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Arms Procurement and Defense Industries

Like most Third World states, Nigeria depended largely on foreign sources for arms and military matériel. However, its arms acquisitions exhibited two distinctive features. First, Nigeria had one of the most internationally diversified and balanced defense procurement strategies. Nigeria acquired arms from about eight suppliers during 1978-82, tying Zaire as the most diversified sub-Saharan state (see table 20, Appendix). Its largest supplier during that period, West Germany, provided only about one-third of its US$845 million total. This diversified pattern became even more pronounced in the mid-1980s. During 1983-87, Nigeria imported military matériel valued at US$1.5 billion from about ten major suppliers--more than any other African state, and Italy, its largest supplier, accounted for only 23 percent.

Nigeria relied on equally diverse foreign suppliers of military technical services, while making gradual progress toward indigenization. A long-standing, military training arrangement with Britain ended in late 1986 with the Nigerianization of training. West German assistance was engaged to improve the Navy Technical Training Centre at Sapele, which was set up and operated with the help of Dornier (Nigeria). A West German firm also received a contract in late 1987 to upgrade radar and weapons systems for Aradu, the German Meko-360H class frigate. The Czechoslovak defense minister visited Nigeria in late 1987 and offered to assist in expanding arms production efforts. Yugoslavia offered to train NAF pilots, and Bulgaria provided equipment maintenance services. In May 1989, Nigeria discussed with Romania cooperation between their air forces and the manufacture and maintenance of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other military vehicles and possible modernization of Nigeria's T-55 tanks. In October 1989, the chief of army staff made a ten-day official visit to France and China to explore military cooperation.

Defense ties with Third World countries were especially notable. In addition to military cooperation with African countries, Nigeria concluded defense cooperation, military personnel, and exchange agreements with the Republic of Korea (South Korea); Nigeria also discussed naval cooperation, especially officer training, with India (see Local and Bilateral Issues; African and Regional Issues , this ch.). Military ties with Brazil expanded considerably after conclusion of a 1983 military cooperation accord. The two countries established a joint committee in December 1985 to examine military training and exchange programs, and their joint military-naval exercise in December 1987 ended with a pledge to pursue more extensive cooperation.

United States arms transfers and security assistance to Nigeria were modest. During fiscal years (FY) 1972-90, United States Foreign Military Sales deliveries and licensed commercial exports of defense articles and services totaled US$63 million and US$110.8 million, respectively. Previously, during FY 1962-72 the United States had provided International Military Education and Training (IMET) grants valued at US$1.5 million to train 480 Nigerian military personnel. After a thirteen-year hiatus, IMET grants were renewed in FY 1986 and have been funded annually since at more than US$90,000 for more than twenty students. A total of 585 Nigerian military students had participated in the IMET program by FY 1990.

Nigeria's fledgling domestic defense industry was the second distinctive source of military matériel, particularly for small arms, ammunition, and maintenance and repair services. The stateowned Defence Industries Corporation (DIC), established in 1964, geared up to produce ammunition during the civil war. By the 1970s, its facilities in Kaduna produced West German-designed HK G-3 rifles, BM-59 and PM-12 handguns, and 7.62mm and 9mm parabellum ammunition. Lack of financial and management support, however, impeded further progress until the DIC was reenergized in 1984 by then army chief of staff Babangida. After becoming president, Babangida expanded the DIC to increase Nigeria's selfreliance .

In 1977 the army decided to standardize its infantry weapons with Belgian FAL assault rifles, Browning GP pistols, and MAG machine guns. In 1978 licensed production rights were acquired, and in 1980 the DIC's facilities in Kaduna were adapted and upgraded by Belgian technicians to assemble these weapons. Production began in 1983; full production capacity was achieved in 1987; and the next year the DIC was reported to be relying entirely on local raw materials and to be producing all the basic rifles and ammunition the army and police used. Its annual production capacity was 15,000 FAL rifles, 9,000 to 10,000 GP pistols, and 1,000 MAG machine guns. The FAL rifle entered service in 1989 as the NR-1.

In addition to the small arms and ammunition factories at Kaduna, newer facilities for the assembly of armored fighting vehicles and light tanks were under development at Bauchi in 1990. Austrian Steyr 680M 4x4 tactical military trucks were reportedly assembled there, and it was also planned to produce Pinzgauer light tracked armored vehicles and Steyr 4K 7FA tracked armored personnel carriers. By 1987 the DIC employed 2,000 to 3,000 people at its Kaduna and Bauchi plants. Indications of a nascent commercial defense industry included a manufacturer in Anambra State whose inexpensive jeeps included military models being tested by the army; a local service industry to supply uniforms, accoutrements, and selected ordnance matériel; and increased domestic souring for aircraft and naval ship components and maintenance services. Local assembly of West German MBB Bo105 helicopters for the air force was also contemplated. Further progress hinged on the availability of foreign capital and technology, joint ventures, and export opportunities, especially for rifles and ammunition.

On its silver anniversary April 22, 1989, the air force unveiled and conducted a test flight of a prototype of Nigeria's first domestically built aircraft, the Air Beetle. Jointly built over two years by the NAF and a West German Kaduna-based firm from the design of the United States Van RV-6 sport aircraft, the Air Beetle had the unique feature of being able to fly on standard automobile fuel. This two-seat, single engine airplane was intended to be the primary trainer for the NAF, replacing the aging British Bulldog trainers. The production program called for sixty units by 1992 and eventual development of an improved version, the Super Air Beetle. In early 1990, the first export orders were reported, and forty aircraft of the first production run were scheduled for delivery to foreign customers.

Under a national aircraft maintenance policy approved in 1987, depots were being set up around the country with the aim of achieving complete overhaul capability for all civil and military aircraft. In July 1988, a task force to implement the national aircraft maintenance center was inaugurated. The center will be a civilian organization with the capability to service, maintain, and overhaul military aircraft and components. In 1989 the air force was directed to indigenize 50 percent of its maintenance work within ten years. The manufacture of such basic aircraft components and spare parts as hydraulic units and actuators, brakes, and plastic passenger cabin parts had also begun by the late 1980s. These domestic production and technical service industries were intended to save foreign exchange, to foster self-reliance, and to promote a local technological and industrial base.

The navy also turned increasingly to local suppliers for spare parts and maintenance services. In mid-1989 about 40 percent of the spare parts for naval vessels reportedly had been produced in Nigeria, and the navy saved N20 million at that time (for value of the naira--see Glossary) by using locally made parts including propeller shafts and generator parts. The new navy dockyard, opened at the end of 1990 at Victoria Island near Lagos, will eventually have the capacity to boost domestic production of spare parts for ships to 70 percent of requirements and to permit future modification and even construction of ships.

Data as of June 1991

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