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Published On: Mon, Oct 20th, 2014

America’s commitment to a secure Nigeria

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ObamaBy James F. Entwistle

Recent media reports on U.S.-Nigeria security cooperation may have led some to question the United States’ willingness to support Nigeria’s war on terrorism. Our support is unwavering and comes from the highest levels of the U.S. government. When I presented credentials to President Goodluck Jonathan almost one year ago, I told him the United States stands with Nigeria in its efforts to defeat Boko Haram. That commitment is as true today as it was then.

Our support to Nigeria’s war against terror takes many forms and has been consistent from the beginning. It involves military training as well as information sharing. Security cooperation between the United States and Nigeria promotes the professionalization of Nigeria’s security forces and strengthens their contributions to international peacekeeping missions. Our cooperation emphasizes a whole-of government approach that underlines the importance of human rights, civilian protection, and adherence to rule of law at all levels as key tools in the fight against terror.

Over the years, the United States has always been willing to share appropriate military equipment with Nigeria. That remains the case today but must be understood in the context of our global policy on arms transfers. The U.S. government undertakes a rigorous evaluation process before proceeding with the sale of military equipment to any country, including Nigeria. The U.S. Departments of State and Defense review all potential arms transfers for their consistency with U.S. policy and interests, as detailed in the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy. This includes any requests from a country that we have sold or donated weapons to resell or donate those same weapons to another country, such as Nigeria.

We examine whether an arms transfer makes sense for the needs of the prospective country. Part of our review considers whether equipment may be used in a way that could adversely affect human rights. The United States believes that we bear a certain level of responsibility for how the equipment is ultimately used. We take this responsibility very seriously and our laws require strict accountability for all sales. Contrary to what some commentators have claimed, the fact that we carry out a careful review of equipment sales to Nigeria does not mean that we are not providing equipment – sometimes transfers are approved, and sometimes they are not. We look at each Nigerian case very carefully, just as we do in the case of transfers to any other country.

I would also like to emphasize that the provision of new equipment alone is not a cure-all that will quickly resolve the current security situation. Military equipment may be part of the equation to end the Boko Haram insurgency, but successfully ending the struggle against Boko Haram requires much more. For example, meeting the basic needs of soldiers – making sure they have the proper attire, are well-trained, and are properly fed – in the field is equally critical. In addition, providing economic opportunities to alleviate poverty is essential in order to offer potential extremist recruits a viable alternative to a life of crime and violence. To foster the stability, security, and prosperity of its citizens, Nigeria must effectively address all aspects of the terrorism equation, and we stand with the Nigerian government in its efforts to do just that.

The United States and Nigeria enjoy a long and healthy relationship. We recognize that security is a critical dimension of our partnership. We want to help Nigeria create a secure and stable environment for its citizens. I look forward to continuing to work with the Nigerian government, civil society, the private sector, and all Nigerian citizens to achieve that goal.

James F. Enwistle is the US Ambassador to Nigeria


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