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The Human Cost of Abuja’s Security Strategy

Reports by Medicins Sans Frontières that the Nigerian military had killed and wounded children in an airstrike on 18 February in the village of Nachadé, in neighbouring Niger Republic will focus attention again on the human costs of Abuja’s security strategy. Nigeria’s military says it is investigating the Nachadé incident. It may also raise questions about arms supplies to Abuja by countries such as the US which have, albeit inconsistently, premised arms supplies on their assessments of human rights conditions. Competition is heating up in the arms supply and security business in Africa as Western countries rethink their engagement. France’s planned withdrawal from Mali in the wake of the arrival there of some 1,000 fighters from Russia’s Wagner Group is a sign of some of the changes to come. Shipments in the past year to Nigeria of armoured personnel carriers, battle tanks and light tanks, as well as various types of artillery from China suggest it is on the way to becoming Abuja’s supplier of choice. Nigeria is the largest importer of military equipment in sub-Saharan Africa, and the country’s military budget is greater than the combined armed force spending of the rest of West Africa. Figures from 2019 show that 0.5% Nigeria’s GDP went towards military spending increasing to an estimated 0.69% last year.