Nigeria and China are set to further their bilateral cooperation through increased engagement in the defence sector. This was made known at the recent meeting between the Nigeria’s Minister of Defence Muhamad Badaru Abubakar and the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Cui Jianchun.
Over the years, Chinese defence companies have enjoyed export success to African militaries. China is looking to expand its military and economic influence in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous and largest economy, by establishing its military industry in the country.
This was revealed by the Ambassador of China to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun, during a visit to the Minister of Defence, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, in Abuja recently.
According to the Chinese envoy, China wants to support local production of military equipment in Nigeria, which has abundant natural and human resources that can benefit Chinese corporations based in Nigeria.
He said China has an interest in forging collaboration with Nigeria in the area of military operations, economic cooperation, and international cooperation. “Nigeria is a large country just like China and we are willing to build our military industries in Nigeria to support local production of military equipment,” Jianchun said, according to a statement by Ministry of Defence spokesperson, Henshaw Ogubike.
The statement quoted the envoy as saying that the Chinese industries will not only boost the fight against insurgency and other related crimes in Nigeria, but also the Federal Government’s drive on employment generation. He added that China and Nigeria have investments in security, education, and economy, and that Nigeria has great potential to develop a new economy.
The Minister of Defence, Abubakar, welcomed China’s interest in Nigeria’s defence sector and said the Federal Government would collaborate with the Chinese government in technology transfer, intelligence sharing, and military training in its quest to tackle insecurity in the country.
He said there has been a lot of working relationship with the Chinese companies on the transfer of technology and talk on military equipment production.
The move by China to establish its military industry in Nigeria comes amid growing concerns about China’s expanding naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea, a strategic waterway that hosts vital shipping lanes and oil reserves. According to a report by SBM Intelligence, China has been involved in counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Guinea and has conducted security exchanges with countries in the region.
Recent U.S. intelligence reports also said that China is seeking a naval base in Equatorial Guinea’s Mainland Port of Bata, which could pose challenges to Western powers in the region. US defence officials have expressed worries that China is seeking a base on the Atlantic coast to support naval units and repair warships. The United States announced that it plans to actively thwart this initiative.
One the other hand, Nigeria is seeking to boost its defence industry by collaborating with a leading US military firm, NEANY, to establish advanced weapons production lines at the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria (DICON). China’s push into Nigeria’s defence sector also aligns with its broader ambitions to secure energy interests and expand its influence in Africa.
China has invested heavily in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry and aims to increase daily oil production. China is also Nigeria’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching $19.27 billion in 2019.
However, 53 years of Nigeria-China relations has been a bitter-sweet mixture, as some analysts have pointed out. While China has provided loans, grants, and infrastructure projects to Nigeria, it has also faced criticisms for its debt diplomacy, environmental degradation, and unfair trade practices.
As Nigeria and China mark the 53rd anniversary of their diplomatic ties this year, the potential establishment of a Chinese military industry in Nigeria could be a game-changer for the bilateral relationship, as well as the geopolitics of the region.