China on Thursday agreed to provide assistance and military equipment to the Nigerian armed services to strengthen operations against Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) to boost Nigeria’s counter-insurgency measures came soon after Chinese diplomats reportedly urged local law enforcement in Nigeria to step up their investigation into the murder of three Chinese factory workers in Lagos, the African country’s most populous city.
Focusing on the continent’s rich natural resources to fuel its domestic economic growth, Beijing has rapidly expanded its financial activities in Africa, investing broadly in infrastructure projects across the continent, particularly in Nigeria.
Beijing’s investments have led to hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals moving into Africa. Yet China had long denied reports that it was expanding its military footprint in Africa. Now, both Nigeria and China have confirmed signing an MOU to for assistance against Boko Haram.
China has reportedly pledged over $7 million “in military equipment and training in support of Nigeria’s counter-insurgency operations in the northeast,” Boko Haram’s birthplace and stronghold, Vanguard reported.
Zhou Pingjua, the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria and the African nation’s Minister of Defense Mansur Muhammad Dan Ali signed the agreement.
“In September 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari led a Nigerian delegation to China to attend the Africa-Chinese forum. At the forum, he held bilateral discussions with President Xi Jinping on several areas of cooperation particularly in the area of military to military relations,” the Chinese ambassador said.
“At the meeting in China, an initial pledge of [an estimated 890,000] was made in support of the Nigerian military. Now, another [estimated $7.4 million]has been made to support the counter-insurgency operation of the military,” he added.
Nigeria’s defense minister reportedly commended China for standing by Nigeria in its fight against terrorism.
“Insurgency is no longer a country’s problem alone,” the Nigerian minister said. “It is now a global problem. So countries must join hand together to fight and defeat this problem.”
Boko Haram has boosted its terror campaign in northeastern Nigeria in recent days.
On the same day that Beijing and Abuja signed the MOU, China’s state-run Global Times defended Beijing construction of its first overseas naval base in the African country of Djibouti in 2017.
China dismissed claims that the base is part of “Chinese ambition of overseas military influence expansion” and efforts to expand Beijing’s influence in the Indian Ocean.
“More than one year since its establishment, it has been proven that the base is mainly used to provide logistical supplies for China’s escort task forces in the Gulf of Aden,” Global Times claimed.
Defending China against accusations that Beijing is expanding its footprint on the African continent for its abundant resources, Global Times acknowledged, “China’s influence on the continent will inevitably expand, but it’s a result of enhancing economic cooperation and political trust. China-Africa engagement is win-win.”
The U.S. has accused China of using predatory lending practices to bury nations in debt and undermine their sovereignty, but Beijing denies the assertions.
China is using its economic clout in Africa to promote a “new international order” and encourage countries to adopt its communist ideology, experts like Yun Sun from the Stimson Center think-tank told American lawmakers in December.
“Chinese activities pose the greatest danger to U.S. military access and operations, U.S. information and communication platforms, and U.S. relations with current and emerging African leader,” Judd Devermont from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) also told American lawmakers.
Nigeria has purchased military equipment from China in the past, Vanguard noted.