Security cooperation between the United States and Nigeria has neither been halted nor frozen by the recent suspension of weapons sale to Nigeria by the US Congress. US Consul General in Nigeria Claire Pierangelo disclosed this on-board the visiting United States Ship (USS) Hershel “Woody” Williams at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) jetty, Apapa, in Lagos.
USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, an Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) 4 permanently deployed to Africa, is in Lagos for a three-day sea exercise with operatives of the Nigerian Navy and their Ghanaian counterparts.
Pierangelo said sales and transfers of weapons to the Nigerian military by the US currently exceeded $559 million, emphasising the commitment of the American government to Nigeria’s defence needs.
She declared, “Let me address first the questions of the role of the US Congress in terms of selling weapons. All foreign military sales, regardless of which country, need congressional notification threshold, must have completed the statutory congressional review process prior to the sale being completed and any equipment under that sale being delivered.
“So there’s a very robust process in the United States congressional notification. No military sale can go forward without that being done and no military sale will ever be delivered or scheduled whilst subject to any kind of congressional hold or any statutory restrictions.
“The US is committed to supporting Nigeria’s defence requirements while also ensuring that respect for democracy and human rights remain a key priority in the bilateral relationship.
“We take seriously our obligations to ensure that all arms sales and transfers are consistent with the law and with the President’s commitment that US arms sales and transfers be consistent with our values, including promoting respect for human right in compliance with the laws of arms conflict.
“So current security cooperation continues with Nigeria. It has not been halted or frozen. The current value of sales and transfers of capabilities to the Nigerian military exceed some $559 million.
“We know the arrival of the first 12 A29 Super Tucano is part of that sale, we are working closely with the Nigerian Air Force to make the first six A29 operational and delivering the next six in the coming months.
“In addition, we will be working with the Nigerian military to develop additional capabilities to reduce the risk of collateral damage and civilian casualties as our partnership here includes an advisor in the law of arms.”
Asked if there were plans by the US to transfer naval assets to the Nigerian Navy under the Excess Defence Article programme, Pierangelo said talks were on. She added that the Nigerian Navy had indicated interest in a number of equipment, explaining that they are eligible to request.
The consul general stated, “The Nigerian Navy has expressed great interest in receiving ships from the Excess Defence Article programme. They are, of course, eligible. Our partnership remains strong with Nigerian Navy. We are here to train and work with the Nigerian Navy. It is important we engage with Nigerian agencies.”
On the visit of the ship, Pierangelo said it was part of the US-Nigeria bilateral relationship, which she described as one of the most important in Africa.
The ESB ship class is a highly flexible platform that may be used across a broad range of military operations. Acting as a mobile sea base, they are part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to support missions assigned.
Pierangelo said, “We work closely with the Nigerian Navy, and with all of Nigeria’s military services, to counter threats to Nigerian and African security.
“All have a common interest in a peaceful, well-policed Gulf of Guinea, and support from the United States and its like-minded partners significantly increases Nigeria’s ability to reach this shared goal.
“Illicit maritime activities, such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; the trafficking of weapons, narcotics, and people; as well as the on-going threat of piracy and oil infrastructure insecurity, undermine the rule of law, food security, and economic development in Nigeria and the greater Gulf of Guinea.
“Ship visits, like this one, clearly demonstrate the United States’ continued dedication to our partners in the Gulf of Guinea as they strive for security of their resources, their economy, and their people. We are delighted that Nigeria is hosting this engagement, as we firmly believe that maritime security in Nigeria will lead to greater regional prosperity.