The Trump administration has agreed a $600 million sale of high-technology attack planes and equipment to Nigeria despite concerns about human rights abuses by Nigerian security forces.
The State Department notified Congress Wednesday of its plans to approve the sale, triggering a 30-day review period.
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 comes with sophisticated targeting equipment that the U.S says will help Nigeria fight terrorism, trafficking, insurgency and illicit trade.
In his final days in office, former President Barack Obama put the planned sale on hold after a Nigerian fighter jet repeatedly bombed a camp near the Cameroon border housing civilians who had fled Boko Haram. Local officials have said more than 230 people were killed, in an incident that brought new attention to alleged abuses by Nigeria’s forces.
A few weeks later, newly inaugurated President Donald Trump told Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that he supported the sale. Trump told the Nigerian leader in their first phone call that it would increase American exports and help Nigeria fight terrorists, according to officials.
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.
Amnesty International also has accused Nigeria’s military of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the extrajudicial killings of an estimated 8,000 Boko Haram suspects. Buhari promised to investigate the alleged abuses after he won office in March 2015. No soldier has since been prosecuted.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest consumer market, with 170 million people, and the continent’s second-largest oil producer.
It is strategically located on the edge of the Sahel, the largely lawless semi-desert region bridging north and sub-Saharan Africa where experts warn of Islamic extremists expanding their reach.
More than 20,000 have been killed and about 3 million displaced in Boko Haram’s insurgency since 2009, in which the extremist group has sought to enforce strict Islamic rule.
President Donald Trump telephoned Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari recently, saying he had approved the sale of the attack plane to help Nigeria fight and conquer terrorism.