Nigeria hopes U.S. will sell it aircraft to fight Boko Haram


Nigeria hopes the United States will sell it aircraft to fight Boko Haram militants, saying its human rights record had improved sufficiently for a blockade on arms deals to be lifted, the foreign minister said on Friday.

U.S. officials told Reuters this month Washington wants to sell up to 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Nigeria in recognition of President Muhammadu Buhari’s reform of the country’s army. Congress needs to approve the deal.

Under Buhari’s predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, the United States had blocked arms sales and ended training of Nigerian troops partly over human rights concerns such as treatment of captured insurgents.

In the first Nigerian comment since the Reuters story, Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said the government had set up reporting mechanisms inside the military to monitor human rights.
“We are taking it extremely seriously and are implementing best practices in the area,” he told reporters.

He said he hoped Congress would recognise the changes implemented to approve the sale of aircraft and other hardware needed to tackle Boko Haram, which has been waging a seven-year insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast.

The widening U.S. military cooperation would be a victory for Buhari, who took office last year pledging to crack down on the corruption that has undermined the armed forces in Africa’s most populous country.

Many of the funds alleged to have been misused under Jonathan were earmarked for the fight against Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in northeast Nigeria and neighbouring countries.

Onyeama spoke ahead of a security summit on Saturday in Abuja, which will be attended by Nigeria’s neighbours, French President Francois Hollande as well as senior U.S. and British officials to coordinate the fight against Boko Haram.

Under Buhari, the army has recaptured much of territory initially lost to Boko Haram but the group still often stages suicide attacks in Nigeria and its neighbours.