The influential New York Times has counseled the United States government against selling of warplanes to the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, warning that “selling him the planes now would be a mistake.”
In an editorial on Wednesday, the newspaper said the regime “has not done enough to end corruption and respond to charges that the army has committed war crimes in its fight against the group.”
While it acknowledges that “under Mr. Buhari, Nigeria has cooperated more with Chad and Niger to fight Boko Haram…’” with “violence down and some territory has been recaptured, the group continues to attack remote villages and refugee camps,” but that the Nigerian “government cannot be entrusted with the versatile new warplanes, which can be used for ground attacks as well as reconnaissance.”
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It noted that Nigeria’s “security services have long engaged in extrajudicial killings, torture and rape, according to the State Department’s latest annual human rights report. Amnesty International says that during the army’s scorched-earth response to Boko Haram between 2011 and 2015, more than 8,200 civilians were murdered, starved or tortured to death.”
The NYT wondered why the Obama administration which was so concerned about this record that two years ago it blocked Israel’s sale of American-made Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria and ended American training of Nigerian troops, was considering the sale now when the State Department said Nigerian “authorities did not investigate or punish the majority of cases of police or military abuse” in 2015.
“Thardly seems like an endorsement for selling the aircraft. Tim Rieser, a top aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, who wrote the law barring American aid to foreign military units accused of abuses, told The Times that “we don’t have confidence in the Nigerians’ ability to use them in a manner that complies with the laws of war and doesn’t end up disproportionately harming civilians, nor in the capability of the U.S. government to monitor their use.”