March 13, 2015 / 10:09 PM / in 3 years

Human rights concerns limit U.S. intelligence, military aid to Nigeria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is limiting its intelligence and military aid to Nigeria during Boko Haram’s deadly insurgency due to concerns over the country’s human rights record, U.S. officials say.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in northeastern Nigeria in its six-year insurgency and has also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, which has created a self-declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Africa’s second-biggest economy and top oil exporter is growing as an investment destination. But reports of violence and corruption by authorities have tarnished its image.

The United States has shied away from providing Nigeria with real-time information for targeting Boko Haram militants, a U.S. government official said, partly in fear that the Nigerians will use the information to target the wrong people.

Human-rights concerns have also hindered the ability of the United States to assist security forces in Nigeria’s neighbors, including Cameroon, Chad and Niger, which recently have stepped up their engagement in the conflict against Boko Haram, the officials said, requesting anonymity.

Nigeria’s chief of defense intelligence, Rear Admiral Gabriel Okoi, said this week in Washington that the United States was doing “not enough” to share intelligence.

“Terrorists don’t wait to share information, so why should countries? We need to share intel as we have it,” Okoi told an Atlantic Council forum.

He said the Leahy Law, which bars the United States from providing training or equipment to foreign troops who commit human-rights violations, had also limited U.S. aid to Nigerian forces. “The U.S. is doing its best, but the Leahy law is hindering our cooperation,” Okoi said.

Human Rights Watch has accused Nigerian authorities of ignoring violence in central Nigeria that has killed thousands of people since 2010. Accusations of rights abuses have also been made by Amnesty International, which says Nigeria’s army has committed atrocities in its fight against Boko Haram.

Nigeria denies the charges.

Editing by Jason Szep and Dan Grebler

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