By Yemi Adebowale
After President Barack Obama, among other top ranking United States officials lavished praise on President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria for three days during his US visit, the Nigerian president returned home this morning without securing an arms deal with America to help him prosecute the war against Boko Haram.
Since Buhari assumed office on May 29, Boko Haram has increased its attacks in the North-east and is reported to have occupied five local government councils in Yobe and Borno States, in addition to killing over 600 people.
The Nigerian military under former President Goodluck Jonathan, with the assistance of the armies of Chad, Niger and Cameroun, had successfully dislodged the terrorists from territories that they had previously occupied.
The US government told the Nigerian leader that its hands were tied by the Leahy Act, which prevents it from selling arms to countries with human rights abuse records.
Buhari “departs with little practical military assistance in his battle against the Islamist militants who have turned the North-east of his country into a bloody war zone”, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Wednesday.
A displeased Buhari told the US government that the refusal by America to arm Nigerian troops because of “so-called human rights violations” and “unproven allegations,” would only help Boko Haram.
“Regrettably, the blanket application of the Leahy Law by the United States on the grounds of unproven allegations of human rights violations levelled against our forces has denied us access to appropriate strategic weapons to prosecute the war,” Buhari said.
Meanwhile, during his chat with President Obama, President Muhammadu Buhari told Barrack Obama that he will not sanction gay marriage in Nigeria, stating that ‘sodomy is against the law of the country and abhorrent to our culture’.
The spokesperson to President Buhari, Femi Adesina said that the issue of gay marriage was discussed during Buhari’s meeting in the US but he rejected the offer. Adesina said President Buhari rejected the idea “point-blank.”
On the US claims of Nigeria’s violation of human rights, Buhari insisted that the charges are not proven, but he has replaced his senior military commanders and has promised to investigate the allegations.
The Leahy Law was the primary reason the US government refused to sell weapons to the Nigerian Army last year when Jonathan was in power, and even blocked attempts by Israel to sell Cobra helicopters to Nigeria.
Other than Nigeria, other countries that have been stopped from receiving assistance by the US under the Leahy Law are: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Analysts had feared that President Buhari would turn down America’s request for Nigeria to reverse its anti-gay law owing to his fundamentalist approach to such issues giving the US government, the impetus to hold back military support from Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram.
BREAKING TIMES in its editorial on Monday predicted; “As President Buhari meets President Obama this week, one thing is sure from all indications. If ever the issue of same sex relations comes up in their discussion, the gay rights law will never be repealed in Nigeria under Buhari. Buhari will reject anything about repealing the anti gay law in Nigeria not for any moralist or cultural considerations, but for his unapologetically fundamentalist approach to such issues. The American government may well kiss such optimism goodbye. Buhari will never do it.”
Under the leadership of President Jonathan, Nigeria became embroiled in a silent diplomatic face-off with the US government after the Nigerian parliament passed a law against same sex relationship, stipulating a 14-year jail term for offenders.
Following President Jonathan’s signing of the Same-Sex Prohibition Act 2014, the US ambassador of America to Nigeria, Mr James Entwistle threatened that the United States will scale down its foreign aid support to Nigeria.