With some 100,000 civilians, security personnel, members of paramilitary groups, and aid workers killed, and over three million people displaced, with about N3.6 trillion property destroyed in a 12-year insurgency waged by the Boko7 Haram terrorist group in Nigeria’s North-east, a threat by the United States to impose an arms embargo on Nigeria has ruffled feathers. Many are wondering whose interest is served to deny arms sale to Nigeria. Is it the interest of terrorists? Does the United States and its Western allies want to cripple the country on the pretext of rights abuse so terrorists and bandits can ride to power?
Nonetheless, Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya, told officers and men of the Nigerian armed forces and other security agencies engaged in the battle against insurgents to deal decisively with them in order to restore peace to the troubled areas. Yahaya said this on Sunday in Minna during a chat with journalists, after a closed-door meeting with officers and men of the armed officers at the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) headquarters.
A recent research paper prepared for the European Peace Facility (EPF), an European Union project for peace support operations across the globe, stated that terrorist groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP), had launched 500 attacks on military bases and formations of the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) between 2015 and 2020
The paper noted that between 2015 and 2020, 2,368, “uniformed personnel fatalities were recorded.”
Yet, the United States threatened that Nigeria risked arms embargo for alleged violations of the laws on armed conflicts in the fight against banditry, terrorism, and other forms of violence in different parts of the country.
Speaking in an interview with CNN International released by the US Department of State, the US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, had threatened that his country could apply the Leahy Laws against Nigeria if the allegations of rights violations were found to be credible.
While the US has demonstrated considerable commitment in partnering with Nigeria to contain terrorism, especially with the recent delivery of 12 A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets purchased by Nigeria and the training of military personnel, the comment by the US top official left security experts wondering the actual position of the US in the war against insurgency.
Speaking with THISDAY yesterday, a former army spokesman, Brigadier-General S.K. Usman (rtd), advised the US government to withdraw the threat of imposing arms embargo on Nigeria.
Usman said, “I do not think that arms embargo is advisable. The US should rescind its threat to impose arms embargo on Nigeria. The Nigerian government should also review its relations with the US.
“Cameroon, Niger, and Chad are steeped in human rights abuses, yet they have good relations with them. Nigeria has done a good job fighting insurgency for 12 years. Sometimes it looks as if there’s something else behind all these issues about human rights violations. Nigerians who are providing all these information to US from which they reach such decisions should also have a rethink.”
He added, “People should know that once Nigeria as the most populous black nation is in trouble, the rest of Africa is in trouble. It is important that we solve our problems ourselves.”
A top military official, who pleaded to remain anonymous, also faulted the comments by Blinken, saying a lot is on-going between the two countries presently that should not have warranted an embargo threat from the US official.
The official stated, “There is a lot going on between US and Nigeria not to warrant such an embargo. We recently inducted 12 fighter aircraft; there are training programmes on-going.
“Our relationship with the US has improved greatly. A lot is going on presently. I am not saying nothing is happening but I don’t see that (arms embargo) happening.”
The Nigerian government recently commenced a subtle celebration of an impending victory over terrorists in the North-east, following the surrender of 17,000 fighters of Boko Haram and ISWAP.
Under the President Good luck Jonathan presidency, the US government led by then President Barrack Obama and other Western nations had denied Nigeria access to arms on the allegation of human rights abuses. That had led to resort to self-help and black market procurement of arms that turned out inferior to the arms wielded by terrorists.
In a recent interview with THISDAY, Defence Spokesman, Maj Gen Olufemi Sawyerr, said the Armed Forces of Nigeria were winning the war against insurgency and armed banditry.
Sawyerr said, “We are winning the war in the North-east and North-west and the terrorists are surrendering in large numbers.
“Why is it that it is now that we are clearly winning the war that such report is coming up to drag us back? We are winning the war and thousands of them are surrendering with their families. What else are we saying?”
The US Embassy in Abuja had, last week, following the submission of the panel report on last year’s #EndSARS protests in Lagos State, urged the state and federal governments to take steps to address the allegations of abuses raised in the report.
Meanwhile, Yahaya told officers and men of the security services engaged in the battle against insurgency to deal decisively with those causing problems for the country in order to restore peace to troubled areas of the country.
The army chief stated, “We should be more resolute and decisive when dealing with criminals.”
Yahaya told soldiers on the frontlines not to be lenient with the insurgents because, “it is like fighting a war.”
He said, “When we engage the bandits it is just like in a war, We kill them and take their weapons, that is what we will continue to do.”
He acknowledged there were challenges, but said the bottlenecks had been identified and would be addressed.
He stated, “I have gone round all the states in Nigeria to assess the security situation and now that I came here, I have been briefed by my officers on ground.
“I commend them for the job they are doing…
“The essence of the visit is to interact with the troops, to ginger them more to do better. The challenges across the nation have been unfolded and we are doing our best. In war like this, you can have surprises sometimes.”
Yahaya said many people had acknowledged there was much improvement in the security situation across the country when “compared to the beginning”. He assured that military would continue in that drive.
Yahaya promised that the army would collaborate with other security services, agencies, and stakeholders to ensure the fight was won. He urged relevant institutions and individuals to lend the security agencies a helping hand, particularly with respect to intelligence information.
He stated, “These criminal elements are living with us and if we all join hands together, we will eliminate them. Now we are making progress we have improved results. The others (other security agencies) are already collaborating with us in the area of information sharing.”