04/21/2022 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – The U.S. last week approved an arms sale worth nearly $1 billion to Nigeria. The deal—which includes twelve AH-1Z Attack Helicopters, thousands of guidance systems for precision munitions, night vision equipment, and machine guns among other weapons and tools—was halted last year by a bipartisan group of leaders on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who were concerned about Nigeria’s human rights record.
“This sale will be a major contribution to U.S. and Nigerian security goals,” the U.S. Department of State said in a notice to Congress about the sale. “This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a strategic partner in Sub-Saharan Africa. The proposed sale will better equip Nigeria to contribute to shared security objectives, promote regional stability and build interoperability with the U.S. and other Western partners.”
The deal with Nigeria would, according to State Department, include the deployment of teams to Nigeria to train local forces on legal issues, human rights concerns, and ways to minimize civilian harm in air operations.
Human Rights Concerns
Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Nigeria in November and raised concerns about the Nigerian government’s human rights record. During his visit, he said that the U.S. was waiting for justice in the case of a 2020 incident in which the army shot at protestors before going ahead with the proposed arms sale. It is not clear what, if any, justice was administered before the deal was finalized last week.
In a report released last week, State Department highlighted “credible reports that members of the [Nigerian] security forces committed numerous abuses” last year. The report lists seventeen specific human rights abuses, including “unlawful and arbitrary killings by both government and nonstate actors; forced disappearances by the government, terrorists, and criminal groups; [and] torture.”
In addition to concerns about police brutality and lack of accountability for its armed forces, Nigeria has also long been criticized for its failure to provide security to vulnerable Christian communities in the Middle Belt and northern regions of the country.
For a variety of reasons, Nigeria was added to State Departments list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) in 2020 for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom. It was removed from the list in 2021 around the time of Secretary Blinken’s visit in a move that drew widespread criticism from human rights watchdogs around the world.
Just weeks before Nigeria was removed from the CPC list, Kaduna State in Nigeria’s Middle Belt announced a crackdown on preaching. Kaduna State has long provided one of the most blatant examples of government persecution in Nigeria, with its governor…
Read Full Story At: Persecution.