USA Sells High-Tech War Planes For Nigeria
Help Nigeria: The Trump administration is approving a sale of nearly $ 600 million of high-tech jets to Nigeria, officials said on Thursday. The aim is to underpin the West African nation’s ability to fight Boko Haram and other extremists, despite US concerns over human rights abuses by Nigerian security forces.
The sale will allow Nigeria to buy up to 12 Colorado-based Super Tucano Embraer A-29 aircraft from Colorado-based Sierra Nevada, according to officials who were briefed on the matter but spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. The planes come with sophisticated targeting teams that the United States will help Nigeria combat terrorism, trafficking, insurgency and illicit trade.
In his last days in office, former President Barack Obama put the planned sale on hold after a Nigerian fighter plane repeatedly bombed a camp near the Cameroon border that sheltered civilians who had fled from Boko Haram. Local officials said more than 230 people were killed in an incident that drew new attention to alleged abuses by Nigerian forces.
A few weeks later, newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump told Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that he supported the sale. Trump told the Nigerian leader on his first phone call that he would increase US exports and help Nigeria to fight terrorists, officials said.
The move is Trump’s latest to arm countries despite the questionable rights in some cases. On his first overseas trip as president, Trump announced a $ 110 billion sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, including precision-guided munitions that Obama had cut short on concerns about high civilian casualties in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is at war with Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen.
Despite approving the sale to Nigeria, the United States is maintaining pressure on the Buhari government to improve its forces’ human rights practices and ensure rapist accountability, a US official said. The aim of the sale is to help Nigeria and its neighbors strengthen their ability to fight Boko Haram and an affiliate of the state-owned Islamic group in West Africa. Other countries in the region that fight similar threats already have the Super Tucano, the official said.
The State Department informed Congress on Wednesday of its plans to approve the sale. That triggered a 30-day review period in which lawmakers can try to block the sale. While several Democrats in particular have raised concerns, it is unlikely that Congress will stop the administration from proceeding.
John Campbell, a Nigerian academic on the Council on Foreign Relations, said that concerns have declined somewhat as Nigeria has taken steps to correct deficiencies, including granting the ICRC access to some detention centers Nigeria.
“There are signs of some progress,” Campbell said. However, he said Nigeria had a “long way to go.”
If the sale goes ahead, the United States will have to send employees or contractors to Nigeria to provide logistical support and train teams on how to use the aircraft. They would also give guidance on international law to protect civilians, officials said.
The Nigerian air force has been accused of bombing civilian targets several times in recent years. The State Department said last year that the Nigerian government has taken “few measures to investigate or prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or in other parts of the government, and impunity remained widespread at all levels of the government”.
Amnesty International has also accused the Nigerian military of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the extrajudicial executions of some 8,000 Boko Haram suspects. Buhari promised to investigate alleged abuses after he won the charge in March 2015. No soldier has been prosecuted ever since.
Nigeria is the largest consumer market in Africa, with 170 million inhabitants, and the continent’s second largest oil producer. It is strategically located on the edge of the Sahel, the largely lawless semi-desert region that traverses northern and sub-Saharan Africa, where experts warn of Islamic extremists expanding their reach.