Nigeria Signs Military Cooperation Pact with Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on the sidelines of the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on October 23, 2019. (Photo by Sergei CHIRIKOV / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI CHIRIKOV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
SERGEI CHIRIKOV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

At a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed agreements with Russian President Vladimir Putin for military cooperation and economic development, including Nigeria’s oil and gas resources. Nigeria is also working with Russia to construct a nuclear power plant.

Nigeria’s This Day provided some details of the meeting between Buhari and Putin:

[The joint statement] said both leaders signed statements to work together to improve efficiency of Nigeria’s oil sector, which it described as the backbone of the economy, in a way that will see to rehabilitation of epileptic oil refineries through establishment of framework for a joint venture between Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Russia-based leading oil company, Lukoil.

Stating that NNPC and Lukoil will work towards prospection of oil in deep offshore, the statement said Nigeria and Russia also agreed to revive and solidify the venture between the NNPC and Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom, for the development of Nigeria’s enormous gas potential and infrastructure.

It also said Buhari raised the issue of uncompleted and abandoned Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill, requesting for the return of Russia to the project on a government-to-government relationship for the completion and commissioning of the plant and was promptly accepted by Putin.

The statement added that the Russian government agreed to support the development of Nigeria’s rail infrastructure by constructing 1,400 kilometres track from Lagos to the South-south city of Calabar.

Buhari and Putin agreed to revive a lapsed military cooperation agreement and make it possible for Nigeria to obtain more Russian military hardware and training, including a dozen Russian Mi-35 attack helicopters. This month, Nigerian officials said they thought Russia’s experience at fighting the Islamic State in Syria could help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram, the local ISIS affiliate.

Two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers arrived in South Africa on Wednesday as part of Russia’s plan to increase its footprint in Africa, recovering from the diplomatic collapse that followed the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. 

Buhari was one of dozens of African leaders invited to Sochi by Putin to discuss increased trade, security cooperation, and debt relief. Putin announced at the meeting that Moscow will forgive about $20 billion of African debt. 

Russia’s plans to build nuclear power plants in African nations have been criticized as debt traps that will lure the Africans into buying expensive infrastructure that is not well-suited to their needs. Nigeria is the only African nation aside from South Africa that meets the international guidelines for building a nuclear plant.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday his country embraces the opportunity to “widen and deepen” cooperation with Nigeria, the largest oil producer in Africa.

“I am convinced that the experience, capabilities and modern technologies of Russian companies can be used to further develop the country’s oil and gas sector,” Novak said, pointing to Nigeria’s need for outside investment to bring its oil refineries up to capacity. Among other problems, Nigeria’s oil infrastructure has often been sabotaged and looted by insurgents.

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