The United States has faulted the claim by the Nigerian government that it is standing in the way of the Nigerian military’s quest to procure weapons to strengthen its war against the extremist Boko Haram sect.
Answering questions during a press briefing, the U.S. Department of State spokesperson, Jen Paski, said Wednesday the American government has been supporting the Nigerian military in the area of intelligence sharing, training of soldiers and other measures in combating the insurgency.
On Monday, the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S., Ade Adefuye, had accused the U.S. of letting Nigeria down in its hour of need by refusing to help the country procure weapon to combat Boko Haram.
“We find it difficult to understand how and why in spite of the U.S. presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly,” he said. He said the U.S. was standing in the way of the Nigerian military procuring lethal equipment that would have helped the country end the deadly insurgency mounted against Nigeria by Boko Haram.
Dismissing the claims that the Nigerian military were involved in human rights violations, Mr. Adefuye also flayed the U.S. government for the manner it’s sharing intelligence with the Nigerian military, arguing that despite the claim by the Americans that things have improved in that aspect, “it is still there”.
However, during Wednesday’s briefing in Washington, the Department of State spokesperson said the U.S. has actually increased its support for the Nigerian military, especially in the last six months.
She said her government has improved intelligence sharing with the Nigerian military and has actually approved and sold some military equipment to the Nigerian military.
“Let me just lay out the facts of our assistance. Over the past six months, the United States has started sharing intelligence with Nigeria, began training a new army battalion and held numerous high-level discussions with Nigerian authorities on additional measures to best address the Boko Haram threat.
“We have also provided and approved sales of military equipment to its armed forces. These decisions are made, of course, after careful scrutiny to ensure they conform with United States law,” she said in response to a question about Ambassador Adefuye’s claims.
She explained that the U.S. refused to sell some Cobra attack helicopters to the Nigerian armed forces early this year because it was concerned the military had no capacity to operate and maintain it.
Ms Paski said there were also concerns over the protection of civilians during military operations.
“We shared those concerns with Nigeria before this decision and subsequent to it,” she said.
She said that the Nigerian military has however purchased helicopters from other sources and that the U.S. government did not prevent such purchases.
“Nigeria has purchased helicopters that originated in countries other than the United States, and nothing in our decision prevents Nigeria from obtaining weapons and equipment from other sources.
“We’ll continue to look for ways to deepen our cooperation with Nigeria to help it acquire the systems and skills needed to restore peace and security. But obviously, we’ve provided a great deal of assistance over the past several months.”
Ms Paski said the U.S. would continue to urge the Nigerian military to investigate allegation of abuses by soldiers and to do more in the area of training the country’s security forces to improve its effectiveness.
“We wouldn’t be raising that concern if we didn’t feel and others didn’t feel that they were warranted,” she said.
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