When Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari visited the White House on Monday, Trump used the opportunity to boast about the administration’s sale of $600 million of deadly military aircraft to Nigeria last year. But he insisted on calling the aircraft helicopters, instead of acknowledging what they actually are: attack aircraft.
“We also have a very big trade deal that we’re working on for military equipment— helicopters and the like,” Trump said during a meeting in the Oval Office. When a reporter asked about the aircraft sold to Nigeria last year, the president again called the military equipment helicopters during a press briefing in the Rose Garden.
In fact, the U.S. sold twelve A-29 Super Tucano light-attack aircraft to Nigeria to fight the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. The Obama administration had chosen not to sell the A-29 to Nigeria after the country bombed a refugee camp near the border with Cameroon in January 2017, killing more than 200 civilians who had fled from Boko Haram. But the Trump administration, which has touted itself as tough on terror, facilitated the sale in August last year.
During their meeting this week, both leaders stressed the importance of their cooperation in fighting Islamic militants. “So the commitment of the United States to get rid of terrorism across the world, we have firsthand experience of that, and we are very grateful for it…. The action by the United States in trying to see the end of ISIS has helped us a lot. Because Boko Haram in Nigeria at one time made a statement that they are loyal to ISIS,” Buhari said. “Now that ISIS have virtually gone with the help of the United States, we are very grateful for that.”
In an op-ed for Newsweek, Buhari discussed the importance of strengthening ties between the two countries. “My meeting with President Donald Trump today (Monday, April 30) at the White House will provide an opportunity for reflection on the important relationship that Nigeria and the United States have forged over the last five decades of Nigeria’s democracy,” he wrote.
Buhari is a former military leader who was elected in 2015. Boko Haram has terrorized the country in the years since Buhari rose to power. Rights groups noted that civilians have been frequent victims of the ongoing conflict between the government and militants. “The ongoing Boko Haram conflict in the northeast, cycles of communal violence between pastoralists and farmers, and separatist protests in the south defined Nigeria’s human rights landscape in 2017. Notably absent for much of the year was President Muhammadu Buhari, who traveled overseas on two extended medical leaves for an undisclosed illness,” Human Rights Watch reported last year.
“While the Nigerian army made considerable gains against Boko Haram, the toll of the conflict on civilians continued as the extremist group increasingly resorted to the use of women and children as suicide bombers. Over 180 civilians have been killed in suicide bomb attacks since late 2016, mostly in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital,” the Human Rights Watch report continued. Newsweek