ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari discussed a possible new arms deal with U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone on Monday to help the West African nation fight terrorism, the Nigerian presidency said.
Nigeria has been fighting since 2009 against an insurgency by Boko Haram militants trying to set up an Islamic state in the remote northeast. The unrest has killed thousands and displaced more than two million people.
Abuja has been trying to persuade the U.S. to sell it military aircraft, a request being reviewed by Congress.
“President Trump assured the Nigerian president of U.S. readiness to cut a new deal in helping Nigeria in terms of military weapons to combat terrorism,” the presidency said in a statement. Buhari is currently on medical leave in Britain.
It gave no other details of the call, their first since Trump’s inauguration, except that the U.S. president had invited Buhari to Washington.
Under Buhari’s predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, the United States had blocked arms sales and ended training of Nigerian troops partly over human rights concerns such as treatment of captured insurgents.
U.S. officials told Reuters last May that Washington wanted to sell up to 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Nigeria. Congress needs to approve it.
Broader U.S. military cooperation would be a victory for Buhari, who took office in 2015 pledging to crack down on the corruption that has undermined the armed forces in Africa’s most populous country.
Under Buhari, the army has recaptured much of territory initially lost to Boko Haram, but the group still often stages suicide attacks in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Felix Onuah; Editing by Tom Heneghan