Reports by Medicins Sans Frontières that the Nigerian military had killed and wounded children in an airstrike on 18 February in the village of Nachadé, in neighbouring Niger Republic will focus attention again on the human costs of Abuja’s security strategy. From the US sales of Super Tucano aircraft, the arrival of Russia’s Wagner Group into the area and China’s sale of mobile artillery and Bigfoot MRAPs, the increasing military sophistication of Nigeria and the Sahel continues apace.
Nigeria’s military says it is investigating the Nachadé incident.
It may also raise questions about arms supplies to Abuja by countries such as the US which have, albeit inconsistently, premised arms supplies on their assessments of human rights conditions.
Under then president Barack Obama, the US’s sale of Super Tucano aircraft to the Nigeria’s Air Force was put on hold in 2015 after it confirmed it had accidentally bombed a refugee camp in Rann, close to the Cameroonian border.
Then president Donald Trump lifted the suspension, but the US senate last year put a hold on the sale of second-hand Super Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria, again on human rights grounds. These hold-ups have prompted officials to widen their range of military suppliers.
Competition is heating up in the arms supply and security business in Africa as Western countries rethink their engagement. France’s planned withdrawal from Mali in the wake of the arrival there of some 1,000 fighters from Russia’s Wagner Group is a sign of some of the changes to come.
Along with Russia, Turkey and the Gulf States have become big arms suppliers to African states such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and Somalia. But the fastest growing supplier is China, which can draw on its economies of scale and its increasing technical sophistication. And it has made significant inroads in Africa’s biggest market.
China’s arms companies aim to become the dominant supplier to Nigeria over the next three years, overtaking both Russia and the US, according to multiple defence industry sources.
Shipments in the past year to Nigeria of armoured personnel carriers, battle tanks and light tanks, as well as various types of artillery from China suggest it is on the way to becoming Abuja’s supplier of choice.
These arms sale are also an important symbol of China’s growing security role in Africa. It also supplies troops, engineers and other technical experts to UN peacekeeping missions across the continent.
Beijing also maintains far high levels of military personnel in its embassies in Africa than its international peers. This could give it an edge in terms of military contacts and sales campaigns.
Western countries, such as the US, Britain and France, have focused more on the high-end of the arms market in Africa – jet fighters and bombers, armed naval vessels and high-tech surveillance equipment. But here too, China is competing on cost, if not reliability.
As successive Nigerian governments have struggled to contain Islamist insurgents in the north-east, bandits and kidnappers in the north-west and herder-farmer clashes in the Middle Belt, the country has become the biggest arms importer in Africa.
But Nigeria, like South Africa, has its own military industries that it wants to build up again after many shut down or dramatically cut production. The Defence Industries of Nigeria produces armoured vehicles and ordnance at its factory in Kaduna and has been tasked by the federal defence ministry to expand its product range.
Abuja is also planning a joint-venture with Indonesia to manufacture weapons and aircraft. With Nigeria’s security threats multiplying, the cost of equipment, and the local jobs that arms offset deals could create, are critical.
Lack of accountability
Local anti-corruption groups have warned about the lack of accountability in most arms deals, particularly this which involve local cost-offset arrangements where the supplier agree to transfer technology to local manufacturers over an extended period.
Such arrangements were at the heart of South Africa’s $6bn arms scandal in the late 1990s; the reverberations still echo around national politics, specifically the grand corruption charges against former president Jacob Zuma.
It was Western arms manufacturers – British Aerospace and France’s Thalys – that dominated the South African deal. But now China and Russia are the main suppliers in Africa.
China’s arms industry has the overwhelming advantage of undercutting the prices of most of its competitors.
Nigeria is the largest importer of military equipment in sub-Saharan Africa, and the country’s military budget is greater than the combined armed force spending of the rest of West Africa. Figures from 2019 show that 0.5% Nigeria’s GDP went towards military spending increasing to an estimated 0.69% last year.
The security budget has steadily increased since Buhari’s first term in 2015 as has the total national budget. In 2015, the national budget was N4.41trn, and the security sector was allocated N989bn. By 2021, with the national budget at N13.6trn, defence and security first received N1.96trn, with an additional N722bn added through the supplementary budget.
There are questions about much the higher defence budgets have translated into better equipment and supply logistics for the troops on the ground. A 2021 study conducted by Temitope B. Oriola, a Nigerian security expert and associate professor at the University of Alberta, found a mixed picture but that there had been some improvements.
