Why the United States is hampering Nigeria's fight against Boko Haram

U.S. President Barack H. Obama
By Michael Nnebe 

Since the recent brouhaha involving the use of Ayo Oritsejafor's private jet loaded with $9.3 million in cash on a covert arms run to South Africa, many Nigerian military generals have spoken out publicly on how the United States has continued to hinder Nigeria's efforts to procure arms from the U.S. and their western allies. 

Surely these arms are needed by the Nigerian army if they must defeat the dreaded terrorist group that have caused so much havoc in the northeast of Nigeria and elsewhere. 

On the face of it, it sounds like an improbable argument to make against the United States, after all, it is in American interest for Nigeria to defeat the Boko Haram. How can America then be hindering our fight if indeed they now have some of their men on the ground gathering intelligence and their drones hovering non-stop over the sambisa forest in search of the same Boko Haram terrorists. The answer to this question is a lot more complicated than it seems, but it boils down to how America is constrained by the rule of law while Nigeria isn't.

In spite of Obama's promises to help Nigeria defeat the Boko Haram, rescue the Chibok girls, and provide all the weapons necessary to achieve these things, one thing remain. Every weapon that is procured from the United States goes through Congress for vetting. This has been a long standing practice that predates Nigeria's problem with Boko Haram. 

For Congress to vet these arms purchases means that politicians in Washington DC have put many conditions that would virtually make it impossible for countries like Nigeria to directly procure arms from the United States government. It would have been easier for America to donate these arms to Nigeria, as they have done through the years to countries like Pakistan than for us to be purchasing them. In scrutinizing these arms deals, things like human right abuses, extra judicial killings by the police and the army become the hindering issues for countries like Nigeria to overcome before the US Congress.

Apparently persistent accusations by several human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other agencies have finally caught up with Nigeria, and many Nigerians are now crying foul. Some have said that the US does not have the moral right to impose such standards on Nigeria. Well, if you look at the Abu Ghraib incidence in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and ongoing police abuses across America, one can easily understand why any Nigerian might accuse America of playing double standards. But there is one remarkable difference; the rule of law always prevail in America, and when these things wash up in the surface the law must be seen to take its course. 

The US army and police can sometimes be a bunch of rednecks behaving as if they own the world, but once their violation of the law is made public, then they are often prosecuted to the fullest weight of the law. Even if their bosses wish to cover these things up, the ever-prying American media and the public will protest until these people are brought to justice. Civilization does not begin and end in driving fancy cars and living in big modern homes, it also requires the acquisition of sensibilities that can easily be offended by behaviors outside the acceptable norms.

In a place like Nigeria, most citizens do not give a damn if the police are killing criminals in droves and dumping them in the forest or river somewhere. We always justify these killings by assuring ourselves that these are good riddance. We always keep a blind eye in Nigeria, as long as our relatives are not the victims of these extra-judicial killings. This, I found out, is a huge problem in Nigeria. The average Nigerian is unlikely to rise up and protest extra-judicial killings or torture. 

It has for long been an open secret in Nigeria that the police sometimes eliminate threats of armed robbery and kidnapping simply by killing some of the detainees in their stations. I do not wish to become a crusader for suspected armed robbers and kidnappers, and if you have been a victim of either, you would most likely be glad to know that police officers are finally getting rid of the bad guys. 

But there is one problem. Several hundreds, perhaps thousands of suspects have been eliminated by the police and the army in the past few years, yet neither armed robbery nor kidnapping has decreased around the country. Some police officers, especially SARS would privately argue that such elimination is an effective way of carrying out justice. That to do otherwise will likely put those useless suspects before the Nigerian judiciary, probably awaiting trial for 5 to 10 years without any resolution.

Expedience is never the answer especially when a man's life is involved. Lately, many of these human rights organizations have paraded Nigerians on television testifying of various types of torture on them in different Nigeria police stations. Recently I saw a video on facebook that showed the most horrific scenes of Nigerian soldiers that lined up some Boko Haram suspects. 

They made these guys dig their own graves, and then shot them one by one and simply push them into those graves. I am not a saint, but nothing offended my sensibilities more than watching that video. It is true that I have seen worse by ISIS and Boko Haram, but this was a video of Nigerian army officers, and that was just unbearable to me. There must be a difference between a terrorist group and a national army. 

The US has presented this tape to the Nigerian military, but they are still taking their time to investigate. What utter nonsense, especially when the video of their officers is rather clear. This is the same Nigerian army that rushed to publicly try a bunch of junior officers for mutiny, and handed down a verdict of guilty punishable by death on firing squad.

I'm sure that the Nigerian military can act quickly if they wish to do so, but they cannot drag their feet and still expect America to simply ship arms to them without asking appropriate questions. In February last year, I wrote an article on extra-judicial killings in Nigeria, (A conspiracy of silence…the silence of our politicians on extra-judicial killings) indicting the SARS wing of the Nigerian police. I received quite a few threats after that article, but I wasn't bothered at all. 

It is really up to us Nigerians to stand up and speak up against these injustices on our people. America can only refuse our military arms, which they can easily buy from willing markets like Russia, China, South Africa, and others, but it is our own outcries that will put pressure on these police and military officers from acting with impunity and getting away with it. 

And to those military generals who are whining that America is hindering their fight against Boko Haram, perhaps it is time you all learn to operate an army worthy of the 21st century Nigeria. And in the meantime, kudos to our military for killing Abubakar Shakau once again or was it his imposter?

Michael Nnebe is a former Wall Street Investment Banker and the Author of several novels, including; Every Dream Has A Price, Riverside Park, Blood Covenant, Gloomy Shadows, Passing wishes, Prime Suspect, and others.