Halting the Sales of Arms: America’s Agenda against Nigeria

US lawmakers are holding down an agreed sale of arms to Nigeria, alleging poor human rights records of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, as the country grapples with multiple security crises.

The allegation of the American lawmakers does not correlate with the reality of living in Nigeria, is largely founded on anti-Nigerian propaganda in the social media, and supports America’s agenda against Nigeria becoming a political and economic hegemony in Africa.

The deal, according to US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter is worth $875 million.

The lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to a report reviewed by Foreign Policy magazine, have reportedly delayed clearing an already commenced sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military, alleging the drift of the present government in Nigeria towards human rights violations.

It is important to understand that there are bilateral relations that exist between Nigeria and the United States of America, two countries that have long been close allies, somewhat.

In April 2018, President Trump hosted President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria at the White House to discuss efforts to deepen the two countries’ mutually beneficial relationship. Since 2010, under the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission (BNC), a forum for high-level discussions, the two countries have met regularly.

The most recent BNC was held on February 3, 2020, in Washington D.C. and attended by an inter-agency delegation headed by Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and Under Secretary of State David Hale. The BNC meetings have focused on key areas of mutual interest, including good governance and anti-corruption, trade and investment, development and food security, and security and counter-terrorism efforts.

In April 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken conducted a virtual visit to Nigeria, participating in meetings with President Buhari and Foreign Minister Onyeama and participating in a health partnership event, highlighting the United States’ commitment to assisting Nigeria in combatting infectious diseases and advancing global health security. 

Despite this long-term relationship, the American government stopped the Nigerian government from procurement of arms to tackle insecurity. In fact, this is not the first time that the American government is doing such a thing to the Nigerian government despite being allies.

In 2014, during the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the American government under President Barack Obama stopped the Nigerian government from procurement of arms to combat the extremist Boko Haram sect wreaking havoc in Nigeria’s Northeast region. The allegation of human rights abuses against Nigeria at the time was based on government’s non-recognition of lesbian and gay rights and activities in the country.

The Nigerian government was compelled to opt for the controversial discreet purchase of arms in South Africa as a desperate measure after the American government allegedly blocked all legitimate arms orders made by the military. 

The matter has been extensively reported in the Nigerian media, with some Nigerians accusing the Americans of undermining the country’s war against terrorism.

But in what is the American government’s most elaborate response to the controversy, the then American Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, said cases of alleged human rights abuses by Nigerian troops in the Northeast have stood out like a sore thumb as the United States considers the Nigerian military’s request for arms.

However, many Nigerians believed that the statement regarding human rights is only just another cover-up for why the American government is not interested in selling arms to Nigeria. For these Nigerians, many of the allegations have receive elaborate colourations designed to discredit the government and pull down the nation. Narratives about the often cited Lekki shooting, for example, continue to be characterised by sheer mischief, fabrications and outright falsehoods, which have been bought wholesale and further propagated by the anti-Africa Amnesty International and America’s dominant media machinery, the CNN.

The positions of America on the EndSARS crisis and the secession agitations illustrate America’s desires to see Nigeria disintegrate. The government has gone after these agitators as their approach to their quest was violent. The government has tackled issues of violent agitation as it should the same way it is fighting Boko Haram and banditry. Tackling the issues of the violent Sunday Igboho and the massacre-ordering Nnamdi Kanu cannot be examples of human rights abuses. How instructive that a Nigerian court just granted bail to 12 of Igboho’s aides in a country accused of human rights violation. Nnamdi Kanu had himself received bail sometime ago, but jumped it and resumed his violent campaigns against Nigeria.

Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho were also abusing the rights of other Nigerians in their quest for self-determination. For instance, Nnamdi Kanu said during one of his radio broadcast that his foot soldiers should kill anybody that does not believe in his struggle. In a radio broadcast late last year, he called on his foot soldiers to attack police installations, kill the men and officers and cart away their arms. That was the scenario that played out in the Southeast and parts of the Southsouth for several months this year.

