American lawmakers are holding down a proposed sale of attack helicopters to Nigeria amid mounting concerns about the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s human rights record as it grapples with multiple security crises. US lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have reportedly delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military. The deal is worth $875 million, according to US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter. A report by Foreign Policy said the behind-the-scenes controversy over the proposed arms sale illustrates a broader debate among Washington policymakers over how to balance national security with human rights objectives. The hold on the sale also showcases how powerful US lawmakers want to push the Biden administration to rethink US relations with Nigeria amid overarching concerns that Buhari is drifting toward authoritarianism as his government is besieged by multiple security challenges Boko Haram insurgency. Chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria during a Senate hearing with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in June. Both Menendez and Sen. Jim Risch, a top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have placed a hold on the proposed arms sale, according to multiple US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter, who spoke to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity. Some experts said the United States should hit the pause button on major defence sales until it makes a broader assessment of the extent to which corruption and mismanagement hobble the Nigerian military and whether the military is doing enough to minimize civilian casualties in its campaign against Boko Haram and other violent insurrectionists.

On Wednesday, a Kaduna High Court discharged and acquitted the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat. Justice Gideon Kurada delivered the verdict in an eight-hour ruling on the no-case submission application filed by the defendants. Marshal Abubakar, who represented the lead counsel for the defendant in the suit, Femi Falana, SAN, informed reporters shortly after the trial ended in Kaduna. “The trial of Sheikh El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat has come to an end as the court found them not guilty of the alleged crime filed against them by the Kaduna State Government. The court found that the charges that were filed in 2018 pursuant to the Penal Law enacted by the state government in 2017 over an alleged offence committed in 2015, were incompetent. The court presided over by Justice Gideon Kurada, ruled that the charge was not supposed to be filed in the first place, as the government cannot arraign someone for a crime that was not an offence at the time. The court ruled that the charge was incompetent, as the court agreed that El-Zakzaky and his wife had committed no offence. “The court also holds that the events of December 12, 2015, and December 15, 2015, was not an offence and the court was emphatic that none of the events on December 12, 2015, can be attributed to the defendants for an offence. The court, thereby, discharges and acquits the defendants, as there should have been no charge in the first place.” The Kaduna State Government had charged El-Zakzaky and Zeenat with eight counts, bordering on culpable homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of the public peace, among other charges. The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Ten Nigerian athletes have been disqualified from participating in the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This was contained in a statement in a statement from the Athletics Integrity Unit on Wednesday. The Athletics Integrity Unit is an independent body created by World Athletics that manages all integrity issues – both doping and non-doping. The statement showed that a total of 20 athletes were ineligible with Nigeria being the most affected. Other countries affected are Belarus, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, and Ukraine. The athletes were disqualified for not meeting the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 which applies to all national anti-doping organisations, including Nigeria’s National Anti-Doping Federation. The statement titled, “20 athletes not eligible for Tokyo 2020 as minimum testing requirements not met by ‘category a’ federations”, read in part, “Despite significant improvements in the domestic testing programmes in countries categorised as being the highest doping risk to the sport under the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules (Anti-Doping Rules), 18 athletes from the final entries for the Tokyo Olympic Games are not eligible to compete because the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules were not met by ‘Category A’ Federations. “Nigeria is the most affected country, not meeting the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 for 10 athletes. Nigeria was included in Category A at the start of 2020 following a continued period of weak domestic testing levels. The key requirement in Rule 15 is that an athlete from a ‘Category A’ country must undergo at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than 3 weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event. Only then do they become eligible to represent their national team at the World Athletics Championships or the Olympic Games. In the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games, the ‘Category A’ Federations, in partnership with their respective National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs), generally made significant progress with respect to their domestic testing programmes.”

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara on Tuesday welcomed his predecessor and longtime rival Laurent Gbagbo in a bid to ease political tensions in the West African country. It marked the first time Ouattara and Gbagbo met since Cote D’Ivoire’s 2010-11 civil war, which claimed more than 3,000 lives. The deadly clashes between their supporters began when Gbagbo, who ruled from 2000 to 2011, rejected defeat by Ouattara in a presidential vote. Gbagbo recently returned home after the International Criminal Court upheld his acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity in the post-election violence. Ouattara said he and Gbagbo agreed to meet during the coming weeks to sort out their differences and put the past behind them. “We have decided that it is important to restore trust between us so that Ivorians can reconcile and, especially, trust each other,” Ouattara said in an announcement following the meeting.  Gbagbo said he had called on Ouattara to continue reconciliation efforts by freeing other prisoners from the civil war period. “I told the president — and you will agree with me — I was their leader and I am out today. They are in prison. I would like the president to do all he can to free them,” Gbagbo told a joint news conference. The country’s last presidential election, in October 2020, saw Ouattara claim a landslide victory. However, it was undermined by an opposition boycott. Several people died in clashes with police in the run-up to the October vote after Ouattara announced his intention to run for a third term. Ouattara has so far welcomed and facilitated Gbagbo’s return, seemingly hoping it might ease tensions, although his predecessor could ultimately prefer the role of a political rival.