United States Senator Patrick Leahy, the sponsor of the Leahy Law on Human Rights has charged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct his attention to the Nigerian military and clean up military units allegedly implicated in atrocities in order to get more military support from US instead of rebuking the Leahy Law.
Buhari had on Wednesday in the US stated the Leahy Law “aided and abetted” the campaign of bloodletting by Boko Haram.
Also yesterday, the Presidency denied reports that Buhari indicted the US Government for helping Boko Haram under the cover of Leahy Law; on his part, former aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode accused the US of imposing an international arms embargo on Nigeria that has immensely hindered the war on terror.
Leahy in a statement titled, “Buhari’s Mis-Directed Criticism of the Leahy Law on Human Rights released on Thursday alleged:
“It is well documented by the State Department and by respected human rights organisations that Nigerian army personnel have, for many years, engaged in a pattern and practice of gross violations of human rights against the Nigerian people and others, including summary executions of prisoners, indiscriminate attacks against civilians, torture, forced disappearances and rape. Rarely have the perpetrators been prosecuted or punished.
“This abusive conduct not only violates the laws of war, it creates fear and loathing among the Nigerian people whose support is necessary to defeat a terrorist group like Boko Haram.
“President Buhari ignores the undisputed fact that most Nigerian army units have been approved, under the Leahy Law, for U.S. training and equipment. Only those particular units against which there is credible evidence of the most heinous crimes are ineligible for U.S. aid. And even those units can again become eligible if the Nigerian Government takes effective steps to bring the responsible individuals to justice.
“I strongly agree with President Buhari about the need to defeat Boko Haram, and I have supported tens of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Nigeria for that purpose. But rather than suggest that the United States is at fault for not funding murderers and rapists in the Nigerian military, he should face up to his own responsibility to effectively counter Boko Haram.”
He charged Buhari to direct his attention to the Nigerian military, and the Nigerian courts, and clean up the units implicated in such atrocities.
Meanwhile, Buhari has clarified his position on the effect of the application of the Leahy Law on Nigeria's war against Boko Haram.
A statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina said claims in the local and international media that Buhari accused or indicted the US Government of helping the terrorist group, Boko Haram were untrue and widely off mark.
Adesina described reports to that effect as, “an unfortunate misinterpretation and distortion of Buhari's remarks at the United States Institute of Peace.”
According to him, Buhari made it abundantly clear in those remarks, that he was convinced that the US could never support groups such as Boko Haram.
Adesina said the regrets expressed by Buhari at USIP about the impact of the application of the Leahy Law on Nigeria's war against Boko Haram and terrorism could not be construed as an indictment of President Barack Obama and the US Government.
"Within the context in which they were made, President Buhari's comments on the adverse effect of the Leahy Law on Nigeria's efforts to contain Boko Haram's atrocious acts of terrorism should only be taken as a passionate appeal for even greater understanding and support from a very powerful and longstanding ally," the statement added.
Femi Fani-Kayode yesterday accused the US government of imposing international arms embargo on Nigeria and of helping Boko Haram immensely by refusing to classify them as a terrorist organisation until 2014.
Fani-Kayode in a statement said: “Worst still, they (US) imposed an international arms embargo on us so that we could not buy arms from anyone else in the international community. When asked why they are doing this to us, they tell us that it is because of the Leahy Act which prohibits them from selling arms to governments that violate the human rights of their own citizens.”
“They forget that we are in the middle of a bitter war and that our enemies are being sponsored and supported by both ISIL and Al Qaeda. They forget that over 50,000 innocent Nigerians have been slaughtered in cold blood and thousands more raped and abducted during the course of that war over the last 5 years. They disregard the fact that every day, Nigerians are bleeding more and more and that our gallant Armed Forces, through no fault of their own, have not been able to get the necessary weapons to fight back effectively.
“However in this matter of arms supply to our country it appears to me that a double standard is being applied. It is almost as if they want Nigeria to be brought to her knees and that they want us to be humiliated and destroyed. All the territories recovered from Boko Haram by the Jonathan administration are now being threatened again or have been retaken by Boko Haram in the last few weeks.”
The Leahy Law prohibits the US Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.
It was the primary reason the US government refused to sell weapons to the Nigerian Army last year and even blocked attempts by Israel to sell Cobra helicopters to Nigeria.
Other than Nigeria, other countries that have been stopped from receiving assistance by the US under the Leahy Law are: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Speaking at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), Buhari urged the US government to review the law so that it could provide the needed assistance to Nigeria to crush Boko Haram.
He said that the blanket application of the Leahy Law by the US on the grounds of unproven allegations of human rights violations levelled against the Nigerian Armed forces had denied the country 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 US 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 US Congress to examine how the US government can provide us with far more substantial counter-terrorism assistance with minimal strings. The longer we delay, the deadlier the Boko Haram gets,” he said.
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