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US Republican Senator Demands Urgent Review of Security Assistance to Nigeria

US Senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch, has asked for a review of United States security aid and cooperation programmes in Nigeria in the wake of Reuters’ reports on an illegal abortion programme and the killing of children by the Nigerian military.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Risch urged the State Department to conduct a speedy review of U.S. security aid and cooperation, as well as to consider the use of sanctions.

Risch wrote on Friday, “I look forward to hearing more about the Department’s planned response to the serious and abhorrent allegations levied against a long-standing beneficiary of U.S. security assistance and cooperation that, if deemed credible, have done irreparable harm to a generation of Nigerian citizens and to U.S. credibility in the region.”

Reuters had alleged that its investigation revealed the Nigerian military conducted secret abortion program in the country’s north-east, ending at least 10,000 pregnancies among victims of insurgency..

The report also alleged that women who resisted abortion were beaten, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance.

While the Nigerian military had denied the allegation and accepted an independent investigation, the Federal Government had rubbished Reuter’s report.

Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture  said the report was a strategy to set the world against Nigeria and cut off the support that is critical to crushing terrorists.

He said Reuters made the allegation without evidence, citing only anonymous sources and the reported review of phantom “documents”.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson, asked about Risch’s letter, said the United States is still reviewing the Reuters reporting and will then determine next steps.

“Decisions to proceed with the provision of military training and equipment are made on a case-by-case basis and consider a variety of factors, including respect for human rights and adherence to the law of armed conflict.

“Our existing defense sales to Nigeria include robust components focused on human rights, preventing civilian harm, and promoting military justice and accountability”, the spokesperson said.

The department vets all Nigerian security force units nominated for applicable training and assistance and does not provide security assistance to a force unit if there is credible information indicating it has committed a gross violation of human rights, the spokesperson added.

Earlier this year, the United States approved nearly $1 billion in weapons sales to Nigeria, after Nigeria took delivery last year of Embraer-made A-29 Super Tucanos, a slow-flying plane that can provide close air support to infantry much like a helicopter.

The deal, approved in April, had been put on hold over concerns about possible human rights abuses by the Nigerian government.

The United States has also obligated about $6 million between 2016 and 2020 for the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program.



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