The United Kingdom has condemned the Nigerian government over its inability to end the lingering war with the Islamist Boko Haram sect.
The condemnation was made by the UK’s Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire while addressing the British Parliament on what UK had done over the growing insurgency in the Northeast as well as contributions towards emplacing developmental infrastructure to reduce poverty and illiteracy.
According to The Nation, the Minister, who revealed that Nigeria lacks the capacity to deal with terrorism despite its huge resources, however, described allegations of corruption in the military as false.
UK’s Foreign Office Minister Hugo SwireSwire said the UK gave £250 million to Nigeria last year through the United Nations (UN) Safe School Initiative to enable over 800,000 children, including 600,000 girls, in the North have access to education.
According to him, the UK also contributed £1.7 million to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UNCERF) and European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department Programme, noting that the money spent by the British government in Nigeria alone was about £250 million.
“We have been stepping up to the crisis. We have approximately £250 million per year expended in Nigeria with other additional packages. With the wealth within Nigeria, they should have the capacity to handle these problems, but the reality is that they don’t. That is why a lot of UK support programme is in building up these capacities, which they need through direct tactical training for Nigerian forces. I agree they should have it; but currently, I do not agree they do. UK aids goes to other organisations within Nigeria. Yes, we should continue to help, but like I said, you have to justify it. Aid is contentious issues. We hope on giving aids government to government. But also, when we look at a country like Nigeria with its huge division of wealth between the North and the South, we think there is a role and in the British interest, to help build capacity and strengthen institutions within the country so that the nation can handle its issues itself; that we will continue to do whether the cameras are on us or off us,” he said.
Mr. Swire when asked if the UK could deploy its counter-terrorism team to support Nigeria’s military in the fight against insurgents, he said no British troops would be deployed to join in the war against the Boko Haram insurgency, because there were grave human rights issues in the police and armed forces in Nigeria.
“We would have liked to see a more robust attitude from the army and the military to what is going on in the Northeast, but it is a very complicated and extraordinarily difficult to actually find out what is going on. We have heard some stories about people changing sides and equipment being ceased. But it is absolutely certain that the Nigerian Army needs better training to combat the absolutely and incredibly violent terrorist organisation as Boko Haram. But this cannot be done overnight. There are issues about equipment going on and about money not reaching the right places, but all these allegations I find untrue, unfortunately. That is why we have training teams in Nigeria and we are trying to build institutional capacity by building a better military. There should be a regional solution. Some of these countries are on the borders with Nigeria and are affected already. Also, you cannot offer help if the country you are offering it to does not want it. We have to hear more from the Nigerian government as to how the international community can assist, particularly locally,” he said.
The minister hinted that the financial aid to Nigeria was to help build robust institutions, and not just to alleviate poverty or address the huge dispute between the North and South.
On the issue of corruption in Nigeria, the minister stated that the country has the largest economy in Africa, but spent only 20 per cent of its budget on security, pointing out that if the economy is properly run, the nation should be able to do a lot on its own.
He expressed concerns over the reported violence trailing the February general elections, and questioned the possibility of conducting the elections when “an area the size of Belgium is under Boko Haram.”
“Twenty thousand and fifteen is an important year for Nigeria’s future. Presidential and state elections will take place in February. It is crucial that these are free, fair and credible and that all Nigerians are able to exercise their votes without fear or intimidation,” Swire said.
He lamented the destructive activities of the extremist group, while Shadow Foreign Office Minister, John Spellar, urged the continents to collaborate in the face of terrorism.
Meanwhile, the Australian government has revealed that they have repeatedly offered the Nigerian government their support to help find the kidnapped Chibok girls, but the offers have not been taken up.