Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service commandos simulate board and search operations on the NNS Thunder F90 under the watchful eyes of a US trainer
PHOTO CREDIT: Nigerian Navy
13 May 2013
For long, Nigeria and United States have shared strong partnership in security cooperation except for period during the regime of late General Sani Abacha when the ties were strained. But what is the scope and nature of such cooperation?
Truth is, the United States has started implementing a new foreign policy focus in which putting its forces on ground especially in Africa is off the books. It is now relying on regional powers like Nigeria to help it implement its foreign policy and security objectives in Africa. In Africa, the U.S. has opted to building the capacity of African nations to bring solutions to African problems. It has embraced the policy of organising and equipping African militaries, granting “eligible countries” its excess defence equipment, supporting training and exercises, provision of logistics and
training of troops on peacekeeping and
A top U.S. State Department official told
The Guardian in Stuttgart, Germany last
February that “the American government has resolved that for the problems of Africa, regional bloc leadership is key to solving them. We don’t want to impose a resolution. But as much as we have now opted for an African-led solution, we are not shirking our international obligations to confront Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its affiliates. It is our policy to stop trans-national terrorism and its ability to reach outside and expand their global reach. We will help defeat terrorism, build capacity and support African countries through building partnerships. But we will have no more put boots on the ground.
“And in accomplishing this, the U.S. views Nigeria as one of the most important countries in Africa for achieving this. It is a major energy provider, fourth largest troop contributing country to the United
Nations peace efforts, has a large population that is now confronted with
growing internal concerns of terrorism.
There is also the issue of illicit trafficking in human resources and smuggling. And in solving this in the country and other countries in West Africa, Nigeria is key.”
This is essentially what has been driving
U.S. policy in Nigeria. The move started in 1997 when President Bill Clinton
established the Africa Crisis Response
Initiative (ACRI), the first of a whole
array of new military programmes created to provide increasing amounts of U.S. security assistance to African
regimes and to expand U.S. military
activities on the continent.
But in 2004 when ACRI was expanded
and renamed the African Contingency
Operations Training and Assistance
(ACOTA), U.S. military involvement in
Africa especially Nigeria expanded
rapidly. This increase was initially justified as a means to ensure that the
United States continues to have access to the oil resources of the Niger Delta.
For example, in the Financial Year 2006, the U.S. Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations notes Nigeria’s “importance as a leading supplier of petroleum to the U.S.” and the fact that “Nigeria is the fifth largest source of U.S. oil imports.” Therefore, according to the Budget Justification, “disruption of supply from Nigeria would represent a major blow to the oil security strategy of the U.S.”
And with the advent of the terror attacks
by the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, the U.S. upped its defence and security assistance programmes.Immediate past
Commander of the U.S. Africa Command,
General Carter Ham confirmed last January in Stuttgart, Germany that the
U.S. had deployed its intelligence
machinery to support Nigeria in fighting
the threat posed by Boko Haram.
Ham also added that the U.S. had been
collaborating with the Nigerian military to stem the growing trend of maritime
crimes like piracy, illegal bunkering and
oil theft. Such U.S. military and security assistance have been varied and enduring.
In Fiscal Year 2012, security cooperation events include Nigerian Quick Response Force visit with the U.S. 435th Contingency Response Group and Nigerian Chief of Air Staff visit at Ramstein Air Force base,Germany.
For fiscal year 2013, the security cooperation events include Search and Rescue Training, which held in Lagos (February 4-8, 2013), Aircraft Crash and Fire Training (Lagos – March 18-22, 2013 and Search and Rescue Familiarisation visit with California National Guard (Moffet Field, California – March 25-29, 2013). Others due for execution include Supply Chain Management Assessment (Lagos – May 27-31, 2013) and Flight Surgeon Skills Training (Lagos – June 17-21, 2013).
Other U.S. assistance to Nigeria includes the U.S. International Military Education and Training (IMET) funded by the U.S.
Department of State but executed by the
Department of Defence. Under this, the
U.S. government provides military education, training and professional
development to various cadres of Nigerian military personnel. Under this policy, Nigeria is receiving $1million for foreign military grant for maintenance and sustainment of equipment and another $1 million for training, education and professional development of Nigerian military personnel this year.
The Nigerian military is also benefitting
from the Excess Defence Articles (EDA)
policy, which allows eligible countries to
receive Excess Defence Articles at a
fraction of the original cost. Already, the Nigerian Navy has procured two ‘Cat class’ combat vessels under this arrangement in 2004. Also, the Hamilton
Class High Endurance Cutter of the United States Coast Guard was decommissioned on March 29, 2011 and transferred to the Nigerian Navy as an excess defence article under the Foreign Assistance Act as NNS Thunder (F90).
This year, the Nigerian Navy is expected
to visit the United States to inspect a
new naval vessel which will be transferred to it on paying “a fraction of
the original cost” on “as it is, where is”,
meaning that the Navy must pay for the cost of its transportation and refurbishment. Also, Nigeria is also benefitting from the U.S. Department of Defence funded Combating Terrorism Fellowship Programme (CTFP) which provides counter terrorism-focused education,training and professional development for African military,security and law enforcement personnel.
In addition,Nigerian battalions benefit from the U.S.Department of State managed Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance for African battalions deploying for peacekeeping operations. Nigeria is also a major part of the U.S. Department of State’s Trans-Saharan Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP)aimed at strengthening regional counterterrorism capabilities, enhance and institutionalise cooperation among the region’s security forces, counter terrorist ideology, reinforce bilateral military ties with the U.S. and promote democratic governance. It is also part of the Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara, the U.S. Department of Defence initiative for supporting the TSCTP.
These military based activities foster regionally focused collaboration and communication among the sub-region’s security forces and develop and strengthen counterterrorism and border security capacities. And towards enhancing sub regional security, Nigeria is benefitting from the U.S. initiatives on military information sharing, communications system interoperability, joint, combines and
multi-national exercises enhancing cooperation, airlift and logistical support for troops and military services and provision of ground and aviation training and maintenance support.
Apart from the implementation of the
U.S. President’s Emergency Programme
for AIDS Relief, there are also contact
visits and exchanges of legal, medical
chaplain personnel of the two militaries.
Nigeria also participates in joint exercises between the U.S. and other
African militaries including the sea-based Obangame Express. It was held this year in Cameroon. Apart from helping to promote counter-terrorism capability, it helps in improving maritime domain awareness and maritime interdiction operations.
Nigeria has received U.S. security
assistance through the Anti-Terrorism
Assistance programme and the
International Narcotics Control and Law
Enforcement (INCLE) programme. In the
year 2009, a total of $720,000 was provided for assistance through the INCLE programme while in the year 2010, the Obama administration requested for $2 million INCLE funding for Nigeria.
A top Nigerian defence official told The
Guardian, that “based on the scope of the military cooperation, any thought that it would be negatively affected by some unavoidable mistakes in the war against the Boko Haram alone is misplaced. Such thoughts fly against the norm. Remember, though the Nigerian military is fighting the war against terror, against groups linked to Al Qaeda here in Nigeria;they are actually helping the U.S. to fight its enemy. Yes, mistakes may have been made here and there in Nigeria’s fight against the Boko Haram sect and other criminal activities. But they do not yet warrant such suspension of cooperation.It may take a major deliberate threat by the Nigerian military against U.S. interests for such a weighty decision to be quickly taken.”