Reporter asks Blinken in Abuja ‘are you worried about widespread allegations of human rights abuses in Nigeria?’ ‘Does that change any of your decision to provide arms to Nigeria?

Busari asked Blinken, who is on a three-nation tour of Sub-Saharan Africa, whether he is worried about human rights abuses under the government Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Nigerian Army Major General who has found it a bit difficult to adapt to a life as a civilian President.

United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has concluded a two-day official visit to Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, but not without granting a couple of interviews to local and international reporters, including to CNN international’s Stephanie Busari.

Stephanie Busari 
CNN Reporter in Nigeria Stephanie Busari

Busari asked Blinken, who is on a three-nation tour of Sub-Saharan Africa, whether he is worried about human rights abuses under the government Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Nigerian Army Major General who has found it a bit difficult to adapt to a life as a civilian President.

“The U.S. State Department issued a report in March this year saying that there was no massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate. But a recently completed judicial panel in Lagos State said that there was a massacre. Has the U.S. now changed its conclusion, in light of this new report? And are you worried about widespread allegations of human rights abuses in Nigeria?” Busari asked Blinken.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, on Thursday, November 18, 2021. 
U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, on Thursday, November 18, 2021.

“Well, I think the – first of all, the fact of the report, of the panel’s work is usually important because it’s bringing vital transparency to what happened, to the violence that took place around the “End SARS” protests and the allegations of abuses by the security forces. So, I haven’t seen the published report yet. I think it’ll be – hopefully be coming out very, very soon,” Blinken said. “But a couple of things are really important. As I said, the report itself, done by the state government, but then once it’s out, for there to actually be action on the basis of the report, action as necessary by the states, action by the federal government, and action in the sense of two things. First, making sure that based on what is documented to have happened, it won’t happen again – so there may be reforms that are necessary – and building or rebuilding trust between the citizens and the security services, between citizens and the state. That is an obligation of both the state government and the federal government. Second, accountability. If there are individuals that – as it emerges from this report – who are responsible for committing abuses, there has to be accountability in terms of those individuals. That too is vital to rebuilding trust between citizens and the state and the security services.”

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Busari asked Blinken whether the widespread allegations of human rights abuses in Nigeria and the fact that the U.S. Congress has raised objections to sales of arms to Nigeria would “change any of your decision to provide arms to Nigeria with these accusations?”

“Well, a couple of things,” Blinken responded. “If there is genuine transparency, accountability, and change that follows from these incidents and from these abuses, I think that’s very important not only to our administration, it’s important to Congress in making judgments about continuing to provide assistance to the security forces. But the assistance itself is not just the hardware that we might provide – airplanes or helicopters – it’s the software, the human software. Because one of the things that we’re doing is making sure that as we’re providing equipment to deal with profound security challenges that are faced here in Nigeria – terrorism, criminal activity, other violence – that those who will be using the equipment are trained in a way that makes sure that they are doing it to avoid hurting the good guys even as they’re going after the bad guys, to make sure that the laws of armed conflict are fully in mind. And that if they make mistakes, they’re corrected and they’re brought to light immediately.
All of that’s very important. And, of course, we also have laws in place – the Leahy laws, for example – that make sure that if there are units that are – that have committed abuses, we’re not going to provide equipment to those units.”

end sars 

“Yeah. Will that be invoked against Nigeria, do you think?” Busari countered. “Well, we look in any instance if – and if there are credible allegations that prove out that we believe meet the standard of the law, yes, of course, we’ll apply the law,” Blinken said.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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