At a long-awaited meeting between President Donald Trump and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the U.S. president announced the approval of a dozen war planes 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.”