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Monday, 9 March 2015


Fight Against Boko Haram: The Untold Story Of US Involvement

By Tony Egbulefu

The US is among the countries, whose officials have openly and severally flayed the Jonathan government over its perception of a lack of will to deal decisively with the Boko Haram insurgency. On the heels of the abduction of the schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State in April last year, an outraged US government deployed a handful of their military personnel to the Nigerian soil to help the Nigerian troops in the search and rescue operations for the girls.

The US government spelt it out that its military assistance was to be strictly on intelligence gathering and not for logistics or combat. In less than two weeks, the Pentagon (the headquarters of the US Department of Defence and also refers to the leaders of the US military) withdrew its men in very hazy circumstances. The best that came from Pentagon for its action was a claim that Nigerian military leaders cannot keep intel.

By some bizarre twists, procuring weapons for the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram was made severely difficult at every turn by the US.

LEADERSHIP Sunday can reveal that the US, was the hidden hand behind the seizure of a total of $15million from the federal government by South African authorities, meant for black market arms purchase in South Africa last year. According to investigations, it was the US government security agents that tipped off their South African counterparts over a volume of cash in a Nigerian jet on September 9, last year, that fouled the South African money laundering laws, which the US government claimed, was “meant for illegal arms transaction with a rogue company in the country”.

The money was seized at the Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg from three men, Israeli, EyalMesika, andR. Wolfgang and M. Michael, two Austrian nationals, in a private the jet that belongs to the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ayo Oritsejafor.

In principle, it is believed that the US moved against the Nigerian bid to acquire weapons in South Africa following Obama government’s observation that Tier One Service Group, through which the federal government would have procured the arms, has no legitimacy to broker international arms deal, and does not have the authorization of the country’s National Conventional Arms Control Committee to sell or rent military equipment. The federal government had ordered for drones, rocket and attack helicopter from South Africa’s Tier One Service Group, through an Abuja-based company: SocieteD’EquipmentsInternationaux of Nigeria. The end-user certificate for this deal was duly signed by the National Security Adviser, SamboDasuki.

Without realizing from where the country was actually hit on September 9, a desperate federal government, which just wanted arms, proceeded again to South Africa on October 5, last year with $5.7million, which was again seized on same grounds. The second seizure, which occurred about three weeks on the heels of the earlier one was equally facilitated by SocieteD’EquipmentsInternationaux of Nigeria, but this time with a different South African company: Cerberus Risk Solutions, for the procurement of different batch of arms. Unlike Tier One Service Group, Cerberus was registered as arms broker with South Africa’s National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), but the registration had expired five months earlier.

It took this later seizure for Nigerian authorities to realize that the high-wire intelligence that led to the two seizures came to South Africans, all the way from the US.

LEADERSHIP Sunday checks also reveal that following the abduction of the Chibok school girls last year, the Nigerian government in a bid to procure cutting-edge military hardware placed an order with the US government for armament. Strangely, the US government balked on this order, and after eight months of inaction, President Jonathan had to (September last year) seek a roundtable with President Obama after the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly in Washington over the fate of the armament order.

Fact is that despite all attempts, the US government refused to sell its weapons to the Nigerian government to help the country fight the ravaging insurgency. What is not clear is if the Nigerian order was backed by payments, and if yes, whether or not the US government refunded the federal government.

The refusal of the US to sell its weapons to the federal government came with a dose of paradox given that by their own published investigations in the US, Nigerian troops in the frontlines often lacked ammunition as ordinary as bullets.

Following the spurn from the US, the federal government made a decisive move to upgrade the aerial capability of the military with the procurement of some Chinook helicopters from Israel.The Nigerian military needed the heavy-lifting CH-47 Chinooks and Sikorsky CH-53for the swift transportation of its men and armament to the northeast frontlines. The Chinook is a US built military chopper, built by Boeing. All the Nigeria government wanted to do was to buy from the stock in the Israeli armoury-a third party transaction that the US stepped in and flagged-after the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Natayahu has already approved the sale. The transfer was almost through before the US suddenly caused it to fall through.

While reporting that the US government opposed Israel going into third party sale of Chinooks to Nigeria, The Jerusalem Post quoted an unnamed official of the Obama government as saying that the transfer of such aircraft requires a review to determine its “consistency with US policy interests,”. According to the newspaper, US officials hinted of a revision of a policy directive on US-built weapon transfer, which is said “take into account the risk that significant change in the political or security situation of the recipient country could lead to inappropriate end-use” of the weapons.

In a curious twist of irony, the US that equipped the Iraqi military and realities in Iraq hardly suggest that human right considerations in terms of a possible use of the weapons against civilians and the possibility of them slipping into their hands of terrorists in the region or in the country, moderated the US-Iraq arms transfers, especially given the fact that US made weapons, today, form the mass of ISIS arsenal in both Iraq and Syria.

Two things according to findings drive the US negative disposition towards Nigeria’s procurement of arms for the prosecution of the war against insurgency in the country.

One is the huge gravitation of the Jonathan government towards China in terms of trade and for infrastructural development of the country. For instance, the entire work on construction and rehabilitation of the country’s rail system are being done by Chinese companies, who in fact, offered the federal government better bargain than US companies. Another it was revealed, is the frustration the US government suffered in the hands of President Jonathan in Obama’s failed bid to establish a US military base in the Gulf of Guinea.

The US can be credited with the provision of fringe military training for Nigerian troops, and has held high level talks with the Nigerian government on the threat of Boko Haram, but these pale miserably in comparison with the sabotage the US government has implemented against the Nigerian government in the area of arms procurement for a decisive war against the Boko Haram insurgents.

The pain from this sabotage pushed the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, last year to declare publicly in his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations,CFR in Washington, that the Nigerian government was dissatisfied “with the scope, nature and content of the United States’ support” for the country, in its war against Boko Haram; especially for failing to avail Nigeria effective military hardware to deal decisively with the insurgents.

The unhelpful attitude from the US reaches back to the time Hillary Clinton was the American Secretary of States. As Secretary of State, Clinton rebuffed all pressures from US senators, Congressmen, the FBI, CIA and the Justice Department to list Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) in the US Department of State’s roster, even after Boko Haram bombed the Abuja UN building in 2011. It could be recalled that in May 2012, then-Justice Department official Lisa Monaco wrote to the State Department, urging Clinton to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. In June, same year, Gen. Carter Ham, the chief of U.S. Africa Command, also revealed that Boko Haram may have developed a nexus with al-Qaeda. Dozens of US senators and congressmen equally wrote her as concerned individuals and as committee, but none of the revelations and promptings made Clinton to yield ground.

The legal ramifications of designation as a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation” (FTO) according to US Department of State, is such that US law enforcement and intelligence agencies could use some definite measures including those contained in the Patriot Act to move against the FTO. The designation makes it unlawful for a person in the US or subject to the jurisdiction of the US to knowingly provide “material support or resources” to a designated FTO.

The designation makes it illegal for any US entity to do business with the organisation. Representatives and members of a designated FTO, become inadmissible to the United States. Access to the US financial system is cut off for the organisation and anyone associated with it. Any US financial institution that becomes aware that it has possession of or control over funds in which a designated FTO or its agent has an interest freezes the funds and reports the funds to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury. The designation also serves to stigmatise and isolate the terrorist organizations internationally, deters donations or contributions to it, and economic transactions with named organisation.

Clinton’s successor, State John Kerry eventually added Boko Haram and Ansaru to the US Department of State list of foreign terrorist organisations on November 14, 2013.

Source: Leadership Newspaper

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