President Barack Obama has ordered the release of $35 million worth of U.S. military and defence assistance to France which has been backing the military of Chad, Niger and Mali in the fight against jihadist group, Boko Haram, ignoring Nigeria that has been at the centre of the five-year insurgency.
A press statement from the White House on Wednesday said the United States leader gave the support to enable France secure the three French-speaking African nations, who all share borders with Nigeria.
In the White House statement, President Obama gave authority to US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to facilitate the US assistance to Mali, Niger and Chad.
“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby delegate to the Secretary of State the authority under section 506(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to direct the drawdown of up to $35 million in defense services of the Department of Defense to provide assistance to France in its efforts to secure Mali, Niger, and Chad from terrorists and violent extremists, and to make the determinations required under such section to direct such a drawdown,” the statement said.
The omission is seen as another fallout of the strained relations between Nigeria and the United States over the Boko Haram war.
Nigeria suspended a military training with the U.S. in 2014 after the Americans repeatedly blocked its effort to buy arms to fight Bok Haram.
The US government denied Nigeria the sales of US-made Cobra fighter-helicopters. New information now have revealed that the sales were coming from Israel which had okayed the deal from its own inventory, but needed US approval since the fighter-helicopters were from America.
The Israeli government under the terms of the US assistance cannot transfer the military helicopter to another foreign country except the US government approved it.
The United States had criticised the Nigerian military’s human rights record and its handling of the Boko Haram crisis, particular the search for over 200 schoolgirls abducted by the group, from Chibok, Borno State.
With the current administration winding down in less than a month, the American government now appears ready to provide improved assistance to Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, once the Muhammadu Buhari presidency takes office May 29.