Abuja – The Federal Government yesterday dismissed as fake news reports of an $875 million ammunition deal with the US.
Government said it was not aware of any such deal, which some US lawmakers purportedly blocked earlier in the week.
Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that no other arms deal exists between Nigeria and Washington apart from the Super Tucano attack helicopters contract.
He said: “There is no contract of arms between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United States of America today apart from the 12 Super Tucano attack helicopters of which six had been delivered.
“We are quite satisfied with the progress and cooperation that we received from the government of the US on this issue.
“As a matter of fact, six of the Tucano helicopters will be launched on August 3, this year.
“We are not aware of the so called 875 million USD arms contract or some helicopters which they said some lawmakers in the US are trying to persuade the president of the US not to honour
“The relationship between Nigeria and the US is smooth and waxing stronger.”
The influential US magazine, Foreign Police, had reported on Tuesday that “U.S. lawmakers are holding a proposed sale of attack helicopters to Nigeria amid mounting concerns about the Nigerian government’s human rights record as its military grapples with multiple security crises at once.”
It said: “The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military, pausing a deal worth some $875 million, according to U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter.
“The behind-the-scenes controversy over the proposed arms sale illustrates a broader debate among Washington policymakers over how to balance national security with human rights objectives.
“The hold on the sale also showcases how powerful U.S. lawmakers want to push the Biden administration to rethink U.S. relations with Africa’s most populous country amid overarching concerns that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is drifting toward authoritarianism as his government is besieged by multiple security challenges, including a jihadist insurgency.
“Nigeria is on the front lines in the battle against Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest terrorist groups, and plays a role in U.S. and international efforts to roll back extremist groups in the Sahel region of West Africa.
“But Western governments and international human rights organisations have ramped up their criticisms of the Nigerian government, particularly in the wake of its ban on Twitter, systemic corruption issues, and the Nigerian military’s role in deadly crackdowns on protesters after widespread demonstrations against police brutality last year.
“Sen. Bob Menendez, chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria during a Senate hearing with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June.
“Both Menendez and Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have placed a hold on the proposed arms sale, according to multiple U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter, who spoke to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity.
“The details on the proposed sale were first sent by the U.S. State Department to Congress in January before then-former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, according to officials familiar with the matter.
“In addition to the helicopters, the proposed sale included 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems—laser-guided rocket munitions, according to information sent by the State Department to Congress and reviewed by Foreign Policy.