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US Congress Urges President Biden To Reassess US-Nigeria Relations Over Human Rights Abuses By Buhari Government |RN

■ Halts planned sale of 12 attack aircraft, 28 helicopter engines worth $875m

By Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja with agency reports

United States lawmakers have begun to mount pressure on President Joe Biden over concerns about Nigeria’s human rights records.

Already, a proposed sale of 12 attack aircrafts and 28 helicopter engines worth $857 million has been put on hold.

Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military, pausing a deal worth some $875 million, according to U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter.

In addition to the helicopters, the proposed sale included 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems—laser-guided rocket munitions, according to information sent by the State Department to Congress and reviewed by Foreign Policy, a US-based magazine.

It said the behind-the-scenes controversy over the proposed arms sale illustrated a broader debate among Washington policymakers over how to balance national security with human rights objectives.

It said the hold on the sale also showcased how powerfully the US lawmakers wanted to push the Biden administration to rethink the country’s relations with Africa’s most populous nation amid overarching concerns that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was drifting towards authoritarianism as his government has been besieged by multiple security challenges, including a jihadist insurgency.

Foreign policy observed that Western governments and international human rights organisations had ramped up their criticisms of the Nigerian government, particularly, in the wake of its ban on Twitter, systemic corruption issues, and the Nigerian military’s role in deadly crackdowns on protesters after widespread demonstrations against police brutality last year.

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria during a Senate hearing with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June.

Both Menendez and Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have therefore placed a hold on the proposed arms sale, according to multiple U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter, who spoke to Foreign Policy on the condition of anonymity.

The details on the proposed sale were first sent by the US State Department to Congress in January before then former US Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, according to officials familiar with the matter.

Nigeria has relied on US arms sales in the past to help address multiple security challenges, including the 12-year insurgency by Boko Haram militants in the country’s northeast, a spate of high-profile kidnapping-for-ransom campaigns targeting schoolchildren in the country’s North-west, and deadly clashes between the country’s semi-nomadic herders and farmers fueled by climate change and environmental degradation of the country’s arable land.

The State Department, it was said, described the US-Nigeria relationship as “among the most important in sub-Saharan Africa” and had provided limited funding for various military training and education programmes.

Some experts said the United States should hit the pause button on major defence sales until it could make a broader assessment of the extent to which corruption and mismanagement hobble the Nigerian military and whether the military was doing enough to minimise civilian casualties in its campaign against Boko Haram and other violent insurrectionists.

“There doesn’t have to be a reason why we don’t provide weapons or equipment to the Nigerian military,” said Judd Devermont, Director of the Africa programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.

Continuing, he added, “But it has to be done with an assessment of how it will actually, one, change the direction of conflict in Nigeria, and, two, that they will use it consistent with our laws. In both cases, it’s either a question mark or a fail. There is a culture of impunity that exists around abuses by the military,” said Anietie Ewang, the Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Ewang cited the Nigerian military’s killing of unarmed protesters during the country’s massive #EndSARS demonstrations against police corruption and brutality last year as well as cases documented by human rights organisations of abuses in the military’s campaign against Boko Haram.

“I’m sure it’s a difficult situation. There are so many conflicts springing up across the country now. The authorities, I presume, are trying to do the best they can to save lives and properties. But this must be done in accordance with human rights standards. You can’t throw one out just to be able to achieve the other.”

Nigerian Embassy in Washington did not, however, return a request for comment, foreign policy claimed.

In the past, the Nigerian military had dismissed reports of human rights abuses by its soldiers as baseless and accused human rights groups of undermining the military’s resolve to combat terrorism.

But the United States had scrubbed proposed arms sales to Nigeria in the past on a case-by-case basis.

Former US President Barack Obama’s administration cut back arms sales to Nigeria over concerns about civilian casualties and human rights abuses, including blocking a 2014 sale of Cobra helicopters by Israel to Nigeria.

During that time, US officials reportedly voiced concerns that Boko Haram had infiltrated the Nigerian military—an accusation that provoked indignation from the Nigerian government.

