Abuja and Moscow have signed an agreement for the former to buy nearly $1 billion in military equipment and services, Nigeria’s ambassador to Russia, Abdullahi Shehu, told VOA.
The Nigerian Embassy released a statement that said the agreement “provides a legal framework for the supply of military equipment, provision of after sales services, training of personnel in respective educational establishments and technology transfer, among others.”
Reuters reported in July that U.S. lawmakers had put a hold on a proposal to sell almost $1 billion worth of weapons to Nigeria over concerns about possible human rights abuses by the government.
When asked if the agreement reached with Russia was influenced by the failure to secure such a deal with the U.S. government, Shehu said no.
“As I stated after opening, after the signing ceremony, I said clearly that Nigeria is not looking for alternatives but complementarity and mutual benefits,” Shehu, who is in Russia, said in a telephone interview with VOA.
“So the fact that Nigeria has signed agreement with Russia does not affect Nigeria’s relationship and cooperation with its strategic partners around the world.”
The Nigerian ambassador added, “So to us, the signing of this agreement is in furtherance of our bilateral cooperation with the Russian Federation in this area.”
The embassy statement described the pact as “a landmark development” in the countries’ bilateral relations.
Shehu said training was one aspect of the military cooperation agreement between the two countries.
“So I believe that as soon as the agreement comes into force, both countries will discuss what would be Nigeria’s needs and how the Russian Federation can assist Nigeria in such direction,” he said.
Nigeria already uses some Russian fighter jets and helicopters, alongside military equipment purchased from Western powers such as the United States, according to Reuters.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson, speaking on background, told VOA in a statement, “Nigeria is a critical partner in the fight against terrorism in Africa. … Our security cooperation with Nigeria aims to enable the Nigerian government to better protect its citizens and defeat terrorist groups that threaten U.S. interests, while respecting human rights and the law of armed conflict.”
The spokesperson said U.S. military assistance included military education and training, as well as training and equipping “law enforcement and judiciary professionals” in an array of priorities, from “stopping banditry to protecting intellectual property rights to more effectively addressing trafficking in persons and gender-based violence.”
Source: Voice of America