The truth behind the sudden termination of the assisted military training agreement between Nigeria and the United States, which recently raised comments over whether the US was truly committed to helping Nigeria end insurgency has been revealed.
According to the US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, who spoke to some journalists at his residence in Lagos on Thursday, there was an agreement between Nigeria and America on the provision of equipment and trainers for the Nigerian military, which Nigeria failed to honour.
“We had, at Nigeria’s request, agreed to train some battalion, in my opinion, some of the best trainers in the world have been provided by the United States. The agreement was that we would provide the trainers and the Nigerian Army would provide the equipment we need to properly conduct the training and that was agreed well ahead of time as part of our partnership,” Entwistle said.
“This was not something we were going to do for Nigeria; it was something we were going to do together as partners. We were able to do a bit of this and it got to a point where we were waiting for these equipment to be provided for us to finish the training, but the decision by the Nigerian government, as I understand it, was ‘no that is enough; we don’t want to finish this training’.
The American envoy continued; Frankly, that was a disappointment to us given that we had provided that symbol of our commitment. As to what motivated your government, I don’t know. I will encourage you to put that question to them,” he said.
Entwistle lauded US’s efforts, saying, no other country has supported Nigeria in its quest to overcome terrorism in recent times more than the country. He described as false, reports that the US was blocking Nigeria’s chances at procuring arms.
“In terms of what is happening in the North-east and military relationship, we have all seen in recent months a lot of stuff about the US imposing an arms embargo. I am here to tell you as President Obama’s personal representative to this country that that is nonsense; that is not true.
“We have given this ship, NNS Okpabana as part of our commitment to strengthen security in Nigeria. We have a number of discussions on the way right now. A good portion of the assistance we give every day on the war against terror are things I can’t talk about that much, but I can assure you that no partner is doing more to assist Nigeria in its fight against terror now than the United States of America. We have seen the most unfortunate incident in Baga and that underlines to me the importance of continuing this fight.
“We are still talking about a number of equipment, different kinds of helicopters that can be more appropriate to that kind of thing. But, what are our human rights considerations? When I got here about two years ago, there were discussions about the conduct of the Nigerian Army in the North-east about the treatment of the civilian population. It was reported in your media. This is not something we came up with.
“Nigerians themselves were focusing on it. So, we have had a lot of discussions with the Nigerian Army about the need to, as you fight terror, you also have to protect the civilian population and keep them on your side.
“We have learnt the hard way in our own counterterrorism that if you lose the trust and support of the civilian population, you’ve lost everything. So, we have had that conversation. Indeed, much of the training that we’ve done with your army in the U.S. have focused on that kind of thing, effective leadership and how do you operate against an enemy that is hard to identify? That mixes into the civilian population, how do you fight that kind of enemy while at the same time respecting the civilian population? I am not a military man but it strikes me that this is a very difficult thing to do,” the envoy said.