Nigera Loves Its New De-Politicized Arms Supplier, Russia

Obama cried crocodile tears over Boko Haram victims but had all kinds of conditions for Nigerians when they asked for weapons to fight them

Unlike US, UK, Russia isn’t trying to use arms sales and assistance as leverage to lord over Nigeria

Four years ago, Nigerian military sources said the country’s decision to shift to Russian military training and arms supplies was only an “interim measure” after its traditional partners, from the United States and the United Kingdom, seemingly showed insufficient interest in Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram (Vanguard, September 27, 2014). Now, believing that attitudes in the US and UK have remained unchanged, Nigeria is requesting more lasting Russian assistance in the fight against terrorists and pirates.

The appeal was made by Nigerian Defense Minister Mansur Dan-Ali, at the eighth Moscow Conference on International Security, on April 24. Dan-Ali, a former brigadier in the Nigerian Army, was appointed minister of defense in November 2015. He first proposed Russia as Nigeria’s primary arms supplier in the war against Boko Haram in June 2017 (NAN, August 2, 2017).

The minister pointed to Russia’s experience in counter-terrorism and suggested that this experience and help in modernizing Nigeria’s arsenal could help defeat the Boko Haram insurgency (Vanguard, April 24):

On the security front, Nigeria counts on Russia’s continued partnership in eliminating the Boko Haram insurgents from our sub-region. We wish to leverage on Russia’s experience in counterterrorism operations to bring this scourge to an end. Military and technical assistance in this respect would be highly appreciated (The Nation, April 25).

The success of Russia’s ruthless repression of pirates off the Somali coast has been well noted in Nigeria, where shipping and off-shore oil operations are increasingly threatened by pirates.

Dan-Ali emphasized the dire security situation in the Gulf of Guinea, asking for Russian assistance to combat piracy, kidnappings, ship-hijackings and illegal dumping of toxic and radioactive waste (, April 25). The most dangerous waters in the world for shipping are no longer off the Somali coast, but rather in the Gulf of Guinea; the minister cited figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) that indicated violent attacks in the Gulf had doubled in 2018, while pirates were now operating in speed boats as far as 100 nautical miles from shore. Since that report was issued, a further 22 attacks occurred in the first quarter of 2019, including all the world’s 21 reported kidnappings of crew members (IMB Piracy Report, January 16; International Crime Services, April 8).

Nigeria’s relationship with Russia is much less complicated than its relations with the US and the UK, the former colonial power. US interest in Nigeria has waned in recent years, with Nigerian oil imports declining steeply as the United States develops its own energy resources. China and Russia are increasingly seen in Abuja as more appealing, no-questions-asked partners who can provide affordable and effective solutions to Nigeria’s security and development problems. On May 2, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt indicated that British military support would be available to Nigeria, “but they are a sovereign nation and they have got to want our help” (Premium Times, May 2).

Having outlined Nigeria’s desperate need for help, Dan-Ali surprisingly took the opportunity to brightly proclaim that Nigerian and Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) operations had “overwhelmed” Boko Haram, leaving the leadership “decimated” (, April 25). Despite the Nigerian Army’s repeated claims of imminent victory, villagers and forest workers continue to be slaughtered by Boko Haram and the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP—the movement split in mid-2016).

Only three days after Dan-Ali’s sunny assessment, ISWAP fighters overran a Nigerian Army outpost in Borno State on April 27, driving survivors into the bush and adding the captured arms and vehicles to their arsenal. The militants attacked using 12 technicals (pickup trucks fitted with a heavy machine gun), three previously captured armored personnel carriers and dozens of gunmen on motorcycles operating on the flanks (This Day, April 28;, April 27). Hundreds of Nigerian soldiers have perished in 22 attacks on military posts in the last four years (The Guardian, April 29).

Nigeria has had military interactions with Russia in the recent past. When Nigerian attempts to buy US Cobra attack helicopters were rebuffed by Washington in 2014, Nigeria turned to Russia, which had no problems selling them 21 Mi-35 attack helicopters and 11 Mi-17 utility helicopters. Nigeria ordered a further 12 Russian Mi-35M attack helicopters in September 2016 (NAN, August 2, 2017). Russian media reported plans to sell Nigeria ten Sukhoi Su-30 multirole jet fighters in mid-2017, but the sale does not appear to have gone through (Sputnik News, June 26, 2017).

Twelve hundred carefully picked Nigerian security personnel drawn from the armed forces, the police and the Department of State Services (DSS—domestic intelligence) were sent to Russia for advanced anti-insurgency training in 2014 (Vanguard, September 27, 2014). The training was apparently meant to be secret—the Nigerian defense ministry only acknowledged the program when the last contingent of 400 security personnel was photographed leaving for Russia at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport (Defenceweb, October 23, 2014).

The Nigerian Army’s chief-of-staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, has indicated that Nigeria will soon receive a shipment of advanced military hardware from an unnamed country (This Day, April 25). As the purchase includes technical training and ongoing maintenance support, Russia would seem to be the most likely point of origin for this shipment.

In the economic realm, Dan-Ali also requested Russian assistance in the construction of pipelines, railways and a nuclear power plant. Nigeria has been in talks with Russian state-owned Rosatom over the development of two nuclear reactors in Nigeria since 2015. Enriched uranium was recently removed from a research reactor by an international team in Nigeria’s Kaduna State over fears the material could be seized by terrorists (This Day, April 25).

Meanwhile, despite these developments, Nigeria’s embassy in Moscow is unlikely to entertain Russian visitors any time soon; its unpaid water bill has forced a supply cut-off to the embassy, forcing diplomats to continually borrow water from neighboring embassies to flush the toilets (Punch, April 3). Nigeria’s inability to even maintain important foreign embassies is indicative of the West African country’s ongoing financial crisis. Russia does not need Nigerian oil and has little interest in other Nigerian products. The price of Russian military aid could, thus, be a military base on the Nigerian coast, close to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Source: The Jamestown Foundation

  1. thomas malthaus says

    Nigeria might like military protection to protect Gulf of Guinea oil exploration.

  2. Inferior says

    Geographically Nigeria is well placed. A full fledged military/Naval base would be just the perfect thing.

    1. Canosin says

      it is not a very good idea….. Russia does not have to spend money in Nigeria for a naval base. . .strategically there is no need. . and it doesn’t want to copy the US….. besides, don’t trust the Nigerians since corruption and chaotic governance is a no good partnership for Russia….. let them sort it out alone, since the elites are mostly in London, Paris, Washington etc….. it is no Russian business

      1. Jesus says

        If Russia entertains a tangible presence in the Western Hemisphere, Nigeria would be a good stepping stone.

        1. Canosin says

          is Nigeria part of western hemisphere??
          besides, Russia is not interested in world domination

          1. Jesus says

            Nigeria is in Africa, the Atlantic Ocean separates it from the Western Hemisphere, having a few strategically located bases does not mean Russia is interested in world dominion, just have enough reach to thwart US goals and ambitions.

      2. Inferior says

        I on the other hand do believe that having a Naval base there would be beneficial as well as counter balance. You must get dirty if you are to fight in the mud. USA would go to any length to see Russia simply vanished from geopolitical arena. Russia should and must capitalize on any and every opportunity.

  3. chris chuba says

    So the Russians are helping the countries in Africa fight piracy, kidnapping, and toxic ocean dumping. The funny thing is that I have only just recently learned that the U.S. Coast Guard is more concerned about projecting U.S. power in the Arctic and Persion (ahem Arabian) Gulf.

    Of course the Neocons have to lie and say just the opposite, that the Russians are the ones with nefarious motives.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.