The US State Department has approved the sale of 12 Viper attack helicopters worth almost one billion dollars to Nigeria, despite concerns over human rights.
The purchase of AH-1Z Vipers includes guidance and night vision imaging systems as well as training for an estimated 997 million dollars.
It “will better equip Nigeria to contribute to shared security objectives, promote regional stability and build interoperability with the US and other Western partners,” the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement on Thursday.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a strategic partner in sub-Saharan Africa.”
US principal contractor Bell Textron lists the Vipers’ capacity for reconnaissance and escort missions as well as its firepower.
Last November US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Nigeria and urged Africa’s most populous country to take on a bigger role on the continent.
Washington has long courted Nigerian leaders but balked at the bloody repression of peaceful protests against police violence in October 2020.
Congress had also delayed the sale of military equipment to Nigeria where the army’s commitment to protect civilians while fighting a jihadist uprising in the northwest has been called into question.
But last year, Nigeria began taking delivery of US Super Tucano light attack aircraft that then-president Donald Trump approved in 2017.
That overturned the suspension of sales by his predecessor Barack Obama after Nigerian planes accidentally bombed a refugee camp killing more than 100 people.