Nigeria to establish weapons factory, says President Buhari


Nigeria is going to establish a domestic weapons factory in an effort to cut its dependence on imported arms, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.

The defence ministry had been told to develop plans for a “modest military industrial complex,” the president, who came to power in May, said

Nigeria has been battling the militant Islamist group Boko Haram for the last six years.

The US has refused to sell arms to Nigeria citing human rights abuses.

President Buhari told a gathering of newly graduated military officers that Nigeria “must evolve viable mechanisms for near-self-sufficiency” in defence equipment that it usually imports.

On a visit to Washington last month, Mr Buhari said that the US had “aided and abetted” Boko Haram in the past by refusing to sell weapons to Nigeria.

A US law prevents the government from selling arms to countries which fail to tackle human rights abuses.

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari
Mr Buhari was elected in March, partly on a pledge to defeat Boko Haram

On Tuesday, a group of visiting US Congress members said Washington could lift its ban on shipping arms to Nigeria’s military if the country improved its human rights record.

The US’s stance has effectively stopped other Western countries from selling sophisticated military hardware to the country, the BBC’s Bashir Sa’ad Abdullahi reports from the capital, Abuja.

Nigeria’s only weapons factory in the northern city of Kaduna mainly produces rifles and civilian tools, Mr Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu told the Reuters news agency.

He said that defence chiefs had now been asked to “re-engineer” it.

Boko Haram has killed some 10,000 people since 2009 and has also kidnapped hundreds of girls and women.

Last month, human rights group Amnesty International said that some 8,000 men and boys had died in Nigerian military custody after being detained as suspected militants.

The military rejected this allegation and Mr Buhari promised an investigation, although there have been no further details.

Boko Haram at a glance

Boko Haram fighters
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009
  • Joined Islamic State, now calls itself “West African province”
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
  • Regional force has retaken most territory this year
  • But suicide attacks have increased May 2015

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