THERE were strong indications on Monday that the United States would soon lift the current arms embargo placed on Nigeria.
The Head of a Delegation of the US Congress Committee on Judiciary to the country, Mr. Darrel Issa, said this while speaking with journalists after an indoor meeting with the nation’s defence and military chiefs at the National Defence College, Abuja.
Issa said that the US had commenced the process of lifting the restrictions of the Leahy Law on Nigeria because of the recent moves to professionalise the military by the Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, and the service chiefs.
The Leahy Law is a human rights law of the US, which prevents the US State Department and the Department of Defence from selling arms and ammunition to countries whose military are believed to have committed brazen acts of rights violation.
The refusal of the US government to sell arms to the country because of the Leahy law had made Nigeria under former President Goodluck Jonathan to explore other options, including the Black Market, to get desperately needed arms and ammunition to halt the advances of the Boko Haram insurgents in 2014.
Issa added that most of America’s support for Nigeria in the area of training, technical support and equipment provision was not tied to the Leahy and had not been stopped.
He said that the US was relying on President Muhammadu Buhari and the military chiefs to rebuild the trust of Nigerians in the military as an institution that would protect the citizenry.
The US congressman said that Nigerian military chiefs and the American delegation had discussed the issue of additional support, especially in the area of aerial surveillance critical to the fight against insurgency and the theft of the nation’s crude oil.
He said, “There are a number of things that we discussed today. Basically, there was the need for additional technical support, including overhead surveillance. This is important for Boko Haram but it is also important to stop the theft of this country’s oil by pirates and others.
“The fact is that this new regime with the new general staff has begun the process of ensuring that military professionalism in all post-civilians and combats has been made in a way that we can both be confident that the rule of law is being obeyed.
“So the process has begun to lift the restriction of the Leahy. But let’s understand that the vast majority of support that the US provides and would provide would be provided regardless of those. Our technical support, our training and most of the equipment we supply have never stopped and will continue.
“But we are looking forward to the President, with the new General Staff to work to make sure the people of Nigeria can have the confidence in the professionalism of the military, something the people rely on when the military is trying to clear insurgents and protect civilians.
“That is important to the new President; that is important to our President. So those are some of the areas that we discussed but we are very much looking forward to a great difference in the relationship, a proactive relationship and one in which we can provide a much greater level of support. Many of the items we discussed today are new and enhanced items that would be provided to this government.”
Issa said that the leadership of the military had been showing an understanding that the war against terrorism involved getting the people out of the insurgency and securing the communities as well as creating the environment for them to have trust in the government rather than the Boko Haram.
He stressed that the Boko Haram had not only disrupted the peace of the area, it had also caused famine in the affected communities.
He added that USAID “would be providing assistance as the military close areas and make it safe for communities to be rebuilt.”
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Alhaji Aliyu Samaila, said that the visit of the American delegation to the country was a follow-up to President Buhari’s recent visit to the US.
Samaila said that the President’s visit was of great gain to the country and that it rekindled the hopes and aspirations of both the US and Nigeria.
He said, “This is a delegation from the United States Congress; they are on a visit to Nigeria and this is a follow-up to Mr. President’s visit to the US. We have said it again and again that the visit of Mr. President was of great gain to this country. It has rekindled the hopes and aspirations of the two countries.
“The United States believes in Nigeria; they have trust in our President and the government of the people of Nigeria. And they are also very concerned about the security situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin area.
“And that is one of the reasons they are here to discuss with us and the military, that is, the services. We have discussed the issues concerning the insecurity in Nigeria and also the issue of human rights. They are pleased with the discussions. We hope that at least we would continue to build on this. Gaps that had been created before have been identified and they are definitely going to work on them.”
SOURCE: Punch Newspaper