President Donald Trump promised yesterday to “cut a new deal” to sell more weapons to Nigeria.
He made the promise during a telephone conversation with President Muhammadu Buhari. It was the first official conversation between Trump and an African leader since he took office last month.
The Obama administration refused to sell weapons to Nigeria because of alleged human rights abuses.
In 2014, the United States blocked the sale by Israelis of American-made Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria.
There are also Congressional restrictions on United States arms sales to countries where the military has a poor human rights record. But last year, there were preliminary signs that the United States might be loosening its policy. The sale of U.S. attack aircraft to Nigeria was discussed between the two countries.
According to presidential spokesman Femi Adesina, the two presidents “discussed ways to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism through provision of necessary equipment”.
“President Trump assured the Nigerian president of United States’ willingness to cut a new deal in helping Nigeria in terms of military weapons to combat terrorism.”
“The conversation was cordial and President Buhari congratulated Trump on his election as President of the United States, and on his cabinet.
“The two leaders discussed ways to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism through provision of necessary equipment.
“President Trump encouraged President Buhari to keep up the good work he is doing, and also commended him for the efforts made in rescuing 24 of the Chibok girls and the strides being taken by the Nigerian military.
“President Trump assured the Nigerian President of U.S. readiness to cut a new deal in helping Nigeria in terms of military weapons to combat terrorism.
“President Trump also invited President Buhari to Washington at a mutually convenient date.”
President Buhari received President Trump’s call in London where he has been vacationing and undergoing medical tests.
Broader U.S. military cooperation would be a victory for Buhari, who took office in 2015, pledging to crack down on corruption that has undermined the armed forces.
Under Buhari, the army has recaptured the territory initially lost to Boko Haram, but the group still often stages suicide attacks.
Shortly after speaking to Buhari, Mr. Trump spoke by telephone to South African President Jacob Zuma. A statement by Mr. Zuma’s office said they discussed trade and security issues, including “the quest for peace and stability on the African continent”.
A statement by President Zuma’s office on the call said: “A strong commitment to bilateral relations between the US and South Africa and security matters in Africa were the main focus of the much-hyped telephone call between US President Donald Trump and President Jacob Zuma on Monday afternoon.
“The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening already strong bilateral relations.
“There are six hundred US companies in South Africa and strong trade relations between the two countries,” the Presidency said.
Zuma also congratulated Trump on his election as the USA’s 45th president.
The two also discussed the need to work together on multilateral issues as well, “especially the quest for peace and stability on the African continent”.
Mr. Trump has said little about his Africa policy. But from questions given by his staff to the U.S. State Department, it is clear that Mr. Trump has little interest in U.S. foreign aid to Africa. Instead, he sees Africa through the lens of security issues, especially the fight against Islamist radical groups, such as Boko Haram.