These moves severely strained US-Nigeria relations, with Buhari accusing Obama of having unintentionally “aided and abetted” extremist groups by refusing to expand military cooperation and arms sales.

In late 2017, then US President Donald Trump’s administration agreed to sell the Nigerian government 12 A-29 Super Tucano warplanes, resurrecting a proposed sale the Obama administration froze after the Nigerian Air Force bombed a refugee camp that January.

The first batch of those planes arrived in Nigeria earlier this month.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, saying: “as a matter of policy, the department does not confirm or comment upon proposed defence sales or transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress.”

Under the current practice, the State Department informally notifies Congress through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) of proposed arms sales in advance of a formal notification.

If committee members raise concerns about the proposed sale, the committees can freeze the sale until they receive satisfactory answers about their concerns from the State Department.

Once a proposed arms sale has been formally notified to Congress, Congress has a 30-day window to review the sale and, if it opposed the sale, it would pass a legislation to block it.

But if Congress took no action, the sale would move forward.

A top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, has signed off on the proposed sale of Cobra helicopters to Nigeria, a spokesperson for his office confirmed.

The office of the HFAC chairperson, Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Trump administration, frustrated with how Congress held up proposed arms sales for months, weighed scrubbing the decades-old practice of informally notifying Congress about arms sales, but it faced steep backlash over the idea from lawmakers.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is now looking to further extend congressional oversight over US arms sales to foreign countries.

Senatord Chris Murphy, a Democrat, Mike Lee, a Republican, and Bernie Sanders, an Independent, introduced legislation earlier this month aimed at reasserting Congress’s role in foreign policy.

The bill included a provision that would require Congress to actively approve all major sales rather than allow arms sales to be automatically approved unless Congress blocked them.

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Prophet Onyebuchi Okocha, aka ‘Onyeze Jesus’ Arrested By Anambra Police |The Republican News

Mr. Onyebuchi Okocha, who also goes by the name ‘Onyeze Jesus’, the Founder of Children of Light Anointing Ministries, Nkpor, Idemili North local government area of Anambra state has been arrested by operatives from Anambra Police Command.

A source close to the investigation confirmed the news of his arrest to Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS).

According to the source who does not wish to be named as he is not authorised to speak on the matter; “ Onyeze Jesus is in police custody. He was arrested on Wednesday, 27th January 2021, and will likely be arraigned for various offences on Thursday, 28th January, 2021”.

Recall that on Monday, 25th January 2021, Anambra state government through a statement issued by Mr C. Don Adinuba, the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenement warned Onyeze Jesus against his practices which the government termed ‘criminal and indecent conduct in the name of religion’.

Also, in a related statement, Anambra state Ministry of Health had on Wednesday, 27th January, 2021 warned hospitals and mortuaries operating in the state against allowing ‘Onyeze Jesus’ access to their facilities to carry out his widely publicised claim, and planned ‘magic’ that he would raise 7 corpses from the dead on the 28th of January, 2021.

Many people have expressed dismay over some of the videos that ‘Onyeze Jesus’ regularly posts on social media including parading people naked in a river (indecent exposure), abuse of the Nigerian Naira currency, animal cruelty and his get-rich – quick promises to gullible members of the public.

Those who know the self styled Prophet say that he is from Amafor village in Nkpor, is about 32 years of age, was once a bus conductor, and never studied beyond Primary Six.

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ICC To Investigate Nigerian Security Agencies Over “Crimes Against Humanity” |The Republican News

ICC building and Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda

Statement of the Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, on the conclusion of the preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria

​Today, I announce the conclusion of the preliminary examination of the situation in Nigeria.

As I stated last year at the annual Assembly of States Parties, before I end my term as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”, I intend to reach determinations on all files that have been under preliminary examination under my tenure, as far as I am able. In that statement, I also indicated the high likelihood that several preliminary examinations would progress to the investigative stage. Following a thorough process, I can announce today that the statutory criteria for opening an investigation into the situation in Nigeria have been met.

