With Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan announcing his candidacy for the 2015 election and the militant group Boko Haram’s bloody campaign against the government showing no sign of letting up, Nigeria’s ambassador to Washington is lashing out at the United States for not providing sufficient military aid.
Jonathan’s failure to stem the militant group’s territorial advances will certainly dog him on the campaign trail.
But never fear, one of his lieutenants has a campaign strategy. “There is no use giving us the type of support that enables us to deliver light jabs to the terrorists when what we need to give them is the killer punch,” Nigerian Ambassador Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 11. “Boko Haram is Nigeria’s equivalent of ISIS.”
As Jonathan launched his campaign in Abuja on Tuesday, Boko Haram was once again pushing forward, claiming control of another small town in Adamawa state in northeastern Nigeria and adding to the vast amount of territory the group has captured since 2009. Mentioning the terrorist organization only briefly, Jonathan instead spoke about advances in infrastructure, education, and government transparency, which he considers some of his greatest accomplishments since coming to office in 2010.
Regarding Boko Haram, he merely reiterated unfulfilled promises. “I will do everything humanly possible to end this criminal violence in our nation.”
But under Jonathan’s watch, the group has expanded its area of operation across Nigeria’s northern states and has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed at least 3,000 people and displaced thousands more. The group also kidnapped 270 schoolgirls, an audacious move that captured the world’s attention and provoked local protests against Jonathan’s government.
And Boko Haram’s terrorist campaign continues. On Monday, a suicide bomber killed at least 46 people and injured dozens more at a school assembly in Yobe state. Although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, Yobe is one of the regions most affected by Boko Haram’s terrorism.
The Nigerian government launched a heavy-handed military response to the group’s attacks — a response that human rights groups contend is rife with abuse and has little to show for it. Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014 documented “indiscriminate arrest, detention, torture, and extra-judicial killing of those suspected to be supporters or members of the Islamist group.” In 2013, the Associated Press reported that the Nigerian military was responsible for the deaths of thousands of detainees in the country’s northeast — whether by killing them or letting them die in detention — racking up more victims than even Boko Haram.
Back in Washington, Adefuye told the foreign-policy establishment that such allegations aim to embarrass Jonathan and create more political instability ahead of February’s presidential election.
“I say with all sense of responsibility that allegations of human right violations are based on rumors, hearsays, and exaggerated accounts of clashes between the Nigerian forces and Boko Haram fighters,” he said.
“We find it difficult to understand how and why, in spite of the U.S. presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly,” Adefuye piled on.
Adefuye said reports of abuse and fraud in the military units allegedly fighting Boko Haram are undermining Nigeria’s request for arms from the United States.
A fact sheet published by the White House in October outlined U.S. efforts to assist the Nigerian government in its battle against the militant group, which includes dispatching a team to Abuja to share intelligence and aid in finding the kidnapped schoolgirls. In August, U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Nigeria into the Security Governance Initiative, a new Obama administration program that, among other things, funds efforts to counter rising threats there. Additionally, the U.S. State and Defense departments established a $40 million Global Security Contingency Fund for Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria to fight Boko Haram.
An Obama administration official told Reuters that Washington remains committed to helping Nigeria address not only the threat of Boko Haram but also its efforts to free Boko Haram’s kidnapped victims.
But with little room to budge on U.S. laws that prevent the government from providing arms to militaries accused of human rights violations, what the United States has been able to provide just isn’t good enough for Adefuye.