THE United States government is readying plans to get tougher with Nigeria on the issue of terrorism as its legislative arm is now considering enacting bill and piling more pressure on the Obama administration, which may lead to the designation of the entire Boko Haram group as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO)
For example, on Tuesday (July 10), the US House of Representatives will be holding what it calls an “oversight hearing” only few weeks after the State Department announced the designations of three notable Boko Haram leaders as terrorists.
There is a growing worry in international and diplomatic circles that the problem of terrorism if not conclusively attacked can cost Nigeria its promise of economic development as it may debar potential foreign investment and throw the country behind even further.
Even though the US House had asked the State Department to designate the entire Boko Haram organisation as FTO, it was learnt that the US Representatives, especially the Republicans on the Africa Sub Committee of the Foreign Relations Committee, are not satisfied that the State Department merely named members as terrorist while ignoring the Boko Haram group itself.
Immediately after the designation of three Boko Haram leaders as terrorists less than three weeks ago, two leading Republicans in the US House of Representatives signaled their dissatisfaction. Both Congressmen Peter King of New York and Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania in a joint statement said “given Boko Haram’s trajectory and intent to carry out terrorist attacks against Western targets, including possibly the Homeland (US soil, we must take the growing threat seriously.”
This is said to have led to the summoning of an “Oversight Hearing” by the Sub Committee, which has now summoned the Obama administration to attend the Hearing on Tuesday to explain the situation.
While the US legislators may not be able to directly compel the executive, it can pile pressure or, in the extreme, enact a bill that will force the hands of the Obama administration. Quite a good number of US Representatives from the Republican Party are keen to do just that especially in an election year where President Barack Obama is up for selection in November.
An oversight hearing is one that reviews or study “a law, issue, or an activity, often focusing on the quality of federal programmes and the performance of government officials,” according to several US sources.
Through such hearings, the American legislature ensures “that the executive branch’s execution goes with legislative intent, while administrative policies reflect the public interest. Oversight hearings often seek to improve the efficiency, economy, and effectiveness of government operations. A significant part of a committee’s hearings workload is dedicated to oversight.”
In deed, a statement, by the US House of Representatives, gave a hint of what was meant to follow through the chosen theme of Tuesday’s oversight hearing —“U.S Policy Toward Nigeria: West Africa’s Troubled Titan.”
According to the statement, another indication of the determination of the US House to toughen their stance on Nigeria is the choice of invited speakers to the oversight hearing, which includes from Nigeria, the outspoken President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, whose views and those of CAN on Boko Haram are clearly more confrontational than that of the Nigerian Federal Government and the US State Department so far.
Representing the Obama administration at the hearing on Tuesday is the Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson.
But the US House is balancing the speakers’ list by also inviting Dr. Darren Kew, to witness at the Oversight Hearing.
Kew is one of the several US academics that wrote the controversial letter to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in May not to designate Boko Haram as an FTO.
After the hearing, the House may enact a bill that will compel the US government to designate Boko Haram as an FTO or increase the pressure on the State Department to adopt a more punitive stance.
The State Department itself had also openly indicated after the designation of three Boko Haram leaders that it was open to a much broader designation, according to Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s Spokesperson.
Nigeria’s Embassy and the FG are of the view that the designation of Boko Haram as an FTO would cause greater inconvenience for many Nigerian travelers and also internationalise the Boko Haram crisis, while a group of US academics say the designation would make the Boko Haram get international recognition and become counter-productive.
But the hearing will not focus only on Boko Haram, and there are also other witnesses and speakers at Tuesday’s hearing, including Mr. Earl Gast, the Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Africa at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Mr. Anslem John-Miller, the U.S. Representative of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)
John-Miller’s witness is expected to focus on the environmental degradation in the Niger Delta, especially the much highlighted UNEP report, which is yet to be implemented by the Nigerian federal government.
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