The United States Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Sarah Sewall, has said that corruption is hindering Nigeria’s efforts at ending insurgency in the North-East.
Sewall, who appeared before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, alongside a Pentagon top Africa official, Amanda Dory, added that the military must overcome entrenched corruption and incompetence for it to rescue the over 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram on April 14.
She said that despite Nigeria’s $5.8bn security budget for 2014, “corruption prevents supplies as basic as bullets and transport vehicles from reaching the front lines of the struggle against Boko Haram.”
Sewall, according to the New York Times, also told the committee that morale was low and that desertions were common among soldiers in the 7th Army Division fighting the insurgents.
She sidestepped a question from one lawmaker asking for an update on the abducted girls’ location and welfare, saying, “Given time, I am hopeful that we will make progress.”
Sewall had on May 13 clarified the level of involvement of US personnel in the rescue of the abducted girls, saying it would not be combative.
She told select journalists in Abuja that it was up to Nigeria to accept or reject the prisoners exchange offer made by Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau.
In her testimony, Dory said that Pentagon believed that the girls might have been dispersed into multiple smaller groups.
“They may or may not all be in Nigeria,” she added, stressing that Nigerian military’s heavy-handed tactics with Boko Haram risked “further harming and alienating local populations.”
The Chairman of the Committee, Ed Royce, said being trained by the global terrorist sect meant greater terror for Nigerians, and greater challenges for the security forces.
The committee’s hearing on the menace of insurgents was tagged: “Boko Haram – The Growing Threat To Schoolgirls, Nigeria And Beyond.”
Washington had on Wednesday said that 80 US troops were currently in Chad to support the growing international effort to rescue the abducted schoolgirls.
The military personnel are not ground troops. They are mostly Air Force crew members, maintenance specialists and security officers for unarmed Predator surveillance drones .
“These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,” the White House said in a statement formally notifying the US Congress about the deployment.