A report by the Associated Press, posted on Stars & Stripes, says that the sale of Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria will proceed under the Trump Administration.
The report stated, “The Trump administration will move forward with the sale of high-tech aircraft to Nigeria for its campaign against Boko Haram Islamic extremists despite concerns over abuses committed by the African nation’s security forces, according to U.S. officials.”
Congress is due to receive a formal notification in the coming weeks, suggesting that an informal notification period will begin soon. The report noted that the National Security Council is still deliberating over the sale.
The United States has planned to approve a Nigerian purchase of up to 12 A-29 Super Tucanos, at a cost of around $600 million. Abuja has wanted to buy the planes since 2015.
The Obama Administration had previously delayed approval of the sale over concerns about alleged human rights abuses committed by Nigerian troops. According to the AP report, the Obama Administration was finally going to approve the sale on January 17 — just before the former President left office — but the bombing of a refugee camp that same day forced a postponement of the sale.
That day, a Nigerian jet carried out airstrikes on a refugee camp in Rann, killing up to 236 civilians.
The Nigerian Air Force issued a statement apologizing for the strikes. The statement read, “The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is saddened by today’s accidental air strike by its fighter jet at Rann in Kala Balge area of Borno State in which some innocent lives were lost.”
Despite the concerns, the U.S. wants to approve the sale to solidify the security relationship between the U.S. and Nigeria and assist in the latter’s efforts against Boko Haram, a jihadist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
President Trump held a phone call with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in February, where they discussed the Super Tucano sale. A White House statement regarding the call noted, “President Trump expressed support for the sale of aircraft from the United States to support Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram.”
A-29 Super Tucanos can serve as both trainers and light attack aircraft. Their low cost paired with a range of counterinsurgency capabilities makes them ideal for countries like Nigeria battling local insurgent groups.