Nigeria eyes Indian military hardware

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) Oil-rich Nigeria, which annually allocates some 170 billion naira (over $1 billion) for defence, is actively eyeing Indian military hardware as it seeks to modernise its armed forces, says the African country’s defence minister.

‘We are looking at everything,’ Nigerian Defence Minister Abbe (who uses only one name) told IANS at the DefExpo land and naval warfare systems exhibition here.

‘I am here on the invitation of the government of India to appreciate the level of development in this country in terms of military science and production capabilities,’ said Abbe, a former general in the Nigerian Army.

‘I have seen quite a lot. I believe we have wide windows for cooperation. There is a lot that can be matured,’ the minister said.

He, however, refused to go into specifics, saying it was early days for that but constantly noted that ‘we are looking at everything’.

Responding to a question, he agreed there was the possibility of Indian companies, from the public as well as private sectors, setting up manufacturing facilities in his country to serve the needs of not only Nigeria but other African nations too.

‘We have MoUs in a wide range of areas. It is now time go give life to these, particularly in the area of defence. We have to see what is of value for us in the mid and long terms,’ Abbe noted.

‘As for manufacturing, we have to see what is in the interest of both our countries.’

A Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) official said: ‘He asked us searching questions about the various roles the Dhruv can be employed in for civilian and military roles.’

‘He was particularly impressed by the fact that 90 Dhruvs are flying, largely with the armed forces and that another 160 are on order,’ the official added.

‘The minister holds India in very high esteem and this visit is intended as an exploratory effort. We will see how to take it forward from here,’ Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria Mahesh Sachdev said.

He also pointed out that Abbe had an India connection.

‘He is a graduate of the Nigerian National Defence Academy where he was trained by Indian instructors,’ Sachdev said.

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