Nigeria to step up local arms manufacture in Boko Haram fight

An image grab made on October 31, 2014 from a video obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau (C) delivering a speech (AFP Photo/) (Boko Haram/AFP/File)

Abuja (AFP) - Nigeria said Friday it would step up domestic arms manufacture for the military to cut its reliance on foreign weaponry in its fight with Boko Haram Islamists.

President Muhammadu Buhari instructed the Defence Ministry to create "a modest military industrial complex for the local production of weapons to meet some of the requirements of the country's armed forces", his office said in a statement.

Buhari told a graduation ceremony of the National Defence College in the capital Abuja that Nigeria's over-dependence on other countries for military equipment and logistics was "unacceptable", the statement said.

"We must evolve viable mechanisms for near self-sufficiency in military equipment and logistics production complemented only by very advanced foreign technologies," he was quoted as saying.

Buhari asked officials and industry leaders to work together to "re-engineer" the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), a military department responsible for arms manufacture.

DICON was set up in 1964 to manufacture weapons from its factory in the northern city of Kaduna but production ground to a halt and the unit is now used mainly for civilian purposes such as tool-making.

Buhari, who ruled Nigeria as a military strongman between 1983 and 1985, returned to office in May as the country's first opposition challenger to defeat an incumbent in a largely fair poll.

His victory triggered a wave of optimism for oil-rich Nigeria, which has Africa's biggest population and economy but many deep and seemingly intractable problems.

Nigeria is fighting a six year insurgency by Boko Haram jihadists in the northeast which has seen the deaths of more than 15,000 people and at least 1.5 million displaced.

The military has long argued that it is hampered by a lack of weaponry, and Buhari warned Washington last month that a US refusal to arm his troops because of "so-called human rights violations" was helping Boko Haram.

The US has vowed to help Nigeria defeat the insurgency but it is prohibited under law from sending weapons to countries that fail to tackle human rights abuses.

Boko Haram's brutality and in particular the mass kidnapping and enslavement of schoolgirls has shocked world opinion, but Nigeria's own security forces also face criticism.

In June, rights watchdog Amnesty International said there is sufficient evidence to launch an investigation into senior Nigerian officers for war crimes.