This follows some media reports troops being left stranded in the field with broken equipment and no new supplies. It said: “The evidence suggests that availability of weapons varies by unit and the agency of commanders.”
Equipment from China
Defence specialists predict that ‘China will be the largest foreign exporter of military equipment to Nigeria between 2020 and 2024 [as there have been] no recent reported arms deals of this size between a Western nation and Nigeria.’
Since 2014, the Nigerian army has been using CS/VP3 Bigfoot MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles) from China’s Poly Technologies, one of the country’s largest arms exporters.
In late 2021, Nigeria ordered and received more of these tanks. Another Chinese company, Norinco, is also a leading supplier to Nigeria’s military. Following a $152m contract in 2019, Nigeria received its first batch of Norinco battle tanks and self-propelled artillery in April 2020.
This is despite a row over claims by the Paris-based Africa Intelligence group that some of the Norinco equipment had technical problems shortly after arrival. It reported that Chief of Army Staff General Ibrahim Attahiru in March 2021 had “warned Norinco that it could be excluded from future equipment supply contracts after mobile units it supplied ran into technical problems shortly after they were delivered to the army last November.”
When the story was repeated by local publication African Military Blog, the Nigerian army’s director of information, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima dismissed it as a “work of the author’s imagination”. The African Military Blog quickly apologised and retracted the claim.
And Nigeria’s army is still very much in business with Norinco.
At the end of last October, 60 more Type-89 tracked infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) were received from Norinco, and inducted into the Nigeria army service at the Army School of Infantry, Jaji, Kaduna.
The relationship looks set to expand further. Their closest rivals are likely to be Russia’s arms sales teams who are stepping up efforts to expand operations in Nigeria as part of their West Africa strategy.
AICC: Egyptian Grandmasters Dominate Tourney
With just two rounds left to play, top Nigerian chess players have dropped out in the ranking at the on-going African Individual Chess Championship holding at the Orchid Hotel in Lekki, Lagos.
Although Nigerian players showed shade of genius in the battle field as the tournament reached its climax on Sunday night, the Egyptian who are higher rated players dominate play with Adly Ahmed (African number 2) and Woman Grandmaster Wafa Shahenda leading the pack of other players in both Open and Women sections.
Both have consolidated their lead in the competition, as every win counts to games 4 and 5.
WGM Wafa trounced her Angolan opponent, Woman International Master Esperanca Caxita, in a Sicilian opening with black mostly dominating the game right from the middle play.
The Egyptian WGM is all but a massive one point ahead of the pack leading into the final rounds starting this morning.
While the Egyptian masters are dominating play, credit also goes to some Nigerians raising their heads to be counted. Nigeria Youth Games product, Onoja Iyefu Joy continues to show resilience and determination to earn her first chess title and create a record while at it.
She had on Saturday continued her fine run of form by scoring an entire point against Paulo Jemima to register the second position on the ranking table with 9 points. A win in the 7th round will help Joy secure a Woman International Master Title.
WIM (elect) Ofowino Toritsemuwa bettered her AICC Tunisia 2019 record, and she is bound to create a new one as she takes on WGM Wafa in the seventh round.
Toritsemuwa currently shares second place with her compatriot, Iyefu Onoja, both holding 4.5 points, hence making the 7th game point as crucial for the player.
In the Open section, 20-year-old Eyetonghan Denyefa Callistus is pulling his weight. He scored an outstanding 4.5 points after six games, but it is not about the score, somewhat the opponents; defeating 1 GM, 2 IMs, and three draws against two IMs and FM, the youngster will get his chance at GM Adly in the seventh round.
With a half point behind the tournament leader, African Number 1–GM AminBassem landed his second consecutive win after the drawn game with compatriot GM Ahmed Adly, demonstrating he still stands a chance to catch up and maybe win the tournament.
Bassem faces IM David Silva of Angola in the seventh round, who had to offer a draw to his opponent in the sixth round due to health issues. We hope he’s gotten his strength back for this crucial game.
The tournament ends tomorrow with Maltina and Gulder are among the top sponsor of the event.
Don’t vote for ‘killers’ in 2023 elections – ex-President Jonathan urges Nigerian youths
A former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, has urged Nigerians not to elect “killers” in the 2023 general elections.
