The US State Department approved a $997 million deal to sell Nigeria 24 Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters and related equipment.
Related equipment includes targeting, night vision and targeting systems, as well as engines and training support equipment, according to a statement sent to Congress, AP reports.
The decision comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Abuja in November, during which he raised concerns about Nigeria’s rights situation.
However, at the same time, Blinken also made it clear that the United States views Nigeria as a partner in the fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism in West Africa and the Sahel, and seeks to expand cooperation with it in those areas, AP reported.
This sale will support the foreign policy and national security goals of the United States by enhancing the security of a strategic partner in sub-Saharan Africa, the State Department said.
The deal will also improve Nigeria’s ability to help achieve common security goals, promote regional stability and ensure interoperability with the US and other Western partners and make an important contribution to the achievement of US and Nigerian security goals, the notice said.
The Nigerian security forces have long been accused of human rights abuses in their operations, with personnel often evading justice.
In October 2020, the military opened fire on a demonstration in the country’s economic heartland where hundreds of people were protesting police brutality, killing 11 people.
During Blinken’s November visit, he said the US was looking forward to the full results of the investigation and would make a decision to sell arms to Nigeria based in part on the results and whether those responsible would be held accountable.