Nigeria Sale Proposed Despite Concerns

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress on Aug. 2 of a proposed $593 million foreign military sale to Nigeria of up to 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, along with associated weapons, training, and spare parts. The sale is intended to bolster Nigerian troops in their fight against Boko Haram and Islamic State group extremists. President Barack Obama had blocked this sale in the final days of his administration in response to the January bombing of a displaced persons camp by the Nigerian military that reportedly resulted in about 236 deaths. In June, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging the State Department to withhold approval of the sale until Nigeria implements measures to ensure it observes international human rights and humanitarian law.

The notification said the sale includes “special training on the law of armed conflict and humanitarian rights, and air-to-ground integration to minimize civilian harm in air operations.” Still, former State Department official Dan Mahanty, a senior adviser at the Center for Civilians in Conflict, said in an Aug. 11 email to Arms Control Today that “training is a necessary but rarely sufficient step in avoiding civilian harm. It’s a promising sign that the Defense Department has committed to training in air-to-ground integration. Training has to be reinforced by leadership, policy, doctrine, and most importantly, accountability. It’s also important that the Defense and State departments focus more attention on the way weapons are used, and the consequences of use, as a part of end-use monitoring.”

This sale notification follows the potential sale of precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia, a deal that was also blocked by Obama over humanitarian concerns and then approved by the Trump administration.—SARA SCHMITT