" ITREALMS: Will Trump unveil Leahy laws off Nigeria?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Will Trump unveil Leahy laws off Nigeria?

It may not be news that the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari would today, Monday, April 30, in Washington DC, United States of America, meet President Donald Trump at the Oval Office, but the question remained if Trump will unveil the Leahy laws off Nigeria, writes ITRealms.

Top on the agenda of the meeting of the two presidents comprises matters on security and economic realignment and no society thrives where the security of the country is under-siege as seen largely in Nigeria today.

The past week, over 30 persons have been killed including two Catholic priests and Christian faithful in Benue State by suspected AK47 arm-welding herdsmen, while the Army claimed at the weekend a top Boko Haram commander has been arrested over the Benue most recent killings, thereby bringing a twist to the issues on whether those Benue attacks were actually by herdsmen or Boko Haram.

This led the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria to request President Buhari to resign with immediate effect, even as some section of the National Assembly made up of the Senate and House of Representatives have declare ‘no confidence vote’ on his administration.

Worthy of note is that on assumption of office in 2015, President Buhari visited US and held a meeting then with President Barrack Obama and reportedly requested what industry and security observers tagged “counterterrorism with minimal strings” for Nigeria, which was evidently turned down based on damning security reports.

Some of this reports included the increasing insurgency by Boko Haram in the northeast, stressing that the group was behind the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014 as well as the abduction of more than 100 from Dapchi in February 2018, and subsequent return of some which was largely described as drama of the absurd, moreso, following insistence by the terrorist group not to release Leah Sharibu for refusal to convert to Islam.

The government of the day led by President Buhari seems helpless as they continued to claim making strides in the fight while more and more Nigerians are being killed if not slaughtered on daily basis.

ITRealms gathered that the US-Nigerian security cooperation was strained under former US President Barack Obama due to prohibition placed by the Leahy laws, which bar providing US military assistance to specific individuals and units of foreign militaries that have been credibly accused of committing human rights abuses.

The State Department at the time concluded that both Boko Haram and the Nigerian military had committed atrocities. Some Nigerian troops, specifically, were accused in a State Department report of committing extra-judicial killings, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, and widespread violence.

Acknowledging these human rights concerns, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, J. Peter Pham, who is also vice president for research and regional initiatives at the Atlantic Council, said: “I would make the argument not to allow the best to be the enemy of the good.” Stressing that “Absent of clear evidence of a systematically abusive regime, moral preening is of little utility in dealing with situations like this.”

Trump in contrast, had pushed ahead military cooperation with Nigeria with his administration in 2017 given
approval for the sale to Nigeria of 12 military planes and security equipment worth $600 million; which is still a huge mess when it comes to due process as the National Assembly said there is no evidence such money was appropriated either in 2017 or 2018 budget.

Also, Trump had sought to improve relations with African countries which he allegedly referred to in derogatory terms in January this year, according to Pham. Incidentally, in March, Trump’s top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, then Secretary of State came to Nigeria only to spent a few hours as he was forced to cut short a trip to Africa. Trump fired Tillerson on his return from this trip.

With the above observations, industry and diplomatic watchers are still in awe why Buhari should trust Trump to change his mind so soon from the core ‘American first’ stanza, moreso, that the reasons adduced by the Obama administration under Leahy laws rather than change, but is getting worse.

For the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) over 300 Nigerians have been killed since January 1 and last weekend and specifically in Benue but no arrest has been made, and action to conclusively show determination by the government, rather the Buhari administration appeared helpless as it resorted to sending condolences.

All eyes is now on Mr. Trump to know if he will still proceed with 2017 approval to Nigeria, amidst alleged ethnic cleansing against President Buhari’s administration, although the reverse is possible if adequate homework is done to strengthen the ties between the two countries before the Oval Office meeting.

The prayer of every well-meaning Nigerian is for the government of Buhari to overcome insurgency and stand up against the herdsmen, which the government claimed came from aftermath of Libya civil conflict, yet the last weekend arrest of Boko Haram commander over the Benue killings in the last fortnight sends a wrong signal, according another school of thought; in that those Benue attacks may have been as well perpetrated by Boko Haram all this while, whereas the government and military search for excuses by tagging them herdsmen from neighbouring countries.

The fact that by the end of this Oval Office meeting between Buhari and Trump, a new security statistics could emerge to either justify the outcome or damn it.

The Leahy Laws or Leahy amendments are U.S. human rights laws that prohibit the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign security force units that violate human rights with impunity.[1] It is named after its principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont).

To implement this law, U.S. embassies, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and the appropriate regional bureau of the U.S. Department of State vet potential recipients of security assistance. If a unit is found to have been credibly implicated in a serious abuse of human rights, assistance is denied until the host nation government takes effective steps to bring the responsible persons within the unit to justice. 

While the U.S. Government does not publicly report on foreign armed forces units it has cut off from receiving assistance, press reports have indicated that security force and national defense force units in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Saint Lucia have been denied assistance due to the Leahy Law.
Senator Leahy first introduced this law in 1997 as part of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. It initially referred only to counter-narcotics assistance for one year. 

The next year, with his leadership, Congress expanded it to cover all State Department funded assistance. This provision was included in all annual Foreign Operations budget laws until 2008. At that time Congress made the law permanent by amending it into the Foreign Assistance Act. In 2011, Congress revised the law substantially, seeking to enhance its implementation.

The United States government has long been a major, if not the largest, provider of assistance—funding, training, non-lethal equipment, and/or weaponry---to foreign military and other security forces.

 In 2012 it spent $25 billion on training and equipping foreign militaries and law enforcement agencies of more than 100 countries around the world.[6] Security assistance is driven by overriding U.S. national security objectives, including a desire to challenge/overturn communist regimes during the Cold War, counter drug trafficking in the 1990s, or counter anti-Western terrorism in the 2000s. Throughout the United States' long history of providing assistance to foreign armed forces, some portion of this assistance has been provided to forces that repress and abuse their own populations.

Before 1997, the primary U.S. legislation constraining aid to countries with poor human rights records was Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibited security assistance to “any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” This law was seen as too vague to be effective in cases where the U.S. government had an overriding interest.

According to Senator Leahy, his law “makes it clear that when credible evidence of human rights violations exists, U.S. aid must stop. But, it provides the necessary flexibility to allow the U.S. to advance its foreign policy objectives in these countries.”

As Nigerians hope for the best, may the best come out of the Oval Office meeting today.

Remmy Nweke/ED, ops

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