Britain will train Nigerian army counterterror squads to fight against Boko Haram under a new security partnership.
The plans will see UK armed forces training full fighting units for the first time, with the aim of equipping them to also tackle Islamic State West Africa (a splinter group from Boko Haram).
British officials will also launch a £13m initiative to train school children caught in Boko Haram’s conflict zone and counter the group’s propaganda.
The announcement comes on the second day of Theresa May’s tour of Africa, also taking in South Africa and Kenya, as Ms May also announced:
• A new task force to help Nigeria recover stolen assets held in Britain
• A fintech partnership
• Proposals to boost the City’s role in the country, with a $10bn (£7.75bn) Nigerian firm committing to list in London
Launching the plan, Ms May said: “No one should live in fear of being targeted by militants or forced from their homes, and no child should lose out on an education because of the threat of terror.
“Insecurity, violence and extremism destabilise countries and regions and undermine growth, holding back entire generations from reaching their potential.
“It is only when people are safe and communities stable that nations have the opportunity to thrive.”
Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa are responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 people, with almost two million forced to live away from their homes in the northeast of the country.
Earlier this year the group kidnapped more than 100 young girls from their village after pretending to be government soldiers.
Under the new partnership Britain will expand its provision of equipment and training for the Nigerian army to tackle the improvised explosive devices used by the groups.
Boko Haram has adopted the bombs and the insurgency style tactics that the UK faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Until now the UK had only trained Nigerian soldiers individually – not in their full fighting teams – helping to improve the skills of some 30,000 troops since 2015, but the new move to train full units represents an intensification of cooperation.
Ms May signed the partnership in Abuja after flying in from Cape Town on Wednesday morning.
On arrival, she gave the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, a personalised miniature infantry sword letter opener and some 10 Downing Street glassware.
Mr Buhari underwent officer cadet training at a school in Aldershot between 1962 and 1963.
Under the new partnership the UK will also deliver a £13m programme to educate 100,000 children living in the conflict zone created by Boko Haram’s activity.
Officials will then show Mr Buhari’s administration how to set up a new Nigerian crisis response mechanism, similar to the UK’s Cobra system, which swings into action in the face of any event requiring urgent action.
The plan will also aim to cut the number of new recruits joining Boko Haram by tackling the false information spread by the group to attract new members.
This will involve working with communities in Nigeria to counter the narrative peddled by the terror group.
UK officials said the work would draw on Britain’s experience of countering Islamic State propaganda at home.
Britain is a leading global hub for fintech, which contributes more than £5bn to the economy every year.