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Firm planned $3.5m equipment sale to Nigeria

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By Abraham Adekunle

Diplomatic specialists say deal with the North Korean firm will be problematic.

A North Korean company, which was linked to the Korean People’s Army, was planning to sell about $3.5 million in military equipment to Nigeria in 2021. A United Nations (UN) report states that the transaction would have likely violated multiple international sanctions. The company, Haegeumgang Trading Corporation, which the Panel of Experts report labelled “a weapons trading entity,” planned to broker the millions of dollars arms deal between North Korea and Nigeria, an anonymous source told the Panel.

UN sanctions investigators have linked the company to the African continent in the past. In 2013, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) firm was involved in the sale of man-portable air defense systems and surface-to-air missiles and radar to Mozambique. It also provided repairs and upgrades for surface-to-air missiles and air defense radar systems in Tanzania. The UN report does not provide detail about the most recent alleged transaction. Panel investigators also noted that the Nigerian government had not replied to their inquiries.

Deal is a major violation of UN, EU, & US sanctions.

The Nigerian Embassy in Seoul on September 19, 2022, told the press that it had not been informed about the transaction and is not aware of it. Foreign and defense ministries in Abuja also declined to comment on the story. Nigeria had also been linked to an “arms Smuggling plot” by an earlier Panel of Export report that was published in March 2021. The report claimed that the weapons trading had been linked to the plot by a DPRK representative at the company (Hong Yong Su) and by another company within the European Union.

According to the report, Hong visited Nigeria in January 2020, but the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) were unable to provide evidence to the Panel that an individual with the name visited the country. It is also unclear whether Hong’s visit to Nigeria is linked to the $3.5 million potential sale plan in June 2021. Nonetheless, the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States sanctions regimes all forbid arms and military-related sales to North Korea including purchase of weapons from the DPRK.

Former UK’s ambassador to DPRK says senior leaders may not know.

Because of this, diplomatic and military specialists have told the press that any potential arms deal with North Korea (DPRK) would be seriously problematic for the country. The UK’s former ambassador to DPRK and former deputy head of the UK Foreign Office (Nigerian section), John Everald, said that it would be a significant sanctions breach. He said it was unclear whether the deal would have gone ahead even before it appeared on the Panel’s radar.

He added that many proposed deals with various actors (countries, foreign companies and independent agencies) are brokered by parts of the Nigerian government but dismissed as “out of hand” when it gets to the desk of senior leaders. Therefore, he said that it was unlikely that anyone in the Nigerian government with decision-making powers knew about the arms deal with North Korea, much less approved it. A defense researcher at RAND Corporation, Bruce Bennett, said that he was aware that Nigeria had interest in a weapons deal with the DPRK about twenty years ago, which was related to missiles and military radar. However, he said that Nigeria would most likely be interested in small arms deals in response to domestic concerns.

The arms deal is an inexpensive option to weapons from other countries.

Bennet said that Nigeria faces many internal military challenges. The country is still being ravaged by Boko Haram in the Northern regions of the country, farmer-herder clashes in the south as well as unknown gunmen menace in the Southeast. Bennett said that North Korea is likely to provide small arms for the Nigerian military at a less expensive cost than other countries could. He also noted that a $3.5 million arms deal is not a lot, but it could be the first of a planned ongoing series of contracts if Nigeria is happy with the delivery.


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