George1 Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:00 pm
Nigeria to buy Russian fighter jets
Nigeria will buy arms from Russia to compensate for western nations' refusal to sell the African country much-needed weapons.
"Nigeria has officially reached an arms deal with Russian authorities," a senior military officer told The Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the subject.
According to the officer, a high-level Nigerian delegation led by the air force chief and national security adviser travelled to Russia last week to negotiate the deal.
"Our team returned to Nigeria on Thursday after a four-day trip," he said.
"Russia has now agreed to supply us with arms," asserted the officer. "Henceforth, we are hopeful of getting arms from Russia."
Nigeria is battling a five-year insurgency by the Boko Haram militant group in the country's northeastern region, where more than 13,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and the local economy brought to its knees.
An emboldened Boko Haram recently stepped up its deadly attacks and seized several areas across Adamawa, Borno and Yobe – the three states worst hit by the insurgency – declaring them part of a self-styled "Islamic caliphate."
There have been complaints that Nigerian troops are using "obsolete" arms while insurgents employ sophisticated weapons.
The Nigerian military is reportedly seeking fighter jets and modern arms to tilt the balance in its favor.
"Basically, what we are buying from Russia are fighter jets," said the army officer.
"Light arms, especially guns of varying powers, can be procured from the black market; but you cannot buy fighter jets from the black market," he explained.
"A war can last many years, if not decades, if both sides rely solely on light arms, which you can get from the black market. In modern warfare, you need air power to establish superiority," said the officer.
Nigerian defense spokesman Chris Olukolade did not respond to AA's requests for comment.
Boko Haram, which first emerged in the early 2000s preaching against government misrule and corruption, became violent after the death of its leader in 2009 while in police custody.
The notorious group has been officially outlawed in Nigeria, Turkey and the United States.
Nigeria turned to Russia after failing for months to convince western countries, especially the U.S., to supply it with arms.
"We had to turn to Russia for arms since the U.S. refuses to sell us arms anymore," the senior military officer told AA.
"No country will be allowed to hold us for ransom," he said.
In a recent interview with AA, Nigerian presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said his country was ready to seal a counterinsurgency cooperation deal with any country willing to help its battle against Boko Haram.
It is not the first time Russia and Nigeria have had a defense arrangement.
The now-defunct Soviet Union had supplied arms to Nigeria during the country's 30-month civil war with renegade Biafra soldiers.
Most western nations sat on the fence during the conflict.
The U.S. a few days ago announced it was discontinuing training for the Nigerian military, a decision Washington said had come at Nigeria's request.
The U.S. described the Nigerian decision as "regrettable."
Nigeria-U.S. relations have foundered recently following American criticisms of Nigeria's handling of the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency.
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle exacerbated the problem three months ago when he publicly said his country would not sell arms to Nigeria due to fears of human rights abuses by the country's security agencies.
Tempers flared again in November when a top Nigerian envoy to the U.S. brazenly accused Washington of sabotaging Nigeria's counterinsurgency efforts by refusing to sell it much-needed arms.