Mr Johnathan stated this on Sunday in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State during a thanksgiving service to mark the 35th anniversary of the state.
Mr Johnathn and his wife, Patience, were the special guests of honour at the service which was also attended by the governor of his home state — Bayelsa — Douye Diri.
“In 2023, you must not make the mistake to vote killers. Those who carry knives, guns, and all kinds of gadgets to go and kill people because of politics, are the enemies of society.
“If you kill to become a leader, you will continue to kill to remain a leader and the people will continue to suffer.”
The former president said he has monitored the growth of Akwa Ibom, adding that he has been visiting the state at least once a year since he joined the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission, now Niger Delta Development Commission, in 1994 as an assistant director.
While thanking the youth of the state for not vandalising infrastructure, the former president recalled how some people sabotaged his development efforts in the power sector by using arc saws to fell towers because they wanted Nigeria to remain in darkness.
Mr Johnathan said the election of the State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, should teach politicians a good lesson, especially those who doubted Mr Emmanuel’s ability to manage “human beings”.
Governor Emmanuel was an executive director at Zenith Bank before he was appointed Secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government, a position he later resigned from to vie for the governorship of the state which he won in 2015.
Akwa Ibom is ‘strong national story’ – Gov Emmanuel
Earlier in his speech, Mr Emmanuel thanked the people of the state for their support and described this year’s state anniversary as his last as the state governor.
The governor said Akwa Ibom has become a state with a “strong national story and a sparkling destination of choice for Nigerians and others around the world”.
He appreciated the people for the choice of “Moving Forward,” as the theme of the celebrations but also reminded them that in “moving forward we have to also look back.”
He referenced Joseph, a Biblical figure who later became the Prime Minister of Egypt and added that the children of Israel suffered because of Joseph’s mistake.
“Joseph made a mistake in Egypt when he was about to go, he did not look at the issue of who succeeded him and that is why the children of Israel suffered.
“If you are a God-sent man you must also learn. I’ve learnt from what Joseph did and today we went back to God and I want to appreciate all Akwa Ibomites because a man after God’s heart will come after another man after God’s heart,” Mr Emmanuel said.
He promised to complete before leaving office next year, the international worship centre that his administration is building in the state.
Knocks, Kudos as Peter Obi promises 100m poor Nigerians ‘access to free medical care’
Mixed reactions have trailed the promise by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, stating that his administration will prioritise the welfare of the poor Nigerians if elected.
“If elected the next president of Nigeria, youths would be the main proponents of my main agenda to transform Nigeria from a consuming nation to a producing nation. The two main components of this agenda are human capital development and finance.”
Obi further said health and education are vital to the development of the country, promising to ensure “at least 100 million poor Nigerians have access to free medical care”.
“Given the role of health in reinforcing education in the measure of productivity, my leadership will pay serious attention to the health system by ensuring that at least 100 million poor Nigerians have access to free medical services through an integrated health insurance scheme.”
Obi’s promise which has gone viral, generated divergent reactions on social media platforms.
While some supporters of Obi believed the promise made by their candidate is possible, they argued in support that the country is buoyant enough to take care of citizens’ medical care.
ASUU: Seven months after, FG orders VC’s to reopen schools
The Academic Staff Union of Universities has been on strike for about seven months now.
The association is demanding from FG the funding of the Revitalisation of Public Universities, Earned Academic Allowances, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) and promotion arrears.
Others are the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FG Agreement and the inconsistency in Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System.
Recall that the federal government went to court to challenge the action of the association. Last week the national industrial court through Polycarp Hamman, the judge in the NIC, granted the federal government’s application for an interlocutory injunction to restrain ASUU from continuing with the strike.
The outcome of the judgement was questioned by Femi Falana, human rights lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who stated that the national industrial court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the case between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
However, tired of the lingering strike the Federal Government through the National Universities Commission ordered vice-chancellors to re-open schools and allow students resume lectures.
In a letter disclosed to journalists on Monday, signed by the Director, Finance and Accounts of the NUC, Sam Onazi, on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the commission, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, FG instructed all vice-chancellors; Pro-Chancellors and chairmen of governing councils of federal universities to re-open schools.
“Ensure that ASUU members immediately resume/commence lectures; Restore the daily activities and routines of the various University campuses”, part of the letter read.
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