However, Buhari's position is curious, given that the US government used the Boko Haram insurgency and related insecurity in the country to undermine the administration of Nigeria's former President Goodluck Jonathan thus paving the way for the incumbent president to win the country's presidential poll this year.
Buhari himself had also accused the Jonathan government of not doing enough to battle Boko haram with his party, the APC and close associates like Nasir el Rufai even insinuating that Jonathan and his military chiefs were sponsoring the terrorists to discredit Buhari, then a presidential aspirant.
PLEASE READ How Obama Undermines Goodluck Jonathan and Works for Buhari, Elombah.com SPECIAL REPORTS Published on Tuesday, 10 February 2015.
The Obama administration's use of the Leahy act to block arms sales to Nigeria due to "human rights abuses," which some have charged was retaliation for the country's anti-gay laws, have rendered Nigeria "largely impotent" to combat the horrific terrorist group.
"In the face of abduction of innocent school girls … indiscriminate bombings of civilians in markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate weapons and technology which they could have had, had the so-called human rights violations not been an obstacle," said Buhari.
"Blanket application" of the Leahy act due to "unproven allegations of human rights violations levelled against our forces" denied Nigeria "access to appropriate strategic weapons to prosecute the war," Buhari said at the United Institute for Peace Wednesday. He may have been referring to a report last month by Amnesty International which charged that the Nigerian military, in its fight against Boko Haram, had sanctioned or failed to prevent the deaths of more than 8,000 men and boys. The Nigerian military rejects the claim.
It is recalled that the US had earlier denied Nigeria critical military assistance to combat the wave of insecurity when such was needed most.
This is even as that country is also engaged in the global anti-terror fight and is fully aware of the transnational dimensions of the problem. It is therefore fully aware of Nigeria’s burden as the epicentre of the insurgency challenge in the West African sub-region.
The reservations of the US towards Jonathan's war against boko haram would be better located if the shared strategic interest of the US and this country in combating terrorism in any part of the world had propelled more decisive support for Nigeria by the superpower.
Buhari, making his first trip to the United States since being elected in March, blamed what is often called the "Leahy law" — human rights legislation introduced by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). This law originally focused on U.S. assistance to Colombia's armed forces but has gradually been expanded to prohibit U.S. taxpayer funds from being given to any foreign military units that have been involved in gross human rights violations.
Buhari told an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace that the "blanket application of the Leahy law by the United States on the grounds of unproven allegations of human rights violations leveled against our forces has denied us access to appropriate strategic weapons to prosecute the war against the insurgents.”
“Unwittingly — and I dare say unintentionally — the application of the Leahy law … has aided and abetted the Boko Haram terrorists in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, the raping of women and girls and other heinous crimes,” he added. “I know the American people cannot support any group engaged in these crimes.”
Nigeria's military has been accused of human rights violations on several occasions. Earlier this year, an Amnesty International report said Nigerian troops had caused the deaths of more than 8,000 civilians since 2009. “Former detainees and senior military sources described how detainees were regularly tortured to death — hung on poles over fires, tossed into deep pits or interrogated using electric batons,” the report said, naming a number of Nigerian officers who it said should be investigated.
Concerns about human right abuses by the Nigerian military have complicated U.S. involvement in the fight against Boko Haram. Last year, the United States blocked a sale of attack helicopters from Israel to Nigeria. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the sale was canceled partly because of "concerns about the Nigerian military’s protection of civilians when conducting military operations.” As one senior U.S. official told The Post: “The way you help a struggling military to get better is to roll up your sleeves and help, but it doesn't mean you turn a blind eye to the bad stuff.”
However, American experts told elombah.com Buhari's comments appeared to misinterpret the Leahy law. Lora Lumpe, a senior policy analyst at Open Society Foundation's Washington office, explained that the law can prohibit funding only from the U.S. Treasury, and, as such, the sale of arms and technology is not included. "This law should help President Buhari in his effort to combat Boko Haram by helping ensure that Nigerian forces operate as professional soldiers and law officers and that they are seen as accountable to the law," Lumpe added.
According to Adam Taylor of the Washington Post, Buhari's comments on Wednesday appeared to mark a turn from previous signs of a willingness to work within the bounds of the Leahy law and suggested that he is chafing at the U.S. restrictions. On Tuesday, he met with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the two sides discussed how to ensure "that onerous security assistance vetting is not an obstacle to greater U.S.-Nigeria cooperation.”
The Obama administration's application of the Leahy amendment "has aided and abated the Boko Haram terrorist group in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, in raping of women and girls, and in their other heinous crimes," said Buhari. "I believe this is not the spirit of the Leahy Laws. I know the American people cannot support any group engaged in these crimes."
Elombah.com had reported that Obama snubbed Nigeria by sending $35 million in military support to France, a country which backs the military of Chad, Niger and Mali in their fight against Boko Haram and "ignoring Nigeria [the country] that has been at the centre of the five-year insurgency."
The U.S. repeatedly blocked Nigeria's efforts to buy arms, including the sale of Cobra fighter-helicopters which Nigeria attempted to buy from Israel, the news reports. Israel "had okayed the deal from its own inventory, but needed U.S. approval [which it failed to receive] since the fighter-helicopters were [made in] America."
Buhari seeks further assistance from Washington and met with President Obama Monday.