US lawmakers ask President Biden to stop $1billion weapons deal with Nigeria
Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Democrat Sara Jacobs of California and Republican Chris Smith of New Jersey, have written President Joe Biden to rescind a nearly $1 billion arms sale to Nigeria following Reuters reports on an illegal abortion programme and the targeted killing of children by the Nigerian military.
This was contained in a letter addressed to President Joe Biden that was jointly signed by the lawmakers, calling for a review of Nigeria’s security assistance and cooperation programmes, including a risk assessment of civilian casualties and abuses caused by arms assistance.
The Reuters series, “Nightmare in Nigeria,” sparked calls for the Nigerian government to investigate from the U.S. departments of state and defense, the German foreign ministry, the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Human rights experts said the army’s actions could constitute war crimes.
The lawmakers, according to the letter, expressed their dissatisfaction with the facts stated in the Reuters report and stated that continuing with the nearly $1 billion arms sale with Nigeria would be highly inappropriate.
The letter reads: “We write to express our concern with current U.S. policy on and military support to Nigeria. Last month, Reuters completed a series of investigations into the Nigerian military’s conduct, which revealed an alleged secret mass forced abortion program since 2013 and apparent systemic targeted killings of children, in addition to a consistent record of human rights abuses and civilian casualties. Despite this, the United States recently approved a $997 million sale of 12 AH-1Z Attack Helicopters and related training and equipment to Nigeria.
“Over the last 20 years, the United States has had a significant security partnership with Nigeria, with more than $232 million in security assistance, $1.6 billion in foreign military sales, and $305 million in direct commercial sales.
“While the United States has paired its security assistance with training focused on international law compliance, humanitarian workers on the ground report that Nigeria’s security forces “appear to have a limited understanding of humanitarian law and tools for effective engagement with local populations.” Moreover, the assistance we have provided has done little to stem the conflict – in fact, insecurity has worsened from the abuses committed by Nigerian forces.
“On top of all of this, there continue to be reports of weapons captured by insurgents – weapons that the State Department and Defense Department have proven unable to sufficiently track.
“Therefore, we believe continuing to move forward with the nearly $1 billion arms sale would be highly inappropriate and we urge the Administration to rescind it. Given the recent reporting of Nigeria’s previously unknown mass forced abortion program – which allegedly ended at least 10,000 pregnancies – and the targeting of potentially thousands of children, we also urge a review of security assistance and cooperation programs in Nigeria to include a risk assessment of civilian casualties and abuses resulting from such assistance and whether such assistance has ever been diverted or had any significant positive effect on the conflict and violence in Nigeria.”
“We respectfully request a briefing on the progress of this review no later than 30 days after receipt of this letter. Thank you for your attention to this important matter and we look forward to your response,” the letter added.