Niger: arms trade corruption has cost one of world's poorest countries $137m

A group of soldiers on a large jeep driving through the desert. The jeep has a large gun on top and the soldiers are armed.
A group of Nigerien soldiers take part in training with the US military. Photo: AFRICOM/CC2.0

An independent report into arms deals conducted by the government of Niger has revealed that the country may have lost at least $137m due to corruption and malpractice over an eight year period. The findings have led to protests and a strike in Niger, in which one person has been killed and ten arrested.

The report, which was handed to Niger's senior prosecutor in April, was written by the Inspection Générale des Armées, an independent body that audits Niger’s armed forces. The body found that that equipment sourced from Russian, Chinese and Ukrainian arms firms had been overpriced, purchased without any sort of competitive bidding process, or simply had not been delivered at all. Corruption and malpractice was being hidden through fake companies and forged documents.

Examples of suspicious deals included in the audit include the purchase of two Mi-171Sh military helicopters from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned defence company, for $62m. The auditors were "unable to explain why the sum appeared to them to be inflated by $19.7m". In another deal, Niger was overcharged $8.2 million for armored personnel carriers manufactured by China’s state arms company, NORINCO.

Hassane Diallo, the head of Centre d’Assistance Juridique et d’Action Citoyenne, an anti-corruption group based in Niger, told the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project that he didn't expect any prosecutions following the revelations, because of the close relationship between the president and those alleged to have taken part in corruption.

Between 2011 and 2019 Niger has been on a "U.S.-backed military spending spree that totalled about US$1 billion". Niger has been engaged in an ongoing conflict with Boko Haram since 2011. The huge spending on arms has made Niger a significant military power, despite also being one of the world's poorest countries. In addition to the military aid, the USA has spent $280m on a massive military base with the capability of launching drones for surveillance and air strikes.



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