Russia and Nigeria have confirmed a contract for the delivery of 12 Mi-35 attack helicopters, with six having already been delivered.
Nigeria ordered 12 Mi-35Ms in September 2015. Deliveries began in December 2016, with half of the order presently fulfilled. Nigerian Ambassador to Russia Steve Davies Ugbah earlier said that securing the delivery of the remaining six was being discussed.
In October the Ambassador said defence cooperation between Moscow and Abuja was largely hindered by anti-Russian sanctions. “Sanctions against Russia do not help this matter, as you can imagine. Russia is a reliable partner that always fulfils its obligations. We will agree on the delivery of the remaining Mi-35 helicopters, and then we will see what we can do as part of the law.”
“We are trying to work within the system so that Russia does not lose anything, but also that Nigeria does not lose. The schedule of deliveries will be discussed. Our wish list is quite long. We continue to discuss these issues with Russia. But I want to emphasize – without Russian help, without Russian equipment, the fight against terrorists in my country will face very big challenges. We are interested in the equipment being purchased and delivered on time,” he said.
The contract for the first 12 Mi-35Ms came before the US put a new sanctions law into place. That law, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), places sanctions on the Russian defence industry, as well as customers of Russian defence firms. While the US has offered some countries waivers to enable them to procure Russian military equipment, Abuja is leery of getting ensnared in the sanctions regime.
Earlier this week, an aide to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told reporters in Abuja that President Buhari would raise the issue of the attack helicopters with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, this week. The aide, Malam Garba Shehu, noted that new weapons would strengthen Nigeria’s counterinsurgency capabilities against Boko Haram.
The Mi-35 contract was announced as Russia welcomed dozens of African heads of state to the southern Russian city of Sochi amid a push by Moscow for clout on the continent. Russia is heavily promoting its military hardware at the summit. Ahead of the summit, Russian defence Minister Sergei Shoigu noted that over the past three years, the volume of exports of Russian weapons abroad has grown by about 11% per year. Russia has been trying to grow its exports to countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
* This story has been changed to reflect that Nigeria, and not neighbouring Niger, ordered the helicopters.