by Laolu Akande
President Barack Obama is supporting the battle against Boko Haram in Nigeria’s neighboring countries with a $35m worth military and defense support services to France which has been backing the military of the French-speaking nations of Chad, Niger and Mali.
But this specific and new support from the US just announced by the White House did not mention Nigeria, which has been worst hit by the terrorist activities, raising questions in diplomatic circles whether or not this is a fallout of the strain developed lately between Nigeria and the US regarding how to best confront the Boko Haram menace.
Speaking off the record yesterday morning, a US government official simply told me that the $35m funding is in support of French operations, which are not taking place in Nigeria. But there are real expectations expressed in US official circles that once the Buhari presidency takes office White House will announce some new initiatives to support the overall fight against terror groups in Nigeria.
Only last week in New York at the Time magazine Influential100 people gala, top US government officials including Dr. Samantha Powers promised that the US will do more to support the search for the Chibok girls and the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Earlier, a press statement from the White House late on Wednesday revealed that the US President has approved up to $35m to provide assistance to France which has been actively supporting Nigeria’s French speaking neighbors-Niger and Chad- in their fight against Boko Haram and terrorist and Islamic extremism in Mali.
In the White House statement titled, “Delegation of Authority Under Section 506(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961,” President Obama gave authority to US Secretary of State Senator John Kerry to facilitate the US assistance to Mali, Niger and Chad, significantly omitting Nigeria, where terror attacks has been worst in West Africa in recent times.
According to the US president: “By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby delegate to the Secretary of State the authority under section 506(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to direct the drawdown of up to $35 million in defense services of the Department of Defense to provide assistance to France in its efforts to secure Mali, Niger, and Chad from terrorists and violent extremists, and to make the determinations required under such section to direct such a drawdown.
US-Nigeria relationship on Boko Haram has been rocky leading the Nigerian Ambassador to the US to openly state that the American government has not given Nigeria the needed support especially in the area of weapons.
Indeed the US government denied Nigeria the sales of US-made Cobra fighter-helicopters. Newly available information now has revealed that the sales was coming from Israel which had okayed the sales from its own inventory, but needed US approval since the fighter-helicopters were from America.
The Israeli government under the terms of the US assistance cannot transfer the military helicopter to another foreign country except the US government says it is ok.
Besides, a US military training of a unit of the Nigerian military was also abruptly ended late last year as the Americans said Nigeria asked for the training to stop.
Earlier in the week, the US State Department issued a statement condemning the killing of 48 security officials of Niger by Boko Haram terrorists, and the White House statement came less than 48 hours after that State Department condemnation of the terror attack that took place recently on the Karamga Island in Lake Chad.
That attack also wounded 37 others, while several other Niger forces are still missing.
The US said “we offer our condolences to the Government and people of Niger and to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives and who are missing.”
The statement added that the US “condemn the violent actions of Boko Haram and its continued disregard for human life. Boko Haram has perpetrated countless unprovoked attacks on men, women, and children in their homes, schools, places of worship, and businesses. Their brutality and barbarism know no bounds.”
The United States also restated its commitment “to supporting the efforts of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to help the countries of the region increase their capabilities to degrade and destroy Boko Haram. We commend efforts by the African Union and Lake Chad Basin Commission countries and Benin to stand up the MNJTF.”