The United States government yesterday informed Nigeria of its resolve to strike a new deal that will enable the Nigerian Armed Forces get concrete military assistance, including the supply of arms from the US to combat terrorism.
This was the pledge made by US President Donald Trump when he called President Muhammadu Buhari on telephone yesterday afternoon to discuss the relationship between the two countries, for the first time since he assumed office in January this year.
Confirming the conversation between the two leaders, the special adviser to the President Buhari on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina said, at the request of the American President, Buhari spoke to Trump on telephone from London where he is currently vacationing.
"President Trump assured the Nigerian President of US' readiness to cut a new deal in helping Nigeria in terms of military weapons to combat terrorism," the presidential spokesman noted in a statement he issued yesterday.
Africa correspondent for The Globe and Mail, Geoffrey York, broke the news of the teleconference between the two leaders in a tweet on his handle, @Geoffreyyork yesterday.
He wrote: "Today is "Africa day" for Donald Trump. He speaks by phone to Nigerian president Buhari at 3:45 pm (Lagos time); then speaks to Jacob Zuma.
"Buhari's phone call with Trump today will be fascinating; many Nigerians frustrated that Buhari has been gone from Nigeria for over 3 weeks."
Foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyema and personal assistant to President Buhari on new media, Bashir Ahmad, also confirmed the telecon in separate tweets.
Onyeama, from his handle @GeoffreyOnyeama wrote that "President Trump will speak with President Buhari at 3:45 PM Nigerian time, today. @WhiteHouse @POTUS @RealDonaldTrump @NGRPresident @MBuhari," while Ahmad, tweeting from his handle, @Bashirahmaad said "President @MBuhari will speak to @POTUS, @realDonaldTrump today at 3:45 pm (Nigerian Time) from his London residence."
A tweet from the official twitter handle of the Presidency of South Africa, @PresidencyZA also confirmed the request for a telecon from President Trump.
"The Presidency confirms a request from the White House for a telecon between President Zuma and President Trump this afternoon, 13/2/17" The tweet read.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the US government under President Barack Obama had in July 2015, refused to assist Nigeria with arms to strengthen its fight against the Boko Haram sect.
Obama specifically told Buhari who was on a four-day working visit to that country that the US arms are tied by an American law, the Leahy Act, which prevents it from selling arms to countries with human rights abuse records.
The law which is named after its principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont was the reason why the US government refused to sell weapons to the Nigerian military in 2014 and also proceeded to stop Israel from selling Cobra helicopters to Nigeria.
Apart from Nigeria, other countries that have been affected by this law include, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
But respite came for the Nigerian military yesterday when the US president hinted of a new deal which may likely convince the American government to repeal the law in favour of Nigeria.
In the statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday, Adesina stated that the conversation between Buhari and Trump was cordial and that the Nigerian president congratulated his American counterpart on his election as president of the United States and on his cabinet.
He said, "The two leaders discussed ways to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism through provision of necessary equipment.
"President Trump encouraged President Buhari to keep up the good work he is doing, and also commended him for the efforts made in rescuing 24 of the Chibok Girls and the strides being taken by the Nigerian military."
Adesina further hinted that "President Trump also invited President Buhari to Washington at a mutually convenient date."
After a four-day official visit in the United States in July 2015, President Buhari had returned to Nigeria with no pledge of military assistance against the Boko Haram sect from his hosts.
Displeased with the response from that country, President 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 the insurgents.
"Regrettably, the blanket application of the Leahy Law by the United States on 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 had said.
Addressing an audience of policy-makers, activists and academics in Washington as part of his working visit to the US, Buhari had lamented that Nigerian forces had been left "largely impotent" in the face of Boko Haram's campaign of kidnapping and bombings.
He said at the time that: "In the face of abduction of innocent school girls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate weapons and technology, which they could have had, had the so-called human rights violations not been an obstacle.
"Unwittingly, and I dare say unintentionally, the application of the Leahy Law Amendment by the United States government has aided and abetted the Boko Haram terrorists."
He appealed to both the White House and the US Congress to find a way around the law -- introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy in 1997 -- and to supply Nigerian troops with high-tech weapons under a deal "with minimal strings."