Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The federal government has described as “sadly out of tune with reality” the published letter from US Congressman, Tom Marino, to the Secretary of State, John Kerry, asking the US to withhold security assistance to Nigeria on the strength of some imaginary infraction by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The member of the United States Congress had written a letter to Kerry, asking the US government to withhold security assistance to Nigeria until Buhari demonstrates a “commitment to inclusive government and the most basic tenets of democracy: freedom to assemble and freedom of speech.”
He had also asked the State Department to refrain from selling warplanes and other military equipment to Nigeria until Buhari establishes a track record of working towards inclusion.
In a two-page letter dated September 1, 2016 and addressed to Kerry, a copy of which was exclusively obtained by THISDAY, Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania, who assumed office on January 3, 2011, said there were a number of warning signs emerging in the Buhari administration that signal “the man who once led Nigeria as a military dictator might be sliding towards former autocratic tendencies.”
The congressman, who is a member of the Committees on the Judiciary, Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs, and the Chairman, Sub-committee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, said the Nigerian government must “hold accountable those members of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian military complicit in extra-judicial killings and war crimes.”
In the six-paragraph letter to Kerry, Marino also expressed concern over Nigeria’s anti-corruption war, saying “of additional concern is President Buhari’s selective anti-corruption drive, which has focused almost exclusively on members of the opposition party, over-looking corruption amongst some of Buhari’s closest advisors. Politicising his anti-corruption efforts has only reinforced hostility among southerners.”
However, reacting to the US Congressman’s letter yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said Marino was poorly informed about the issues he commented on, wondering why he did not take the pains to get first-hand information from the US Embassy in Nigeria or any other credible source before engaging in what what the minister described as a ‘propaganda of his own imagination’.
The minister said by asking the US to refrain from selling warplanes and other military equipment to Nigeria based on a faulty premise, the congressman has demonstrated a poor understanding of global security issues.
According to him, ‘’Insecurity anywhere is insecurity everywhere. Had Marino understood this, he would not have made the kind of call he made concerning the US security assistance to Nigeria. The Boko Haram insurgency that Nigeria has decisively dealt with under President Buhari is not just a Nigerian problem but a regional and international crisis.’’
Mohammed said the congressman definitely did not have Nigeria in mind when he wrote that the US should withhold security assistance to Nigeria until President Buhari ‘demonstrates a commitment to inclusive government and the most basic tenets of democracy: freedom to assemble and freedom of speech.
‘’An administration that operates purely on the basis of respect for the rule of law and a strict adherence to constitutional order is not one to deny the citizens of their constitutionally-guaranteed rights. This administration therefore does not need the goading of Marino or anyone for that matter to do what is right,’’ the minister further stated.
‘’Concerning running an inclusive government, had congressman Marino done his homework before dispatching his letter, he would have realised that no part of the country is left out in the distribution of political appointments, for example, or in the appointment of ministers, which was done in accordance with the Constitution that mandates that the President must appoint at least one minister from each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).’’
The minister said if the congressman had sought information from credible sources before engaging in a ‘’flight of fancy,’’ he would have been presented with a comprehensive information on the appointment of CEOs for federal government’s parastatals, agencies and commissions that shows that the appointments were almost evenly matched along the line of the six geo-political zones in the country: With the North-west having 51, North-central 46, North-east 45, South-east 41, South-west 45 and South-south 45.
The federal government added that each geo-political zone comprises six states, with the exception of North-west (seven) and South-east (five).
The minister described Marino’s description of the administration’s anti-corruption efforts as ‘selective’ as a tired argument that clearly shows that the US lawmaker must have appended his signature to someone have concocted line.
Mohammed said Nigeria is delighted that Kerry, to whom the Congressman addressed his letter, is more knowledgeable, better briefed and definitely more hands on concerning Nigerian issues.