There are strong indications that the United States State Department has cleared the sale of 12 AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopter in going to Nigeria worth nearly $1bn, apparently after US lawmakers lifted objections over human rights concerns.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the sale of the helicopters and related defense systems to the Nigerian military.
A report says the package includes $25m for human rights-related training.
The sale also includes the Bell-made Cobras; 28 General Electric-made T700-401C engines; 2,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems used to convert unguided missiles into precision-guided missiles; and night vision, targeting and navigation systems.
The development highlights the Biden administration’s attempts to balance human rights concerns in the arms sale process.
Foreign Policy had reported in July 2021 that the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed the sale amid alleged concerns that the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was drifting toward authoritarianism.
Nigeria is facing multiple security challenges, including terrorism.
“The country requires a fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement,” committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the diplomat’s testimony before the panel last year.
Menendez also tweeted that “the Nigerian government must get serious about security” after the militant group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 schoolboys in December 2020.
The Nigerian government also purportedly ran a foul of the New Jersey Democrat in 2019 after arresting one of his constituents, Nigerian-American human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore.