Blocks purchase of military helicopters from Israel
By Emeka Mamah, Deputy News Editor, with agency reports
LAGOS—TWENTY-Four hours after US Secretary of State, John Kerry met President Goodluck Jonathan and former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, pledging his country’s determination to work with Nigeria and other countries to end activities of the Boko Haram terrorists, the Israeli media, yesterday, revealed that the US stopped Nigeria’s purchase of Chinook military helicopters from Israel to fight Boko Haram.
The sale/transfer of such aircraft required a review by the US, to determine its “consistency with US policy interests,” Obama administration officials told The Jerusalem Post.
It quoted White House Assistant Press Secretary and Director for Strategic Communications, Ned Price, as saying that reviews of such kind take place in the case of “any requests for one country to transfer US-origin defence items to another country.”
Nigeria’s largest arms purchase ever reported was from Israel in 2007, in a deal with Aeronautics Systems worth $260 million. That company is Israeli, however, not American.
A single Chinook costs roughly $40 million to produce.
Vanguard had reported the Nigerian military in the past as saying that the country also resorted to training its security personnel on terrorist encounters in Russia and China because of the refusal of the US administration to sell arms to the government following “unfounded allegations of human rights violations by our troops,” among others.
However, the reports quoted unnamed Nigerian officials as also saying that the US blocked the order “after the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had initially approved the purchase.”
US officials told The Jerusalem Post that such transfers must be consistent with a policy directive revised by President Barack Obama in January, which outlines the criteria for conventional weapons sales.
The policy requires US transfers, including Boeing aircraft, to take into account “the risk that significant change in the political or security situation of the recipient country could lead to inappropriate end-use” of the weapons.
While the Nigerian report suggests Abuja sought the purchase of Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters, Israel predominantly uses Sikorsky CH-53 aircraft for missions involving heavy-lift transport. Both Boeing and Sikorsky are American companies.
Israeli laws concerning the export of arms is less restrictive than those in the United States. Israel, however, is a member of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and, in 2009, reported to the body that Israel, in practice, refrains from transfers “where there is imminent risk that arms might be internally diverted, illegally proliferated and re-transferred, or fall into the hands of terrorists or entities and states that support or sponsor them.”
Sixteen nations operate the Chinook helicopter, none of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Nigerian officials were reported as saying that “we had even tried to procure arms from Russia but this was stalled because of the Ukrainian crisis, thus compelling us to turn to other nations like Israel. But even this has been frustrated by the US.”
They further said it was not just in the area of arms procurement that US has been most unhelpful, adding that contrary to its public stance that it was assisting in the rescue operations of the abducted Chibok secondary school girls, it has done nothing significant to help Nigeria in this regard.
Other intelligence sources also cited the fact that the US has refused to share intelligence with Nigerian security forces in a timely manner.
They said: “When we complained, they started sharing some intelligence, but days after such intelligence is of little value”.
Boko Haram gained notoriety around the world after its militants kidnapped 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State in April last year. The US sent military personnel to assist in finding the girls.
In August, Amnesty International said it had gathered video footage, images and testimonies that “implicates the Nigerian military in war crimes” which the Nigerian government vehemently denied.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Nigeria recently that the United States remains committed to helping the government combat Boko Haram.
“We are engaging with the Nigerian government at all levels to identify areas of counter-terrorism cooperation,” other state officials earlier said.
This was contrary to what the US ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle told reporters last October while speaking on the refusal by his country to sell high calibre weapons to Nigeria. Entwistle told reporters that “the kind of question that we have to ask is, let’s say we give certain kinds of equipment to the Nigerian military and that is then used in a way that affects the human situation, if I approve that, I’m responsible for that. We take that responsibility very seriously.”