Security experts, including a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Adedayo Adeoye, have admonished the Federal Government to clean up its sordid human rights record if it is interested in consummating the $875m defence equipment deal with the United States.
Speaking to The PUNCH in separate interviews on Thursday, the experts, including a former Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Austin Iwar, and a retired Assistant Director, Department of State Services, Denis Amachree, admonished the FG to address concerns of the US.
United States lawmakers stopped the proposed sale of attack helicopters to Nigeria amid mounting concerns about the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd)’s human rights record as the regime grappled with multiple security crises.
Top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reportedly delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military over the Federal Government’s poor human rights record.
In addition to the helicopters, the proposed sale included 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems — laser-guided rocket munitions.
Adeoye, in a phone interview, cited the detention of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-ZakyZaky, and his wife for six years, noting that such rights abuse was worrisome.
He said, “The government should work on their human rights record and stop maltreating citizens. Look at Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky who was in detention for six years alongside his wife. The court set him free yesterday (Wednesday); he could hardly see again. These are the things the US is considering. Look at the way the government is hounding Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu. So, the government should work on its human rights record, we are no longer under military rule; they should allow the law to take its normal course.”
Iwar said the FG must address transparently the issues raised by the American Congress, adding that the government needed to investigate cases of human rights abuses in the country.
While noting that the government could approach other countries for military hardware if the US refused to conclude the deal, the retired AIG observed that the US as an influential nation, could prevail on other countries not to sell the equipment to Nigeria.
He stated, “We need to be more transparent and secondly, if there are human rights abuses, the government should not just deny them, investigate. Deal with the abuses transparently. Identify the areas the US is complaining about.
“The US has a big influence and can influence other countries not to sell equipment to us. We should deal with the situation and make the world know that, yes, there are few abuses but this is how we are dealing with them and we are dealing with them transparently and those found culpable are disciplined or charged to court.”
Iwar called for more human rights training for the military and the police, stressing that it was the duty of the government to ensure that security forces complied with international best practices.
On his part, Amachree expressed the belief that the FG and the US would resolve the issues, saying it was in America’s interest to help Nigeria in fighting terrorism.
He said, “These are diplomatic issues, from government to government. Nigeria has been a very good ally to the United States. I strongly believe that they would iron out things and they would go ahead and sell because one major issue is that the United States has a national interest of making sure terrorism, wherever it is found in the world, is dealt with and of course, these aircraft are being sold to fight terrorism.” PUNCH