from Africa in Transition

Closer Military Ties Between Nigeria and China?

September 20, 2013

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Nigerian media is reporting that on September 18, China and Nigeria “pledged” closer military cooperation, especially with respect to terrorism and disaster response. The two nations appear to envisage exchanges between respective defense colleges. There will presumably be other interactions as well.

According to the media, Nigerian Senate president David Mark also asked the president of the Chinese Parliament for assistance in the “mass production of military hardware” and assistance with a Nigerian aircraft spare parts production facility. Mark also asked for Chinese support for Nigeria to hold a non-permanent UN Security council seat in the upcoming rotation and subsequently as the permanent African member in a future expanded UN Security Council. Mark rounded out his shopping list with requests for a “friendlier” Chinese visa regime with respect to Nigerians and a review of the cases of 366 Nigerians serving time in Chinese prisons. The Chinese Parliament president, Zhang Dejiang, was visiting the Nigerian capital of Abuja when the pledge was made.

If the media reports are correct, Mark’s agenda is a practical way to enhance Nigerian-Chinese cooperation. It remains to be seen how much of it will actually be implemented–the two sides have only “pledged” closer cooperation. But, if the Chinese wish to move forward, exchanges of military officers and groups from service academies would be relatively easy. Much harder would be Chinese establishment of an easier visa regime for Nigerians, or a Beijing pledge of support for Nigeria as a permanent member of an expanded UN Security Council. If nothing else, the Chinese will be mindful of the strong South African case for a permanent seat.

David Mark is a retired army general, a Christian from a small Middle Belt ethnic group, and has long been a power in national politics. The visit of his Chinese opposite number provided the opportunity for him to advocate an agenda more usually associated with the foreign ministry.

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