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US approves arms sale to Nigeria after pause over human rights concerns

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The United States has approved a nearly $1 billion weapons sale to Nigeria after lawmakers had put a hold on the deal over concerns about possible human rights abuses by the Nigerian government.

In July, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee put a hold on the sale of 12 AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopters made by Bell.

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On Thursday, the State Department made the determination that it would approve the sale of the attack helicopters worth $997 million.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a strategic partner in Sub-Saharan Africa,” a statement about the sale said.

Nigeria has been battling rising armed robberies and kidnappings for ransom where thinly deployed security forces have struggled to contain the influence of armed gangs.

US officials have complained of “excessive force” by Nigerian military forces on unarmed civilians and called for restraint after soldiers in October 2020 opened fire on protesters demonstrating against police brutality in Lagos.

Read more: Hundreds flee after Boko Haram burns Nigerian village