2 May 2013

Nigeria: U.S. Expresses Concern Over Baga Killings

Photo: Premium Times
Nigerian Military

The United States is concerned about extra-judicial killings and human rights abuses by Nigerian officials, the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Terence P. McCulley, told members of civil society organisations who met him on Thursday morning in Abuja.

Contrary to reports, however, the Ambassador did not say the U.S. would withdraw military assistance in protest against the killings of civilians by Nigerian soldiers in Baga, attendees at the meeting told PREMIUM TIMES.

"The Ambassador said they would not tolerate such human rights abuses (Baga killings); and would use every diplomatic means to prevent such in future," an activist who attended the meeting said.

He said Mr. McCulley did not talk about withdrawal of U.S. military assistance, saying if such would be done, it would not be stated at such meetings.

There had been reports that the American Ambassador told civil society members that the U.S. would withdraw its military assistance to Nigeria in protest against Baga killings. The U.S. is one of Nigeria's main allies in her war on terror.

About 200 civilians were feared killed during a battle between Nigerian security forces and Boko Haram insurgents in Baga, Borno State.

While the Nigerian Army claims only six civilians died in the clash, as well as 30 terrorists, and one soldier, residents of the town said they buried 185 people days after the incident.

The Human Rights Watch later released a satellite imagery report which showed that over 2,000 houses were burnt during the crisis contrary to the Nigerian military claims.

The meeting

Those at Thursday's meeting said the parley was routine one between civil society members and the American Ambassador.

"It was a routine visit of civil society groups to discuss issues of human rights, corruption,... with the Ambassador," Auwal Rafsanjani, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr. Rafsanjani said matters of corruption topped the agenda with the American ambassador. "We asked that our corrupt leaders should be refused access into the U.S. in a bid to help the nation in curbing corrupt practices," he said.

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the American Embassy, an official confirmed that the meeting did hold, but promised to send an official email of what transpired at the meeting. He was yet to do that as at press time.

The U.S. has recently, in various fora, condemned the Jonathan administration mainly over corruption and freedom of the press.

One of the most recent condemnations was when President Goodluck Jonathan granted state pardon to his benefactor and ex-governor of Bayelsa, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted of stealing billions of naira of Bayelsa funds when he was governor.

The U.S. described the action as antithetical to the war against corruption by the Nigerian government.

Mr. Alamieyeseigha is still wanted in the U.K. for money laundering after he jumped bail there in 2005.

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