US snubs Nigeria over rights abuses
The United States is withholding support from Nigerian troops in Mali over alleged human rights abuses in Borno, Yobe and other states of the country where soldiers have been deployed on joint security operations to contain insurgency.
Nigeria is participating in the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) meant to flush out rebels and rescue the country from total breakdown of law and order.
A highly placed source among the Nigerian contingent in Mali, stated that the US has named five West African countries including: Chad, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria as countries where there are violations of human rights by military personnel.
As a consequence, the US has refused to fund, kit and equip soldiers from countries in its list who are participating in AFISMA. Findings indicate that the US blacklisted Nigeria following reported cases of gross human rights abuses including arbitrary arrests, detentions and extra-judicial killings in Borno, Yobe, Kano and other parts of the country where soldiers are deployed on joint internal security operations.
Reacting to these and other allegations, The ECOWAS Field Commander, Gen SU Abdulkadir, denied online reports that Nigerian troops in Mali were starving and were being fed by the locals.
Abdulkadir said, instead, the Malians were impressed with the performance of the Nigerian troops and donated a cow to them in appreciation.
In a chat with our correspondent, the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Col. Mohammed Yerima said the United Nations is not funding any country involved in AFISMA separately.
According to the DDI, “UN is to fund ECOWAS while ECOWAS in turn will fund the troops in Mali together” adding that “there is no isolation in their funding”.
He further said that at the beginning of the operation, ECOWAS sought initial funding from UN but because of the exigency of the situation, ECOWAS asked each country to prepare initial funding for three months for their troops which Nigeria did and thereafter, UN will step in.
In a related development, Defence Headquarters said it has increased the number of Nigerian troops to the African-led International Support in Mali (AFISMA).
A statement signed by the DDI in Abuja yesterday said Defence Headquarters has deployed a total of 724 troops, made up of 300 Nigerian Air Force personnel and 424 Nigerian Army personnel at the moment.
According to the statement, “Also deployed are heavy weapons, ammunition, vehicles and equipment”, adding that Nigerian Air Force assets in the operation include two Alpha jets and one MI35 which will provide interdiction and close air support to ground troops based in Niamey, Niger Republic.