The United States of America (USA) has agreed to help Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram with Washington agreeing to sell no fewer than 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Abuja to aid the war against the terror sect.
Besides, the USA is dedicating more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to the campaign against terrorists in the region and plans to provide additional training to Nigerian infantry forces, Reuters reported quoting anonymous US officials.
The planned sale is however subject to review by Congress.
U.S. 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 U.S. troops – most of them Special Operations Forces – operating from 26 locations in Africa.
The widening US military cooperation is seen as a political victory for Buhari, who took office last year pledging to crack down on the rampant corruption that has undermined the armed forces.
“The Buhari administration I think has really reenergized the bilateral relationship in a fundamental way,” one U.S. official said.
The Jonathan administration had scorned the United States for blocking arms sales partly because of human rights concerns. It also criticised Washington for failing to speed the sharing of intelligence.
The souring relations hit a low at the end of 2014 when U.S. 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.
“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,” a second U.S. official said.
Still, serious human rights abuses committed by security forces, which include police, increased in 2015, according to the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report.
Many of the funds alleged to have been misused and siphoned by corrupt Nigerian officials under Jonathan’s government were earmarked for the fight against Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in the Northeast and neighboring countries in the last seven years. Last year, the group pledged loyalty to Islamic State.
“No wonder they weren’t doing well with respect to Boko Haram. (They) didn’t have the ammunition,” one official said.