Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had said his country plans to ramp up the domestic production of weapons for its armed forces, in an effort to cut the country’s dependence on imported arms.
“The Ministry of Defence is being tasked to draw up clear and measurable outlines for development of a modest military industrial complex for Nigeria,” Buhari said during a speech at the National Defence College in the capital Abuja on Friday.
Buhari said he wanted an overhaul of the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), a military division responsible for weapons production which was set up in 1964 but has fallen into decline.
The division’s factory in the northern city of Kaduna now mainly produces rifles and civilian tools, said Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu, adding that defence chiefs had been asked to “re-engineer” DICON.
“We must evolve viable mechanisms for near self-sufficiency in military equipment and logistics production complemented only by very advanced foreign technologies,” said Buhari, a former military ruler.
Fight against Boko Haram
Buhari took office on May 29 after an election victory that owed much to his vow to defeat the armed group Boko Haram, which aims to set up an caliphate in northeast Nigeria.
Nigeria’s military has repeatedly said it needs better weapons to fight the group, who has killed thousands and left about 1.5 million people displaced in Africa’s most populous country.
Buhari said Nigeria’s dependence on other countries for critical military equipment was unacceptable. The administration led by his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, turned to foreign suppliers.
Last year, a dispute developed between Nigeria and South Africa after South Africa seized $15m in funds which Nigeria said was for legitimate deals procuring weapons for its armed forces.
On Tuesday, a group of visiting US Congress members said Washington could lift its ban on shipping arms to Nigeria’s military to help fight Boko Haram, if Abuja improved its human rights record.