The U.S. government is seeking approval to sell as many as twelve A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft to Nigeria to assist its fight against Boko Haram, Reuters has reported.
Additionally, U.S. military officials revealed that it would provide more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance resources to the Nigerian military and plans to train Nigerian infantry troops to more effectively combat the insurgents.
The potential sale, which awaits approval by Congress, demonstrates the U.S. government’s approval of President Muhammadu Buhari’s measures to fight corruption and indiscipline within Nigeria’s military.
Under former President Goodluck Jonathan, Washington was resistant to selling arms and providing other forms of assistance to the Nigerian military due to its poor human rights and corruption record. The rampant corruption within the military was epitomized by the $2.1b arms scandal that unfolded under Mr. Jonathan’s administration. Tensions between the two militaries culminated in the U.S.’s abrupt termination of Nigerian military training activities in 2014.
But Mr. Buhari’s fight against corruption has gained the confidence of the U.S. government, which has been providing more support to counterterrorist activities throughout Africa.
“The Buhari administration I think has really re-energized the bilateral relationship in a fundamental way,” one anonymous U.S. official told Reuters.
“Buhari made clear from the get-go that his number one priority was reforming the military to defeat Boko Haram…and he sees us as part of that solution,” another official said.
However, human rights abuses remain a serious problem in the military, as exemplified by the December 2015 Zaria massacre in which at least 217 civilians were killed by Nigerian troops.
Despite this, the U.S. government's support for the sale of military aircraft to Nigeria shows that Washington has more confidence in the Nigerian military than it did under previous administrations and that the two governments may further cooperate on security matters in the future.