Will a 'modest military industrial complex' help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram?

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the nation’s continual reliance on other countries for military equipment and materiel is 'unacceptable.'

Sunday Alamba/AP/File
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari arrives for his inauguration at Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria, May 29, 2015.

In an effort to curb Nigeria’s dependence on imported arms and strengthen its military, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced plans to boost the country’s domestic production of weapons on Friday. 

Mr. Buhari said the nation’s continual reliance on other countries for military equipment and logistics has become "unacceptable" and has ordered the Defense Ministry to create a "modest military industrial complex for the local production of weapons," reports AFP. 

Buhari, a former military ruler, has been working to reshape Nigeria’s government and armed forces since he took office in May. The former administration, led by his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, had depended on foreign arms suppliers, according to Reuters.

Buhari called for an overhaul of the Defense Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), a military division responsible for weapons production that was created in 1964 but has since fallen into decline. Defense chiefs are being asked to "re-engineer" DICON, as its factory in the northern city of Kaduna now mainly produces rifles and civilian tools.  

"We must evolve viable mechanisms for near self-sufficiency in military equipment and logistics production complemented only by very advanced foreign technologies," Buhari said.

During his presidential campaign, Buhari gathered support by vowing to overthrow Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that aims to set up a caliphate in northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram has killed thousands and left about 1.5 million people displaced since it came into power in 2009, Reuters reports. 

While Nigeria’s military has repeatedly requested better weapons to fight the group, other countries have been reluctant to arm the nation, following reports of corruption and human rights abuses committed by Mr. Jonathon's administration.

Human rights groups pressured Jonathon to investigate accusations concerning war crimes committed by Nigeria’s senior military commanders in their fight against Boko Haram. When Jonathon refused to look into the reports, the US said it would no longer cooperate with his government.

Since his May election, Buhari has worked to improve Nigeria’s ties with the Obama administration and to defeat the terrorist group. During a visit to Washington last month, he said the US has "aided and abetted" Boko Haram by refusing to sell weapons to his state, International Business Times reports. 

On Tuesday, Washington responded, saying the US could lift its ban on supplying arms to Nigeria’s military if the country improved its human rights record.

Boko Haram sparked international outrage and the #BringBackOurGirls movement in 2014 after it abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok. According to Human Rights Watch, the group has "indiscriminately killed civilians, abducted women and girls, forcefully conscripted young men and boys, and destroyed villages, towns, and schools."

But Buhari has won some recent victories over the group. Last week, the Nigerian military captured one of Boko Haram’s commanders and rescued 178 captives, mostly women and children, from the militant Islamist group in the northeastern Borno state. 

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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