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.
Nigeria’s AfriGo to Rival Visa, Mastercard – Central Bank
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has launched the Nigerian National Domestic Card Scheme, AfriGo, aimed at creating a more robust payment system that would drive financial inclusion in the country.
CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, has said that transaction charges on all cards would henceforth be paid in Naira, except for international transactions.
Emefiele said the card, which will function like other international payment cards, is aimed at boosting financial inclusion in the country and reducing dependence on foreign cards. He added that “by this initiative, will therefore be joining countries like China, Russia, Turkey and India which have launched domestic card schemes and harnessed the transformative benefits for their respective payments and financial systems, particularly for the underbanked.”
The national domestic card is expected to rival Visa and Mastercard, the market’s biggest players.
The announcement follows last year’s decision to phase out old higher denomination bank notes. The new notes came into circulation effect on December 15, 2022.
The Gospel of the “Obi-Datti” Movement
Nigeria 23:57….. and it came to pass in those days as Peter the son of Obi journeyed from Kaduna unto Kano, a great multitude followed him as he spake unto them saying; behold, I will do a new thing in Northern Nigeria, if thou and thy children shall vote for me, we will prosper thy land and thy seed shall eat the fruits thereof, for what profiteth the North that thou hast great land and thy offspring suffereth hunger and starvation.
As he spake these things, the Kadunites and the Kanites marvelled and they spake one to another, what manner of man is this that bringeth hope unto us. The people spread the good news of Peter and his brother Datti and whole city rejoiced at the marvelous things he spake unto them. Many were baptized unto OBIDIENCE and the number of those baptized were Nine hundredth and forty thousand men, with women and children not counted.
….. An excerpt from one of the “obedients” that got our attention inhouse. With the elections at hand in Nigeria, it would be advisable for all to get their PVC’s and go vote for their candidate.
Tanzanian opposition leader returns home after years in exile
Tanzanian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Tundu Lissu returned home from years of exile in Belgium to a cheering crowd on Wednesday, after the government lifted a ban on political rallies.
A former lawmaker and a fierce critic of the government, Lissu initially left the country to seek treatment abroad after he was shot 16 times, mostly in his lower abdomen, in an attack by unknown gunmen in the administrative capital Dodoma in 2017.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan lifted a ban on political rallies this month, more than six years after her predecessor John Magufuli imposed the measure which caused frequent run-ins between opposition leaders and police.
The move was welcomed by the opposition and it prompted Lissu to announce he would end his exile.
He was welcomed by a large gathering of his supporters at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, before making his way by car to a rally in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
Exile had been tough, he told the crowd which was waving his CHADEMA party flags, adding he would push for the enactment of a new constitution.
“Without a new constitution it will be difficult to change anything. Without it we won’t have a free and independent electoral commission,” he said.
The current constitution vested too much power in the executive, he said, adding it was imperative to push for reforms.
“If you are tired of all these high taxes, high inflation of food… let us find a political solution, let us find a new constitution,” Lissu said.
Lissu, who had been arrested eight times in the year leading up to the gun attack he survived, returned to his homeland in 2020 to challenge Magufuli in an election.
However, shortly after the election he fled to the residence of the German ambassador after receiving death threats, and then left the country again.
Under the ban on rallies, which came into force in 2016, elected politicians were allowed to conduct rallies in their constituencies but other political rallies or protests were prohibited.
Magufuli died in March 2021 due to a heart disease that had plagued him for a decade. Upon ascending to the presidency, Hassan undertook some reforms, including lifting a ban on newspapers deemed critical and opening talks with opposition leaders.
Nigeria: Federal Govt Sets Up 14-Man Committee to Manage Petroleum Products Supply, Distribution
In a move to find lasting solution to the disruptions in the supply and distribution of petroleum products in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the constitution of a 14-man Steering Committee on Petroleum Products Supply and Distribution management, which he will personally chair, the ministry of petroleum resources announced yesterday.
The Steering Committee, which has minister of state for Petroleum Resource, Chief Timipre Sylva as alternate chairman is expected to among other things to ensure transparent and efficient supply and distribution of petroleum products across the country.
Other terms of reference are to ensure national strategic stock management, visibility on the NNPC Limited refineries rehabilitation programme and ensure end-end tracking of petroleum products, especial PMS to ascertain daily national consumption and eliminate smuggling.
To further ensure sanity in the supply and distribution across the value chain, Sylva has directed the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to ensure strict compliance with the government approved ex-depot and retail prices for PMS.
The minister has further directed the NMDPRA to ensure that NNPC Limited, which is the supplier of last resort meets the domestic supply obligation of PMS and other petroleum products in the country.
He further directed that the interests of the ordinary Nigerian is protected from price exploitation on other deregulated products such as AGO and DPK and LPG.
The federal government will not allow misguided elements to bring untold hardship upon the citizenry and attempt to discredit government’s efforts in consolidating the gains made thus far in the oil and gas sector of the economy.
Other members of the committee are minister of Finance, permanent secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, National Economic Adviser to the President, director-general, Department of State Services (DSS), comptroller-general, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Member (EFCC), and commandant-general, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)
Others who made up the Steering Committee are Authority chief executive, Nigerian Midstream and Member Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), group chief executive officer, NNPC Limited, Special Advisor (Special Duties) to the HMSPR while the Technical Advisor (Midstream) to the HMSPR will serve as Secretary.
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