By John Ikani
The US Government has announced that it has approved the sale of attack helicopters and other equipments to Nigeria. The aircraft are expected to to be used against terrorists and other gunmen operating in the West African country.
The sale of the helicopters and related defence systems to the Nigerian military, including a $25m package for human rights-related training was announced by the US Department of State on Thursday.
Heritage Times gathered that the equipments requested to be purchased by the Nigerian government include 12 AH-1Z Attack Helicopters; twenty-eight (28) T-700 GE 401C engines (24 installed, 4 spares); and two thousand (2,000) Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) guidance sections.
Others are Night Vision Cueing Display (NVCD); commercial variant GPS with Standard Positioning Service (SPS), and communication equipment.
The equipments also include electronic warfare systems; AN/AVS-9 Aviator’s Night Vision Imaging System; M197 20mm machine gun; Target Sight System (TSS); support equipment; spare engine containers; spare and repair parts; tools and test equipment; technical data and publication.
What you should know
The sale went ahead after a November visit to Abuja by Secretary of State Antony Blinken during which he raised concerns about Nigeria’s rights record. At the time, though, Blinken also made clear that the United States regards Nigeria as a partner in combating terrorism and Islamic extremism in West Africa and the Sahel, a region along the Sahara Desert stretching across North Africa, and is looking to increase cooperation with it in those areas.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a strategic partner in Sub-Saharan Africa,” the department told Congress.
The deal will also “better equip Nigeria to contribute to shared security objectives, promote regional stability and build interoperability with the U.S. and other Western partners” and “will be a major contribution to U.S. and Nigerian security goals,” the notice said.
Nigeria’s security forces have long been accused of human rights violations in their operations, with personnel involved often escaping justice.
In October 2020, the army opened fire at a demonstration in the country’s economic hub where hundreds were protesting against police brutality, killing 11 people and injuring many others, according to a government-backed panel.
During Blinken’s visit on November, he said the US was looking forward to seeing the full results of the investigation and would make a decision on arms sales to Nigeria based in part on the findings and whether those responsible were held accountable.
Nigeria is also facing a growing threat from armed gangs and extremist rebels who are now working together in the country’s troubled northwest and threaten to further destabilize an already volatile region.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 206 million people, has been battling violence in the north and an alliance between the two groups could worsen the crisis, analysts believe.