In what seems to be a clear case of double standards, the United States has threatened that Nigeria risks 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 federation.
Speaking in an interview with CNN International released by the US Department of State, the US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, threatened that his country would apply the Leahy Laws against Nigeria if the allegations of rights violations were found to be credible.
The threat came just as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) faulted the removal of Nigeria from the US 2021 list of religious violators, insisting that Christians are still being persecuted by terrorist groups and other Islamic associations in the country.
According to reports, the United States was said to have vetoed over 50 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions critical of Israel since 1972.
During the last escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the US had reportedly stuck to that playbook, blocking a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Several resolutions condemning violence against Palestine protesters, and the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, were also reportedly thwarted by the US.
The UN resolutions had also stated that East Jerusalem should not be considered Israeli territory, but the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.
In contrast to Washington’s blanket support for Israel, concerns have heightened that the US wants to tie Nigeria’s hand behind her back in the face of attacks by terrorists, and bandits by threatening arms embargo against the country in the fight against insurgent groups.
But Blinken, in a surprise move, said his country would apply the Leahy Laws against Nigeria. The Leahy Laws prohibit the US Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign security force units that violate human rights with impunity.
Blinken said: “Of course, we also have laws in place – the Leahy laws, for example. That makes sure that if there are units that have committed abuses; we are not going to provide equipment to those units.”
Asked whether the US would invoke the Leahy Laws against Nigeria, the secretary of state promised: “Well, we look in any instance if there are credible allegations that prove out or that we believe meet the standard of the law, of course, we will apply the law.
“If there is genuine transparency, accountability, and change that follows from these incidents and these abuses, I think that is very important, not only to our administration. It is also important to the US Congress in making judgments about continuing to assist the security forces,” Blinken explained.
The secretary of state, however, explained the nature of military assistance the US had been giving Nigeria, noting that it was not all about the sale of military hardware alone, but also about the software.
According to Blinken, “the military assistance itself is not just the hardware that we might provide – airplanes or helicopters. It is also the software as well as the human software”.
He said: “Because one of the things that we are doing is making sure that as we are providing equipment to deal with profound security challenges that are faced here in Nigeria – terrorism, criminal activity, other violence, those who will be using the equipment are trained.
“Security forces must be trained in a way that makes sure that they are doing it to avoid hurting the good guys, even as they are going after the bad guys, to make sure that the laws of armed conflict are fully in mind. If they make mistakes, they are corrected and they are brought to light immediately,” Blinken explained.
Reacting to the report on the Lekki Tollgate incident, Blinken admitted that the report of the Lekki Incident had brought transparency to what happened on the night of October 20, 2020.
He said: “I think the first of all, the fact of the report, of the panel’s work is usually important because it is bringing vital transparency to what happened, to the violence that took place around the #EndSARS protests and the allegations of abuses by the security forces.
“I have not seen the published report yet. I think it will hopefully be coming out very, very soon. But a couple of things are really important,” Blinken added.
He explained that the report was important to make sure that such an incident would not happen again.
He argued that reforms “are necessary to build and rebuild trust between the citizens and the security services, between citizens and the state. That is an obligation of both the state government and the federal government.”
Blinken insisted that officers of the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police, who played one role or the other in the Lekki Incident should be made to account for their roles.
He said: “If there are individuals that – as it emerges from this report – who are responsible for committing abuses, there has to be accountability in terms of those individuals. That too is vital to rebuilding trust between citizens and the state and the security services.”
The panel’s report had recommended that all officers deployed to the tollgate should face appropriate disciplinary action. Except for Commander, 81 Division Garrison, Brig. Gen. Francis Omata, the panel demanded that all military officers involved in the operations should be stripped of their status and dismissed on the ground that they “are not fit and proper to serve in any public or security service of the nation.”
The panel equally recommended that the Divisional Police Officer, Maroko Police Division, Mr. Raji Ganiyu, and all police officers deployed for operation between October 20 and 21, 2020 should be prosecuted for arbitrary and indiscriminate shooting and killing of the #EndSARS protesters.
– Agom writes from Jikwoyi District, Abuja