Sunday Igboho on the other hand was seen in a video abusing elders of Yoruba descent who do not align with his struggle. A move that is nothing short of an abuse of human rights. An arms cache was found in his house by invading security operatives at the time he fled his home and the country.

During the tenure of Goodluck Jonathan, the refusal of the US to sell arms to Nigeria had nothing to do with human Rights abuse, but a campaign against Jonathan. Barrack Obama did not hide his disdain for Jonathan’s government and much of that was because of the refusal of the Jonathan’s government to accept or support the idea of LGBT in Nigeria.

A couple of years ago, the Nigerian senate passed a bill that strictly prohibits same-sex romantic liaisons. The consequences were dire and well stated: erring individuals stand to bag a jail sentence of 10 to 14 years.

Expectedly, the bill raised furor among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups (LGBT), pro-western human rights organizations and western governments. The then American President, Barak Obama issued a memo ordering American diplomats abroad to advance the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons.

The U.S government also announced that the fight against gay and lesbian discrimination would be a central point of its foreign policy, and transgressing nations like Nigeria could be denied aid.

But the overwhelming majority of Nigerians who support the anti-gay bill were adamant. Addressing the Nigerian press on Obama’s threat, Zakari Mohammed, a Nigerian lawmaker as at then said, “We have a culture. We have religious beliefs and we have a tradition. We are black people. We are not white, and so the U.S cannot impose its culture on us. Same-sex marriage is alien to our culture and we can never give it a chance. So if Western nations withhold their aid to us, to hell with them.”

Many Nigerians had frowned on the United States’ invasion into the country’s lawmaking process, with many arguing that Nigeria as a sovereign nation reserves the right to make its own laws without interferences from external forces.

Significantly, Nigerians have continued to offer themselves to America fir the purpose of pulling down Nigeria. The politics that Nigerians play to destroy Nigeria by creating a lot of falsehoods and disinformation about the country was what the APC did to the PDP and the nation in 2015. The PDP in turn has been doing the same to the APC and the nation in the last few years. Though considered as propaganda of the politics of pulling down the ruling government by the opposition, it is also a propaganda politics that pulls down the country. This is largely what the US is buying into, working with their Nigerian collaborators – sections of the media, opposition politicians, anti-Nigeria social media activists, sections of the civil society, and ethnicists, among others.

If America were interested in peace and security in Nigeria and commit to it, with Nigeria paying the bills, it will not take two months to crush insurgency in the entire northeast. It probably took just a few hours for the US Navy seals, with Nigeria’s collaboration, to rescue an American who was held hostage by bandits somewhere around the border between Nigeria and Niger. But America does not support Nigeria for any such internal operations.

America is even not forthcoming in terms of sharing relevant intelligence with Nigeria’s security agencies. How did ISIS fighters find their way from Asia to North Africa and then to Northeast Nigeria? That is a question for the US that Nigerians and Africans should be interested in. They were chased away from Iraq and Syria into Africa where they have become a huge disrupting factor. America cannot claim not to have followed the trajectory of the metamorphosis of elements of ISIS into ISWA. Yet, while they crushed ISIS in Iraq and Syria and chased them away into Africa, they have left Africa, and Nigeria especially, to their own devices.

The American lawmakers and government buy ideas that seek to pull down the country largely because they suit their agenda to see Nigeria either break up from within, or for insurgency to linger endlessly in it. Nigerians should understand and always remember that the US had predicted that Nigeria would disintegrate in 2015. That was a reflection of their thoughts towards Nigeria, and that wish for disintegration continues to shape their strategic security policies towards the country.

The US would rather spend millions of dollars as aid to support displaced people and victims of insurgency in Nigeria than vote those same sums to help stop or prevent the insurgency that creates such humanitarian crises. What an irony that smirks of high hypocrisy!

The onus is on the government to continue to seek and explore options on how to get arms for its national security project, and not to depend on America because they have not been Nigeria’s allies in the country’s struggle to end insecurity and insurgency.

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