Trump Plans to Sell Attack Planes to Nigeria to Fight Boko Haram

    12 April, 2017

    The Trump administration has agreed to sell Nigeria up to twelve attack airplanes for its campaign against Boko Haram Islamic extremists.

    The sale will continue despite concerns over abuses committed by Nigeria's security forces, according to U.S. officials.

    The U.S. Congress is expected to be officially informed within weeks.

    A long history

    The sale of the aircraft to Nigeria has a long history. The country has been trying to buy them since 2015.

    However, the Nigerian air force has been accused of bombing civilian targets at least three times in recent years.

    In one incident on January 17 this year, a fighter jet repeatedly bombed a camp at Rann, near the border with Cameroon. Civilians fleeing from Boko Haram were living there.

    Between 100 and 236 civilians and aid workers were killed, according to officials' and community leaders' counts.

    The bombing at Rann occurred on the same day the Obama administration planned to notify Congress of the aircraft sale to Nigeria. However, due to the incident, the sale was immediately put on hold.

    In previous years, both the U.S. State Department and human rights groups have warned against the actions of the Nigerian military.

    The State Department said in 2016 that the Nigerian government has taken few steps to investigate or charge soldiers who commit violations.

    And in 2015 Amnesty International accused Nigeria's military of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The group accused Nigeria of the unauthorized killings of an estimated 8,000 Boko Haram suspects.

    Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised to investigate the suspected abuses after he won office in 2015.

    However, no soldier has yet been charged.

    Nigeria's military has denied the allegations.

    People return to the site after a bombing attack of an internally displaced persons camp in Rann, Nigeria Jan. 17, 2017.
    People return to the site after a bombing attack of an internally displaced persons camp in Rann, Nigeria Jan. 17, 2017.

    Politically strategic

    Despite concerns about human rights abuses in the country, selling the aircraft to Nigeria helps the U.S. achieve some of its goals.

    The sale would improve the U.S. relationship with Nigeria, which is Africa's largest economy.

    The country is also in a strategic geographic position. The north of Nigeria sits on the edge of the Sahel, an area that bridges North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. The Sahel has a desert-like climate and is not well governed. Experts warn that Islamic extremists like Boko Haram may expand their influence here.

    J. Peter Pham is vice president of the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC and the head of its Africa Center. Pham says that no country in Africa is more important for American interests than Nigeria.

    In Trump's interests, too

    The aircraft deal also supports Trump's political goals. The U.S. president has said he wants to support nations fighting Islamic extremism.

    Trump also wants to increase U.S. manufacturing and create well-paid jobs for Americans. The aircraft he plans to sell Nigeria is made in Jacksonville, Florida.

    After Congress is officially informed of the sale, lawmakers have 30 days to reject the deal.

    However, a rejection is not likely. Many U.S. lawmakers support the sale, even if they are uncomfortable with the actions of the Nigerian military.

    Senator Ben Cardin said this week that he is not trying to block the deal. But, he added, "There is progress that needs to be made in protecting the civilian population."

    I'm Phil Dierking.

    This story was originally written for Associated Press by Richard Lardner and Michelle Faull. Phil Dierking adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

    Do you it is a good idea for the United States to sell planes to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


    Words in This Story

    extremists – n. someone who has extreme ideas about politics, religion, etc.

    geographic - n. the natural features (such as rivers, mountains, etc.) of a place

    strategic – adj. of or relating to a general plan that is created to achieve a goal in war, politics, etc., usually over a long period of time