Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The United States has said human rights abuses and impunity by the military hinders its ability to fully partner with Nigeria on security related issues.
Speaking on the topic, “Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects for Advancing Durable Peace”, at the US Institute of Peace on Thursday in Washington, DC, US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas Shannon, Jr., noted that his recent meeting with Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, at the United Nations General Assembly indicated that the country was aware of the need to moderate the conduct of her military both on and off the battlefield in its security of the country.
A copy of Shannon’s remarks obtained by THISDAY at the weekend, explained that rights abuses and impunity by the military could tarnish Nigeria’s reputation across the globe, undermine citizens’ trusts for them, as well as impede counterterrorism efforts.
Recently, Nigeria’s military has had a running battle with rights group over its conducts in its fight against terrorists in the Northeast, as well as in containing agitating groups like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), with the likes of Amnesty International (AI) frequently accusing it of extrajudicial killings and various degrees of rights abuses.
Shannon, however said: “On security issues, Nigeria is an important leader and partner in the Lake Chad Basin collaborating with its neighbours to defeat the scourge of Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa. The United States supports this and other efforts to bring security and stability to citizens affected by violence.
“At the United Nations last week, the US government announced $54 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the Lake Chad region, bringing the total to almost $700 million over the past two years. While humanitarian support is an immediate necessity, it cannot be a long-term solution.”
“My meeting with the Nigerian foreign minister last week was a great opportunity to learn more about what else the Nigerian government is trying to accomplish on the security front. It is clear to me that Nigeria is well aware that the fight against terrorism will be won not only by the military’s conduct on the battlefield, but also by its conduct off the field.
“Nigeria understands that human rights abuses and impunity tarnish its international reputation, undermine the trust of its citizens, impede counterterrorism efforts, and ultimately hinder our ability to fully partner with Nigeria,” he added.
He also talked about the country’s economy and the need to reactivate its potentials using market-driven policies.
“On the economic front, Nigeria stands apart. It is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy, and the United States’ second largest bilateral trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria’s vibrant and dynamic economy, full of innovation and entrepreneurship, has driven its economic growth. According to Global Entrepreneurship Watch, 35 per cent of Nigerians are involved in some sort of entrepreneurial activity. However, Nigeria could unleash its potential further by pursuing growth through market-based policies, not state-centered ones.
“A market-based approach that minimises barriers between buyers and sellers will encourage additional investment and trade, and lighten the regulatory load on its budding entrepreneurs and investors.”
He further said: “A related issue to increased economic growth and investment that should remain front and centre is Nigeria’s youth bulge. Nigeria is expected to become the third most-populous country in the world by 2050. It will be essential that we consider the voice of Nigeria’s youth today to ensure their leadership and commitment tomorrow. We support this engagement through the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, and through the more than ten thousand Nigerian students at institutions of higher learning in the United States.”
On the upcoming 2019 general elections, Shannon stated that US would be ready to help Nigeria conduct peaceful elections into elective offices.
According to him: “Nigeria’s peaceful, transparent elections in March 2015 showed the rest of Africa and the world that a complex, diverse society could conduct peaceful democratic transitions of leadership. Many of you here today played an important role during that period. As the country heads into state elections and the 2019 national elections, the United States is ready and willing to offer our technical assistance, as we have in the past.”