By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
WASHINGTON, D.C. (IDN) – At a long-awaited meeting between President Donald Trump and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the U.S. president announced the approval of a dozen warplanes for Nigeria whose sale had been frozen by former President Barack Obama.
Rebuking his Nigerian counterpart for the proliferation of violence throughout that country, Trump expressed concern for “the burning of churches and killing of Christians.” President Buhari blamed the violence on militia trained by the late former Libyan President, Muammar Gadaffi. He thanked the U.S. for “giving us the aircraft that we asked for,” adding: “We’re even more grateful for the presence of U.S. military advisors in Nigeria.”
President Trump called the sale of 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft “the first-ever sale of the American military weapon to Nigeria. This new aircraft will help Nigeria target terrorists and protect civilians.”
In fact, the planes were in the pipeline since the Obama administration but the sale was frozen in one of Obama’s last decisions in office after a Nigerian fighter jet mistakenly bombed a government-run refugee camp, killing over 100 refugees including Red Cross volunteers.
The 12 aircraft, with weapons and services, are worth $593 million and include thousands of bombs and rockets. The plane, with reconnaissance, surveillance and attack capabilities, is made by Brazil’s Embraer and in Jacksonville, Florida by Embraer and the Sierra Nevada Corp.
But fighting Boko Haram requires much more, commented Prof. Stephen Onyeiwu of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. “Unrest within West Africa is driven by local grievances, corruption and weak governance, human rights violations, and imported religious ideology.
“Buhari could also do with substantial non-military assistance. In particular, he needs help to address two huge social problems in Nigeria: the fact that 70% of Nigerians live in abject poverty, and that more than 50% of the country’s young people are jobless.
“But Buhari should not count on Trump to increase aid for the kind of economic transformation the country needs,” Onyeiwu continued. “In the 2017 financial year, the US budgeted a mere $608 million in foreign assistance to Nigeria, a number which eerily echoes the price tag for the 12 fighter jets Nigeria wants to buy.”
The much-heralded meeting of Trump and Buhari struck a sour note for the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria.
“One wonders if Trump is not aware or deliberately ignored the murder of several Muslims in a mosque at the University of Maiduguri, or those killed in mosques in Yobe and Zamfara and many other parts of the country,” said Saheed Ashafa, student group president.
“As Muslims, we condemn and reject all forms of terrorism, insurgency and oppression in whatever name being perpetrated. We should also remember that in Nigeria, most families are composed of Christians and Muslims alike, just as we have other faiths.
“Trump’s call for separatism when the world is advocating for collectivism is not a healthy offer.”
President Buhari arrived in Washington D.C. on April 30 for a four-day visit. In an OpEd for the Newsweek on that day, he wrote: “My meeting with President Donald Trump today (Monday, April 30) at the White House will provide an opportunity for reflection on the important relationship that Nigeria and the United States have forged over the last five decades of Nigeria’s democracy.”
Referring to economic relations, he stated: “In recent years, the Coca-Cola Company entered a strategic alliance – estimated at $400 million – with Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group to increase its footprint in Nigeria’s consumer foods sector for the long term. Similarly, Kellogg Company commissioned a $30 million cereal factory in Nigeria, in a joint venture with a Singaporean conglomerate, and both partners have disclosed plans to invest another $50 million on expanding the factory.”
“The future of U.S.-Nigeria collaboration in the technology sector is similarly bright,” he added. “Andela, a startup backed by American venture capital and which trains young Africans as software engineers, has its biggest campus in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.”
Analyzing the importance of President Buhari’s visit, The Conversation wrote earlier: “It’s not inconceivable that Buhari’s visit to the White House has little to do with economic relations, but more about the political gains both leaders can make. Buhari’s US visit comes on the heels of a recent visit to Downing Street, and will soon be followed by another visit to the Elysee Palace.”
What must not be forgotten, The Conversation added, is that U.S. dependence on Nigerian oil has increased dramatically with imports jumping threefold in 2016 driven by uncertainties in Iran and Venezuela. This suggests that both countries have a common interest in maintaining a close relationship.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 01 May 2018]
Photo: President Buhari with U.S. counterpart Trump at Oval Office on April 30, 2018. Credit: Information Nigeria.
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
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