US lawmaker writes Kerry, demands suspension of assistance to Nigeria over Buhari’s ‘excesses’
Tom Marino, a US congressman, has written a letter to John Kerry, US secretary of state, urging his country to withhold the assistance rendered to Nigeria based on the “autocratic tendencies” of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In the letter, which THISDAY said it exclusively obtained, Marino claimed that there were a number of warning signs emerging in the current administration.
He 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”.
He 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.
“I am encouraged by the personal interest you have taken in aiding Nigeria and its administration as it takes on endemic corruption, multiple insurgent movements, and a faltering economy. However, I believe there are 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 letter read.
“I would urge the US to withhold its security assistance to the nation until President Buhari demonstrates a commitment to inclusive government and the most basic tenets of democracy: freedom to assemble and freedom of speech. A logical start towards this commitment is for the Nigerian government to hold accountable those members of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian military complicit in extra-judicial killings and war crimes.
“Human rights groups like Amnesty International have widely documented torture, inhumane treatment, and extra-judicial killings of defenseless Nigerians since President Buhari took office.”
Quoting Amnesty International Report, he wrote, “in the last six months, Nigeria’s military has unlawfully killed at least 350 people and allowed more than 168 people, including babies and children, to die in military detention.”
“The Secretary to the Government of Kaduna State even admitted to burying 347 of those killed in a mass grave. And while President Buhari promised swift condemnation, his words rang empty. Instead of swift reforms, Buhari chose to reinstate Major General Ahmadu Mohammed, who Amnesty International revealed was in charge of the Nigerian military unit that executed more than 640 unarmed, former detainees.
“Also, in separate incidents concerning the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Nigerian Army has killed at least 36 – the real number is likely higher – people since December 2015 in an attempt to silence opposition and quell attempts by the group to gather publicly.”
Describing Buhari as a former military dictator whose reign (as military head of state) was cut short by a coup, he said the president has continually shunned inclusivity in favour of surrounding himself with advisors and ministers from the north of the country and the region he considers home.
“Of President Buhari’s 122 appointees, 77 are from the north and control many of the key ministries and positions of power. Distrust is already high in Nigeria and favouring Northerners for key appointments has only antagonized the issue,” he wrote.
“These appointments are also primarily Muslim in the north and Christian in the south.
“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.”
He said the Obama administration would advance justice by urging the Nigerian government to act decisively to hold accountable members of the police and military.
“The State Department should urge President Buhari to form a government that represents the diversity of its citizens and allows dissenting voices to be heard. Democracy can thrive only if people are free to assemble, to express their beliefs, and voice their concerns,” he wrote.