Warm US-Nigeria Relations Excites Buhari, As Pompeo Calls

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  • Human rights records still a condition for military assistance

By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Bayo Akinloye in Lagos

President Muhammadu Buhari says he is satisfied with the current state of relationship between Nigeria and the United States.

The President, according to Malam Garba Shehu, his media aide, expressed this satisfaction while receiving a telephone call from the US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo on Thursday.

He said the president also used the opportunity to congratulate the new Secretary of State on his appointment.

“President Buhari recalled his past meeting with Mr Pompeo, then as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and thanked him for the enormous support the U.S. has extended to the Nigerian security and intelligence services.

“The President requested the Secretary of State to extend his appreciation to President Donald Trump for the warm reception he was given in the course of his recent visit to the White House,” the statement said.

According to Shehu, Pompeo assured Buhari that with him in the Department of State, relations between both countries would get even better. 

He said Pompeo also reiterated the desire of the US to continue to pursue, side by side with Nigeria, matters of common interest on the African continent, including the fight against terrorism and corruption, trade and development.

Fighting corruption, terrorism, creating economic opportunities, and advancing democracy and stability in Nigeria dominated Pompeo’s discussion with Buhari.

A statement made available to THISDAY yesterday by the US Department of State’s spokesperson, Heather Nauert, said Pompeo noted the longstanding relationship between the Nigerian and American people and underscored the themes of the April 30 official working visit of President Buhari to the White House.

Nauert said: “He (Pompeo) recognised Nigerian leadership across the African continent on priorities we share – countering terrorism and other threats to peace and security, creating economic opportunity, fighting corruption, and advancing democracy and stability. The Secretary welcomed continued cooperation in advancing our nations’ mutual prosperity.”

Meanwhile, the United States has insisted that it would continue to examine Nigerian security agencies’ human rights records before providing military assistance, citing the Leahy law.

This emerged during a telephonic press briefing on the United Nations Peacekeeping Course for African Partners on Wednesday.

Those at the briefing were Michael Smith, Director, Office of Global Programmes and Initiatives, Bureau of Political Military Affairs; Colonel Brian R. Foster, Peace Operations Division Chief, US Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute; and Michael Bittrick, Acting Director, Office of Security Affairs, Bureau of African Affairs.

When THISDAY asked if the US was still worried about the poor human rights records of Nigerian troops, both at peacekeeping and domestic levels, Bittrick said: “Thank you for this very good question. This is what we call the Leahy law. This law requires that no security assistance from the US government be provided to units that have committed gross violations of human rights. 

“On many occasions over the past several years, we have halted training or prevented training to these kinds of units, when we obtain information about bad behavior and alleged gross violations of human rights….The human rights record of Nigerian forces is also examined before we provide any support, whether that be for counter-terrorism or peacekeeping training.

“The security engagement by the US government, both political and technical, is meant to ensure better responsiveness from Nigerian troops and police in regard to engagement with local civilian communities and ensure that they have the best training, tactics, techniques, and procedures, so that the possibilities of abuse are mitigated and/or minimised.”