By Stanley Onyekwere, with agency report
The Nigeria had hired a powerful Washington lobbying firm to press its case for intelligence towards tackling Boko Haram and to persuade the Obama administration to donate non-lethal equipment in the hunt for the extremists, documents filed with the US government revealed at the weekend.
Amid an international outcry over April’s abductions by Boko Haram of the Chibok schoolgirls, some US officials have insisted that Nigeria didn’t want the Foreign Terror Organisation (FTO) designation of Boko Haram, earlier than 2013 because it might elevate the group to a global jihadi status.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, last week also echoed those who said that Nigeria’s pride also made it to shy away from offers of American and British counter-terrorism assistance, even after a United Nations office in Abuja was bombed three years ago.
“The [Nigerian] government had its own set of strategies, if you will, in the beginning,” Kerry said at a press conference. “And you can offer and talk, but you can’t do [anything] if a government has its own sense of how it’s proceeding. I think now the complications that have arisen have convinced everybody that there needs to be a greater effort.”
However, two months before Boko Haram was designated an FTO by the U.S. in November 2013, Nigeria’s Office of the National Security Adviser signed a $3 million-a-year contract with K Street firm Patton Boggs to “provide comprehensive security advice, including the donation of excess military and law enforcement equipment,” according to the documents filed with the US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Patton Boggs’ point man on the contract, retired Marine Col. John Garrett, recounted in an email communication filed under FARA that he had met with officials at the Pentagon’s combatant command for the region, U.S. Africa Command, in Stuttgart, Germany in December.
On behalf of Nigerian National Security Adviser Muhammadu Sambo Dasuki, Garrett requested information on Boko Haram activities derived from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance overflights of northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state.
Patton Boggs also asked for non-lethal protective hardware to be donated to Nigeria such as mine-resistant armored personnel vehicles, night vision goggles and communications equipment from Iraq and Afghanistan stockpiles left over from U.S. withdrawals from those warzones.
Then, on April 28 Garrett wrote to a military attaché at the US embassy in Nigeria to seek a meeting with Ambassador James Entwistle.
The Nigerian wish-list again included “protected ground mobility for security forces” and “current imagery, surveillance, reconnaissance (day/night) product and analysis, initially for the Sambisa Forest Region, Borno State, and for other designated areas of interest,” as well as the communications and individual night vision equipment, according to Garrett’s email to Army Major John Ringquist at the U.S. embassy.
But Garrett said Friday that no meetings have been scheduled with U.S. diplomats and claims little if any intelligence has been shared by the US, much less any surplus military gear.