In connection with the visit of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson to Nigeria, the British Foreign Office pledged aid worth £200 million over five years to help the most populous African country cope with its eight-year insurgency being waged by Boko Haram militants.
While the money will be used to supply food, provide medical treatment and assist education needs, the UK has deep and various security interests in its former colony.
After dedicating a new Commonwealth war memorial at the National Military Cemetery for Nigerian troops for Britain in the First and Second World Wars, Secretary Johnson reminded that most of the oil used in the UK comes from Nigeria. Hence strengthening the Nigerian Navy’s capacity to fight piracy at sea and protect international shipping in the Gulf of Guinea is a priority to ensure that the oil from Nigeria gets to the UK safely.
Boko Haram’s successful attacks in 2014 led the UK government to bolster its small existing training mission to 130 soldiers, as well as sending three Tornado GR4s to help efforts to track down the schoolgirls taken from the remote town of Chibok. The British Military Advisory Training team (BMAT), now comprising 300 members, and has since then performed various form of non-combat military assistance to the Nigerian armed forces.
British soldiers have helped train 28,000 Nigerian personnel troops in infantry skills, civil-military affairs, media operations, command and leadership, IED awareness, and provided support to Nigerian military training schools and establishments, as well as supporting a Nigerian intelligence and analysis cell.
A RAF team trained 300 Nigerian Air Force service members in airfield defence and counter-insurgency. And on the naval side a team onboard NNS Unity, a Chinese-made Type 56 corvette, taught firefighting skills, while Royal Marines instructed more than 300 naval personnel, including members of the Nigerian special boat service.
During his visit to Nigeria at the end of August, the Foreign Secretary called for an intensification of trade between the two countries and Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai, the Nigerian Navy’s Chief of Training and Operations said discussions were underway with the UK for excess defence articles, including attack helicopters, a request the Secretary declared to be “considering”, without going into further detail.
At the same time the Pentagon notified the US Congress in August of the sale to Nigeria of 12 Super Tucano light attack aircraft and weapons worth $593 million.
Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.