Friday, August 4, 2017 9:15 am
The Trump administration has given a go-ahead for the sale, at about $600 million, of high-tech attack planes to Nigeria to battle Boko Haram insurgents, especially in the North East.
Officials said Thursday, that the sale will let Nigeria buy up to 12 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano aircraft from Colorado-based Sierra Nevada Corp.
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 aircraft come with sophisticated targeting equipment that the U.S says will help Nigeria fight terrorism, trafficking, insurgency and illicit trade.
The move is Trump’s latest to arm countries despite questionable rights records in some cases. On his first trip abroad as president, Trump announced a $110 billion sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, including precision-guided munitions that Obama had cut off over concerns about high rates of civilian casualties in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is at war with Iranian-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen.
The aim of the sale is to help Nigeria and its neighbors strengthen their ability to fight Boko Haram and an Islamic State group affiliate in West Africa. Other countries in the region fighting similar threats already have the Super Tucano, the official noted.
The State Department notified Congress late 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, Congress is unlikely to stop the administration from proceeding.
John Campbell, a Nigeria scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, said concerns have receded somewhat as Nigeria has taken steps to address shortcomings, including granting the International Committee of the Red Cross access to some Nigerian detention facilities.
“There are signs of some progress,” Campbell said. Still, he said Nigeria had a “long way to go.”
If the sale goes forward, the U.S. will have to send employees or contractors to Nigeria to provide logistical support and train teams on how to use the aircraft. They also would provide guidance on international laws for protecting civilians, officials said.