US Congressman accuses Buhari of autocratic tendencies, sectional appointments

A member of the United States, U.S, Congress, Mr. Tom Marino, has asked the US government to withhold security assistance to Nigeria until President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrates a “commitment to inclusive government and the most basic tenets of democracy: freedom to assemble and freedom of speech”.

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The Congressman made this request in a letter he wrote to his country’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, which also asked the State Department to refrain from selling warplanes and other military equipment to Nigeria until Buhari establishes a track record of working towards inclusion.

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The Republican from Pennsylvania assumed office as Congressman on January 3, 2011 and is a member of the Committees on the Judiciary, Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs, and the Chairman, Sub-committee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.

According to ThisDay, Marino, in a two-page letter dated September 1, 2016 and addressed to Kerry, said there were a number of warning signs emerging in the Buhari administration that signal “the man who once led Nigeria as a military dictator might be sliding towards former autocratic tendencies”.

He averted that the Nigerian government must “hold accountable those members of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Military complicit in extra-judicial killings and war crimes”.

In the six-paragraph letter to Kerry, Marino also expressed concern over Nigeria’s anti-corruption war, saying “of additional concern is President Buhari’s selective anti-corruption drive, which has focused almost exclusively on members of the opposition party, over-looking corruption amongst some of Buhari’s closest advisors. Politicizing his anti-corruption efforts has only reinforced hostility among southerners”.

The letter to Kerry reads: “Dear Secretary Kerry, I am encouraged by the personal interest you have taken in aiding Nigeria and its administration as it takes on endemic corruption, multiple insurgent movements, and a faltering economy. However, I believe there are a number of warning signs emerging in the Buhari administration that signal “the man who once led Nigeria as a military dictator might be sliding towards former autocratic tendencies.

“I would urge the U.S. to withhold its security assistance to the nation until President Buhari demonstrates a commitment to inclusive government and the most basic tenets of democracy: freedom to assemble and freedom of speech. A logical start towards this commitment is for the Nigerian government to hold accountable those members of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Military complicit in extra-judicial killings and war crimes.

“Human rights groups like Amnesty International have widely documented torture, inhumane treatment, and extra-judicial killings of defenseless Nigerians since President Buhari took office.”

Quoting Amnesty International Report, Marino wrote, “in the last six months, Nigeria’s military has unlawfully killed at least 350 people and allowed more than 168 people, including babies and children, to die in military detention.”

He further wrote: “The Secretary to the Government of Kaduna State even admitted to burying 347 of those killed in a mass grave. And while President Buhari promised swift condemnation, his words rang empty. Instead of swift reforms, Buhari chose to reinstate Major General Ahmadu Mohammed, who Amnesty International revealed was in charge of the Nigerian military unit that executed more than 640 unarmed, former detainees.

“Also, in separate incidents concerning the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Nigerian Army has killed at least 36 – the real number is likely higher – people since December 2015 in an attempt to silence opposition and quell attempts by the group to gather publicly.”

Describing Buhari as a former military dictator whose reign (as military head of state) was cut short by a coup, he stated that the President has continually shunned inclusivity in favour of surrounding himself with advisors and ministers from the north of the country and the region he considers home.

“Of President Buhari’s 122 appointees, 77 are from the north and control many of the key ministries and positions of power. Distrust is already high in Nigeria and favouring Northerners for key appointments has only antagonized the issue. These appointments are also primarily Muslim in the north and Christian in the south, adding a religious aspect to long-held regional biases.

“Of additional concern is President Buhari’s selective anti-corruption drive, which has focused almost exclusively on members of the opposition party, over-looking corruption amongst some of Buhari’s closest advisors. Politicizing his anti-corruption efforts has only reinforced hostility among southerners,” he claimed in the letter.

He said the Obama administration in the United States would advance the course of justice by urging the Buhari administration in Nigeria to act decisively to hold accountable members of the police and military.

“This is a logical first step in making a demonstrable, sustained commitment to inclusive democracy, with distributed power in Nigeria. Until President Buhari establishes a track record of working towards inclusion, we ask the State Department to refrain from selling warplanes and other military equipment to the country.

“The State Department should urge President Buhari to form a government that represents the diversity of its citizens and allows dissenting voices to be heard. Democracy can thrive only if people are free to assemble, to express their beliefs, and voice their concerns,” the Congressman wrote.

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