US urges action on rights abuse for closer Nigerian ties
The United States on Monday called for Nigeria to probe human rights abuses in the fight against Boko Haram, as it pledged more funds to help recovery from years of conflict.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said "transparent and credible" inquiries into violations and prosecutions were needed to help heal wounds in the battle-scarred region.
"This is essential to deepening the people's trust of the government, strengthening security efforts in the northeast and improving the United States' ability to partner with Nigeria," he said on a visit to Abuja.
Nigerian troops have been repeatedly accused of abuses against Boko Haram suspects and civilians, including arbitrary arrest, torture and extra-judicial killings.
The military has consistently denied the claims but concern about the army's record has limited direct foreign involvement in the fight-back against the jihadists.
A $593-million (503-million-euro) deal agreed under the Obama administration to sell Nigeria 12 Super Tucano A-29 ground attack aircraft was announced in May 2016.
But it was halted after at least 112 people displaced by the conflict in northeast Nigeria were killed in January this year in a botched air strike against the Islamist militants.
The State Department finally approved the sale in August.
US troops have been providing help to Nigerian and regional forces fighting Boko Haram, running an unmanned surveillance drone operation from a base in northern Cameroon.
Washington and other Western powers have also provided training for Nigerian troops.
Sullivan -- the most senior Trump administration official to visit Nigeria this year -- said the US was "committed to helping the Nigerian people provide their own security" but said military might alone was not enough.
"Nigeria's success... requires improvements to the economy and governance off the battlefield as well," he said at a meeting of US and Nigerian officials.
As part of that, he pledged an additional $45.5 million through USAID to support "stabilisation and early recovery efforts" to help those affected by the violence to recover.
At least 20,000 people have been killed and more than 2.6 million made homeless since 2009, while chronic food shortages have left hundreds of thousands starving.
Cases against hundreds of Boko Haram suspects opened in October but the prosecutions are being held behind closed doors at a military facility, with press and public barred.