United States lawmakers have placed an embargo on the proposed sale of attack helicopters to Nigeria, citing widespread concerns about the country's human rights record as well as the regime's "drifting toward authoritarianism." Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (ret.) is the regime's leader. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held up approval of a planned sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defense systems to the Nigerian military because they were concerned the equipment would be used against civilians, according to media reports. As a result, the $875 million transaction was halted on its track.
Additionally, according to Foreign Policy magazine, information sent to Congress by the United States State Department stated that lawmakers were opposed to the proposed sale of 28 helicopter engines manufactured by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade navigation systems manufactured by Honeywell Aerospace, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems equipped with laser-guided rocket munitions (LGM).
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat, and Republican Senator Jim Risch, who also serves on the committee, are said to be the driving forces behind the halt in business.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the Nigerian government of flagrant abuses of its citizens' democratic rights, extrajudicial executions of political opponents, and human rights violations by the military over the course of the country's history. During nationwide protests against police brutality in October, codenamed # EndSARS, the government responded with brutal force, as evidenced by the fatal shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos, which was filmed by a security camera. An estimated 1,200 people were extrajudicially killed, and approximately 7,000 young men and boys died while being held in military custody as a result of torture, according to an AI report published in March of 2011. According to AI, military commanders either sanctioned the abuses or chose to ignore the fact that they were occurring.
Nigerian security forces were accused of committing "a catalogue of human rights violations and crimes under international law in their response to spiraling violence in South-East Nigeria since January," according to a recent report by the same organization. Among the "repressive campaign," according to the report, were widespread mass arrests, excessive and unlawful force, torture, and other ill-treatment, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 115 people, mostly members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra/Eastern Security Network, from March to June. A series of attacks on government infrastructure, including prisons and public buildings, as well as the killing of several police officers by gunmen suspected to be ESN militants, prompted this campaign, which was ostensibly carried out as a response.
In a similar vein, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims in a 2020 report that "80 years after its founding, members of the (Nigeria Police) force are viewed more as predators than protectors, and the Nigeria Police Force has become a symbol in Nigeria of unfettered corruption, mismanagement, and abuse." "Extortion, embezzlement, and other corrupt practices by Nigeria's police undermine the fundamental human rights of Nigerians," the report asserts. Ordinary citizens, according to the report, are the most directly affected by police corruption because of the numerous human rights violations committed by officers in the course of extorting money. "Arrests and detentions without cause, threats and acts of violence, including physical and sexual assault, torture and even extrajudicial killings, are among the abuses that have been documented."
Authorities in Nigeria brushed off the reports, accusing the rights group of pursuing "an agenda to undermine the army's resolve to combat terrorism" in the country, as they have in the past. Several security challenges have beset Nigeria in recent years. Boko Haram has been waging a jihadist insurgency in Nigeria's North-East for more than a decade. In addition, Fulani herdsmen attack farming communities in the North-Central and Southern regions, and banditry, rampant abduction of schoolchildren, and separatist agitations occur in the North-West and South-East regions. In order to deal with these hydra-headed challenges, it has relied on the purchase of weapons and military assistance from the United States and others.
But some concerned human rights stakeholders have made strident calls for the United States to halt major defence sales to Nigeria "until it conducts a more comprehensive assessment of the extent to which corruption and mismanagement impede the Nigerian military and whether the military is doing enough to minimize civilian casualties in its campaign against Boko Haram and other violent insurgents."
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Demand that the United States and the European Union stop selling arms to Nigeria. Akintoye and Nwodo, among others, have written to the United States and the European Union.
The Times of London reported that Tim Rieser, the top aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, who wrote the law barring American aid to foreign military units accused of abuses, said that "we don't have confidence in the Nigerians' ability to use them in a manner that complies with the laws of war and doesn't end up disproportionately harming civilians, nor in the ability of the US government to monitor if they are used in that manner." A lot can be said in a few words.
The Nigerian Indigenous National Alliance for Self-determination, a socio-political organization, recently petitioned the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, and other Western countries, urging the imposition of severe sanctions against the Federal Government for "undermining democracy and continuously abusing human rights," according to the group.
Nigeria should refrain from routinely dismissing every critical inquest into the disproportionate use of force against its citizens by its security forces, as it has done in the past. Instead of dismissing claims of human rights violations out of hand, the federal government should develop a mechanism for periodically reviewing the rules of engagement for the military during counter-terrorism and other internal security operations. Another important step should be the immediate implementation of a framework for holding soldiers and military commanders accountable for human rights violations. Sanity will prevail when commanders are also held accountable for the actions of those under their command.
Due to the dire need for advanced weapons to address its security challenges, Nigeria must act swiftly to eliminate the culture of abuse, impunity, and corruption that is expected in a democracy, as well as gain the approval of foreign governments by enforcing the conditions for weapons sales mandated by their respective laws. An increase in the use of technology to monitor the battlefield, a tightening of the chain of command, and an increased focus on the media will all help to improve the military's observance of both standing rules of engagement and wartime rules of engagement, according to the Pentagon.
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