Procurement: Nigeria Takes The Cure

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May 28, 2016: The United States has agreed to sell Nigeria twelve A-29 Super Tucano warplanes. These aircraft can be used for pilot training as well as air support of soldiers and police. Such support includes surveillance and reconnaissance as well as bombing. The Super Tucano is a single engine turbo-prop trainer/attack aircraft that is used by over a dozen nations. This aircraft carries two internal 12.7mm (.50 caliber) machine-guns along with 1.5 tons of bombs, rockets, camera/signal collection pods or even a 20mm autocannon pod. It can stay in the air for 6.5 hours at a time. It is rugged, easy to maintain and cheap. These cost about $18 million each when you include training, spare parts and support equipment. These aircraft are more useful than jet fighters, which are much more expensive to buy and operate and are not as effective for ground attack.

Since 2012, as Nigeria faced a growing Islamic terrorist threat in the north from the local Boko Haram, the Americans refused to sell weapons to Nigeria because of the rampant corruption, especially in the military. The corruption in Nigeria, epic even by African standards, was always denied by the Nigerian military. But in 2014 evidence surfaced in Nigeria to support the American assessment. As many suspected or feared the corruption had wrecked the armed forces. The details were not unusual but it alarmed neighboring countries, who have smaller but more effective security forces. This accounted for the better performance of troops from Cameroon, Niger and Chad against Boko Haram.

The corruption in Nigeria is so bad that political and military leaders have long been reluctant to admit it, much less do something about it. This led to strained relations with the United States, which demanded that Nigeria made some effective efforts deal with the military corruption and resulting incompetence. The Nigerian generals and senior politicians resisted, mainly because many politicians believe the loyalty of corrupt senior officers were essential for keeping corrupt politicians safe from increasingly angry Nigerians who suffer the most from the corruption. That changed in 2015 when a retired army general (a Moslem from the north) was elected president. Unlike his predecessors, who promised to do something about corruption but didn’t, the new leader actually acted, exposing massive corruption, firing incompetent (and usually corrupt as well) officers and prosecuting more corrupt officials than any other Nigerian leader. Corruption is still a problem and rebuilding the military will take time but the United States was sufficiently impressed to drop its ban on arms sales. The U.S. also sent in trainers, intel experts and commandos, something they had been reluctant to do in the past (and corrupt Nigerian general were reluctant to accept). But the American troops became aware of the improved situation and reported what they saw.

 


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