Monday, December 1, 2014 7:27 pm
By Simon Ateba/Lagos
The frosty relationship between Nigeria and the United States worsened on Monday with Nigeria cancelling a training of an Army Battalion by American security officials.
”At the request of the Nigerian government, the United States will discontinue its training of a Nigerian Army battalion,” the U.S. Embassy in Abuja said in a statement.
“Based on mutual assessment of the Nigerian Army and U.S. trainers, a third iteration of training was agreed upon with the intent of developing the battalion into a unit with advanced infantry skills.
“We regret premature termination of this training, as it was to be the first in a larger planned project that would have trained additional units with the goal of helping the Nigerian Army build capacity to counter Boko Haram,” America said.
The U.S. government said it will continue other aspects of the extensive bilateral security relationship, as well as all other assistance programmes with Nigeria.
Nigeria and the United States have in recent times been involved in a public spat over their relationship, with Nigeria accusing the United States of not helping it enough in battling Boko Haram.
The United States, Nigeria said had refused to sell it lethal weapons, including the combat Cobra helicopter, on grounds of Nigeria’s serial abysmal human rights records. At the weekend, former Nigerian leader, Yakubu Gowon further accused US of hostility to Nigeria.
Gowon, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, criticised the US for not selling military hardware to Nigeria, saying if the US was truly a diplomatic friend to Nigeria, it should do everything possible to keep the corporate existence of Nigeria.
This, according to him, includes assisting Nigeria to fight aggression from any quarters.
There was no immediate response from the Nigerian government on the latest development.
The US was one of several foreign powers who offered intelligence and surveillance assistance to Nigeria to help find the 219 schoolgirls who have been held hostage by Boko Haram since mid April.
But with the teenagers apparently no nearer being found and the five-year Islamist insurgency increasing in intensity and violence, diplomatic ties have become strained.
Last month Nigeria’s ambassador to Washington, Adebowale Adefuye, claimed that his government was dissatisfied with the “scope, nature and content” of US support.
In particular, he accused Washington of failing to provide the “lethal” weapons needed to deliver “a killer punch” to the militants, including attack helicopters.
That prompted a strongly worded response from the State Department, which mentioned the training of the new battalion.
The State Department said there were “ongoing concerns” about the Nigerian military’s human rights record and its ability to protect civilians during operations.
Nigeria’s military — west Africa’s largest — and the government have faced a raft of similar accusations from rights groups and this weekend from the country’s leading Muslim organisation.
The JNI said the government was not doing enough to prevent civilian deaths in the wake of a double suicide bombing and gun attack on Kano’s central mosque that left at least 120 dead on Friday.