THE United States administration is seeking to approve a sale of as many as 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft for Nigeria to aid its battle against the extremist group Boko Haram, US officials said.
The officials said while speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s plans in a vote of confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari’s drive to reform the country’s corruption-tainted military.
Washington also is dedicating more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to the campaign against the Islamist militants in the region and plans to provide additional training to Nigerian infantry forces.
The possible sale which the officials said was favored within the US administration but is subject to review by Congress underscores the deepening US involvement in helping governments in North and West Africa fight extremist groups.
US Navy Vice Admiral, Michael Franken, a Deputy Commander of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, told a Washington forum last week that there now are 6,200 US troops most of them Special Operations Forces, operating from 26 locations on the continent.
The widening US military cooperation is a political victory for Buhari, who took office last year pledging to crack down on the rampant corruption that has undermined the armed forces in Africa’s most populous country.
“The Buhari administration I think has really reenergised the bilateral relationship in a fundamental way,” another US official said.
The previous Nigerian government of Goodluck Jonathan had scorned the US for blocking arms sales partly because of human rights concerns. It also criticized Washington for failing to speed the sharing of intelligence.
The souring relations hit a low at the end of 2014 when US military training of Nigerian forces was abruptly halted.
That is changing under Buhari, whose crackdown on corruption has led to a raft of charges against top national security officials in the previous government.