prohibits the US Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign countries which troops allegedly violate human rights with impunity.
He said the development was occasioned by the policy of the new military command with regards to the ongoing operations in the country.
“There were a number of things that were discussed at the meeting but basically the need for additional technical support including overhead surveillance. This was discussed because it is important in the fight against Boko Haram.
“This is because of the trust in the new regime which has begun the process of ensuring that the military’s professionalism in the battle field is made in a way that we all can be confident that the rule of law is followed.
“Following this development, we have begun the process of lifting restriction under the Leahy Law but the vast majority of the support US provides will be given regardless of the restrictions,” he said.
Darrel said the US would provide other forms of support that would not only boost the military’s capabilities but create the environment to rebuild devastated communities.
He said the US through its agencies in Nigeria would help rebuild and rehabilitate communities and victims of insurgency in the North-East.
“We are looking forward to working with the President and the military to rebuild the confidence of the people of Nigeria in the professionalism of the military. To make the military something that the people will rely on as the nation tries to clear insurgents and protect the civilians; that are important to the new president of Nigeria, our president and it is also important to the congress.
“But we are looking forward to a great difference in the relationship, a proactive relationship and one in which we can provide a greater level of support,” he said.
On his part, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Mr. Ismaila Aliyu, said the visit was a sign of the renewed confidence in Nigeria’s military on the global scene.
He said Nigeria now enjoys a greater level of confidence and trust in the international community, stressing that it would impact positively on the nation’s efforts in repositioning its economy.
“The US believes in Nigeria, they have trust and confidence in Nigeria that is why they are here. On the issue of human rights, the US is pleased with what we have been doing in recent times to address the gaps that may have existed in the past. This visit is a follow up to Mr. President’s visit to the US, we have said it and will continue to state that the visit was of great benefit to Nigeria, it has rekindled confidence in the relations between the two countries,” he said.
Other issues that dominated discussions between officials of the two countries include justice reforms and support for devastated communities, among others.
The meeting is rated as one of the gains of Buhari’s recent visit to the US.
The US Congress delegate visit is coming almost two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari’s visited the U.S. and had talks with President Barack Obama on the war on terror ongoing in North-Eastern Nigeria, economic development and other issues of interest to both countries.
Nigerian Pilot recalls that Buhari, while addressing a gathering at the United States Institute of Peace during his visit, stressed the need for the U.S. Congress to examine how the U.S. Government could provide Nigeria with far more substantial counter-terrorism assistance with minimal strings.
At that meeting, President Buhari said: “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 abated 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 counterterrorism 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.”
The Nigerian military had maintained that it had put into consideration the rights of citizens in its counter-terrorism operations, stressing that it would continue to uphold that commitment.