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President Barack Obama was Wednesday urged to waive US laws limiting its desire to help Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram.\
The Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ed Royce, stated this at the House hearing on Boko Haram attended by many Nigerians resident in Washington including the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Professor Ade Adefuye.
It was a day filled with emotions when the 15-year-old Deborah Peter, whose father and brother were shot before her by Boko Haram for not renouncing Christianity, narrated her ordeal before the committee.
When the men threatened to shoot Peter’s brother, Caleb, he asked her to plead with the gunmen for his life. “They told me to shut up or they would kill me too,” she narrated in her encounter with journalists adding, “the leader agreed that they should kill him and shot my brother two times. My dad was still breathing but when he saw them shoot Caleb, he died.”
Peter who hails from Chibok where the schoolgirls were abducted, told the committee: “I want the government to know how much Nigeria is in our prayers and I want them to send armies to find the girls or maybe they should help the people who lost their families.”
Royce agreed adding that the Obama Administration should use its waiver authority to assist Nigeria over what he described as extraordinary circumstances.
“Why do we care?” He asked. “We care about Deborah, her friends and family, and a girl’s right to an education. We care about human rights and religious liberty and the future of Africa’s largest country.”
Royce, who said the US had been advised to steer away from Boko Haram, which is armed to the teeth, however countered this by insisting Boko Haram was a threat to the West
“Over time, Boko Haram has developed a vast arsenal of weapons, received training from al-Qaeda affiliated groups, and built–up its resources. This means greater terror for Nigerians, and greater challenges for Nigerian security forces. Unfortunately, these forces suffer unprofessional elements with poor morale.”
He added: “That’s led some to say we shouldn’t get involved. But it tells me otherwise: that US involvement is critical. US forces are well positioned to “advice and assist” Nigerian forces in the search for these girls.
“In this role, US forces – expertly trained to deal with hostage situations and in jungle environments – could help Nigerians with intelligence, planning and logistics. And if some US laws would hinder such assistance, the Administration should use its waiver authority under these extraordinary circumstances.”
Again, another US department official, Amanda Dory, lamented the difficulties working with the Nigerian forces.
Dory said: “As committed as the US is to supporting Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram and in returning these girls safely to their families, Nigeria’s fight against this barbaric group is a challenging case.”
“In the face of a new and more sophisticated threat than it has dealt with before, Nigeria’s security forces have been greatly challenged by Boko Haram’s tactics.
“Also troubling have been the heavy-handed approaches by Nigerian forces during operations against Boko Haram – approaches that risk further harming and alienating local populations.’
Royce and Rep. Eliot Engel agreed that corruption and human rights abuses by Nigeria’s military “may be hindering further direct support in location and rescue efforts by the administration, but they both towed the path of persuasion asking Obama to do more in Nigeria.
As Royce put it: “If there are US laws that are hindering US efforts then ‘the (Obama) administration should use its waiver authority under these extraordinary circumstances.’
Deborah, who attracted considerable empathy with her hash tag, ‘#Bring BackMySisters’ campaign, had since relocated to a local school in Virginia:
Continuing with her address, she told the committee: “I want the government to know how much Nigeria is in our prayers and I want them to like maybe send armies to find the girls or maybe they should help the people who lost their families.”
According to Royce, “Why do we care? We care about Deborah, her friends and family, and a girl’s right to an education. We care about human rights and religious liberty and the future of Africa’s largest country.
“And we have direct security interests. Commanders at the Pentagon have stated that Boko Haram is a “threat to Western interests” and one of the highest counterterrorism priorities in Africa.”
Royce thanked Deborah for travelling from far rural Virginia to share her traumatic real life experience with the committee hoping it would help to quicken the war against the bloody sect.
“We are faced with two challenges in northern Nigeria: in the near-term, seeing these school girls rescued; and in the long-term, rendering Boko Haram unable to threaten the region,” he stressed.