Specifically, my Office has concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of Boko Haram and its splinter groups have committed the following acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes: murder; rape, sexual slavery, including forced pregnancy and forced marriage; enslavement; torture; cruel treatment; outrages upon personal dignity; taking of hostages; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance; intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to education and to places of worship and similar institutions; conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed groups and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and religious grounds; and other inhumane acts.

While my Office recognises that the vast majority of criminality within the situation is attributable to non-state actors, we have also found a reasonable basis to believe that members of the Nigerian Security Forces (“NSF”) have committed the following acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes: murder, rape, torture, and cruel treatment; enforced disappearance; forcible transfer of population; outrages upon personal dignity; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such and against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; unlawful imprisonment; conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces and using them to participate actively in hostilities; persecution on gender and political grounds; and other inhumane acts.

These allegations are also sufficiently grave to warrant investigation by my Office, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. My Office will provide further details in our forthcoming annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities.

The preliminary examination has been lengthy not because of the findings on crimes – indeed, as early as 2013, the Office announced its findings on crimes in Nigeria, which have been updated regularly since. The duration of the preliminary examination, open since 2010, was due to the priority given by my Office in supporting the Nigerian authorities in investigating and prosecuting these crimes domestically.

ICC building in Den Hague

It has always been my conviction that the goals of the Rome Statute are best served by States executing their own primary responsibility to ensure accountability at the national level. I have repeatedly stressed my aspiration for the ability of the Nigerian judicial system to address these alleged crimes. We have engaged in multiple missions to Nigeria to support national efforts, shared our own assessments, and invited the authorities to act. We have seen some efforts made by the prosecuting authorities in Nigeria to hold members of Boko Haram to account in recent years, primarily against low-level captured fighters for membership in a terrorist organisation. The military authorities have also informed me that they have examined, and dismissed, allegations against their own troops.

I have given ample time for these proceedings to progress, bearing in mind the overarching requirements of partnership and vigilance that must guide our approach to complementarity. However, our assessment is that none of these proceedings relate, even indirectly, to the forms of conduct or categories of persons that would likely form the focus of my investigations. And while this does not foreclose the possibility for the authorities to conduct relevant and genuine proceedings, it does mean that, as things stand, the requirements under the Statute are met for my Office to proceed.

Moving forward, the next step will be to request authorisation from the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open investigations. The Office faces a situation where several preliminary examinations have reached or are approaching the same stage, at a time when we remain gripped by operational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, on the one hand, and by the limitations of our operational capacity due to overextended resources, on the other. This is also occurring in the context of the pressures the pandemic is placing on the global economy. Against this backdrop, in the immediate period ahead, we will need to take several strategic and operational decisions on the prioritisation of the Office’s workload, which also duly take into account the legitimate expectations of victims and affected communities as well as other stakeholders. This is a matter that I will also discuss with the incoming Prosecutor, once elected, as part of the transition discussions I intend to have. In the interim, my Office will continue to take the necessary measures to ensure the integrity of future investigations in relation to the situation in Nigeria.

The predicament we are confronted with due to capacity constraints underscores the clear mismatch between the resources afforded to my Office and the ever growing demands placed upon it. It is a situation that requires not only prioritization on behalf of the Office, to which we remain firmly committed, but also open and frank discussions with the Assembly of States Parties, and other stakeholders of the Rome Statute system, on the real resource needs of my Office in order to effectively execute its statutory mandate.

As we move towards the next steps concerning the situation in Nigeria, I count on the full support of the Nigerian authorities, as well as of the Assembly of States Parties more generally, on whose support the Court ultimately depends. And as we look ahead to future investigations in the independent and impartial exercise of our mandate, I also look forward to a constructive and collaborative exchange with the Government of Nigeria to determine how justice may best be served under the shared framework of complementary domestic and international action.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC’s jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi Bangladesh/Myanmar and Afghanistan (subject to a pending article 18 deferral request). The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Bolivia; Colombia; Guinea; the Philippines; Ukraine; and Venezuela (I and II), while the situation in Palestine is pending a judicial ruling.

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