WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.Res.53, a measure condemning Boko Haram and calling for free and fair elections in Nigeria:
“Mr. Speaker, thank you and I rise in strong support of H.Res.53, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“I’d like to begin by commending our colleague Robin Kelly, our colleague on the Foreign Affairs Committee. She’s a new member to the committee, we’re delighted to have her, and I want to commend her for introducing this important resolution, which condemns the brutal terrorist group Boko Haram, and calls for free, fair, and on-time elections in Nigeria.
“I also want to commend our colleague Frederica Wilson of Florida who has raised this issue more than anyone else time and time and time again, with resolutions on the House floor and just in general. So I want to thank Ms. Wilson of Florida.
“I want to thank Chris Smith and Karen Bass of our committee, the Africa Subcommittee, who have also together pushed for a resolution of importance as this.
“For five years, Mr. Speaker, Boko Haram has torn a path of violence and destruction across northeastern Nigeria—ruthlessly killing civilians, kidnapping children, and looting and destroying towns. In the last year they have started to swallow up territory, and just a few weeks ago they pledged allegiance to ISIS, the Islamic State.
“The Nigerian Government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, but obviously it hasn’t done nearly enough to confront this horrific group. Only in the past month, with presidential elections looming, has Nigeria seemed to get more serious about turning back the tide of Boko Haram.
“In recent weeks, neighboring countries including Chad, Niger, and Cameroon have stepped up their efforts to combat the group, and we’ve seen real results. In some cases, troops from those nations have had to occupy towns they have liberated inside Nigeria because Nigerian forces simply aren’t showing up to do their part. That’s obviously disgraceful.
“Instead of providing professional security forces and long-term economic investment into a long-neglected region of the country, what I see are last-minute, political stunts to persuade Nigerian voters to reelect President Jonathan.
“That brings me to the second subject of this resolution: Nigeria’s upcoming elections. Presidential elections were supposed to take place on February 14th, but were delayed until March 28th because of concerns about Boko Haram. Many believe this delay was politically motivated. Elections lacking legitimacy in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous nation, could obviously send a destabilizing shockwave across the continent.
“This resolution urges the government of Nigeria to hold elections on March 28th, without further delay, and for all parties to refrain from violence.
“Mr. Speaker, Nigeria is a huge nation. It is the largest nation, population-wise, in Africa. What happens in Nigeria is very important. What happens in Nigeria counts. Nigeria needs to send a strong example—to set a strong example—for the region and for the continent by holding credible elections and by getting serious about Boko Haram. Nigeria needs to send a very strong message about that.
“So I strongly support this resolution and urge all my colleagues to support it as well.
“I reserve the balance of my time.”