Nigeria News

US Admits It Blocked Sale of Fighter Helicopters to Nigeria

The United States on Wednesday refuted allegations by the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, that it had failed to help fight Boko Haram militants, saying there had been “a great deal” of US aid to Nigeria.

But it admitted that it had blocked the third party sale of Cobra helicopters to the Nigerian military, as exclusively reported by THISDAY last month.

THISDAY had initially reported that the US had blocked the sale of Chinook transport helicopters by the Israeli Government to the Nigerian Government, but THISDAY  later corrected the story to reflect the blocked sale of Cobra attack helicopters.

In the past six months since the Islamic militants snatched more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Washington has shared intelligence with the Nigerian army, begun training a new battalion and held high-level talks on the threat of Boko Haram, a US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was reported by AFP as stating.

She also said the US had provided and approved sales of military equipment to Nigerian armed forces.
“These decisions are made, of course, after careful scrutiny to ensure they conform with United States law,” she said.
But she acknowledged the US had refused to transfer some Cobra helicopters due to concerns about the Nigerian army’s ability to use them.

There were also “ongoing concerns about the Nigerian military’s protection of civilians when conducting military operations,” Psaki said, adding that these had been discussed with the Nigerian authorities.

The Nigerian military had tried to order for Cobras, a brand of attack helicopters manufactured by Bell Helicopters in Forth Worth, Texas, from Israel a few months ago.
However, the deal was blocked by the US government, which refused to give the Israeli government a “No Objection” to proceed with the sale.

Before most US-manufactured military hardware can be sold to a third party by another country, it needs the permission of the US government to go ahead with the transaction so that US equipment does not get into the wrong hands such as terrorists, nations not perceived to be friendly with the US, or those perceived to have a poor human rights record.

In the case of Nigeria, the US had concerns with the Nigerian military’s human rights record, especially with respect to its prosecution of the war against Boko Haram in the North-east.

In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington on Monday, Ambassador Adefuye took on the US government when he launched into a tirade against the administration.
“Nigerian leaders are not satisfied with the scope, nature and content of the United States’ support for us in our struggle against terrorists,” he had said.

He accused Washington of not providing the “lethal” weapons needed to deliver “a killer punch” to the militants.
Adefuye told members of the CFR that allegations of human rights abuses by the military were “rumours, hearsay and exaggerated accounts” which had been spread by rivals of President Goodluck Jonathan and rights groups.

But Psaki stressed the US would not raise such concerns “if we didn’t feel and others didn’t feel that they were warranted.”
Washington is ready to help Nigeria train and improve the effectiveness of its military, Psaki added, urging the government to investigate allegations of abuses.

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