The Former US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has said that until the Nigerian government addresses the problem of human rights abuses by the security forces, the country may never receive any financial or technical assistance from the United States and its allies in its fight against insecurity.
He said the US laws prohibited the American government from giving technical expertise to security forces accused of human rights violations.
Campbell disclosed this on friday in Abuja during a virtual conference on the maiden edition of ‘Grow Nigeria Conversation’ with the theme, ‘Reversing the Flourishing Economy of Kidnapping and Banditry: Immediate & long-term solutions’, which held in Abuja.
He asked the government to do everything within its power to restore public confidence in the security forces, especially the police.
He said: “Under US law, we are prohibited from providing any technical expertise for security forces accused of human rights abuses.
“Human rights abuses are a huge barrier to a more cordial relationship between the US and the Nigerian security forces. And we know that addressing this barrier is a complex issue.
“There could be financial support to help build up the security forces; there could also be a transfer of technologies. If human rights abuses were to go away, the possibility of a deeper relationship is possible.”
He described the ransom paid to the bandits as illegal which would not proffer any solution to the problem.
“Payment of ransom is illegal in the United States, but it could be extremely unpopular, particularly to those close to the victims of kidnapping. It is also illegal in Nigeria but common in the country,” he added.
Also speaking at the event a US Africa policy expert, Matthew T. Page, said the unwillingness of the Nigeria military to accept international military cooperation was another major hindrance to Nigeria accessing help, in the fight against insecurity, from the outside world.
He, however, noted that seeking international assistance was not the way out for Nigeria but that ending impunity and holding security forces accountable would achieve more gains for the country
Page said, “Ending impunity and holding security forces accountable for gross human rights violations could actually achieve more gains in the long run than any international assistance we could provide, because it would restore the trust of the local communities, end the radicalisation of the local population and rebuild the legitimacy of the state.
“Moreover, ending human rights abuses alone cannot improve military-to-military bilateral relationship with Nigeria. That relationship has always been challenging. It is about a cultural issue within the Nigerian military.
“There is a general reluctance of Nigeria to engage closely with foreign military partners, in terms of allowing them access in a sort of close relationship required to have a sustained and meaningful training of troops over time.
“We saw that in 2001 with ‘Operation Focus Relief’ where the late chief of army staff, General Victor Malu, viewed American training of Nigerian peacekeepers as a sort of infringement on Nigeria’s sovereignty and potential espionage.”
On his own part, the former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, noted that while kidnapping was not a new phenomenon in Nigeria, the current scale was.
He called for greater accountability for security on the part of political leaders and a reform of the nation’s justice system.
“We need, as a people, to hold leaders accountable to have the will power to do whatever is necessary and important for security in Nigeria, and also reform the justice system.
“If people have to wait for two or three years to obtain justice and criminals believe they can do wrong and get away with it, then we should be worried,” he said (Saturday INDEPENDENT)