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Nigeria Receives US-Donated Patrol Vessels


Nigeria has taken delivery of the first two of seven military vessels donated by the United States.

The vessels are former U.S. Coast Guard tenders that are meant to help the Nigerian navy patrol its oil-rich coastline and enforce Nigerian fishing regulations.

Nigerian officials took delivery of the two ships at the country's main harbor in Lagos this week.

The U.S. donation coincides with the Nigerian government's efforts to deal with recent ethnic and political fighting that has disrupted oil production in Nigeria, the world's sixth leading producer.

Unrest in the Niger River delta last month prompted foreign oil companies to suspend production, resulting in a loss of around 40 percent in the country's daily oil production. The U.S.-based oil giant Chevron-Texaco on Friday announced it was gradually resuming operations.

The ships are the first two of seven that the United States is donating to the West African country as part of an aid package that was put together last year. U.S. Defense officials say Nigeria will also get a grant of $750,000 to help with the training of crews and maintenance of the vessels.

Nigerian officials say the gift will likely help mend relations, which have been strained since the United States suspended some forms of military aid to Nigeria earlier this year.

Aid was suspended in February after U.S. lawmakers voiced concerns about alleged human rights violations committed by the Nigerian army during a crackdown on ethnic violence in Benue state in November of 2001. Reports at the time said soldiers fired at civilians, killing hundreds.

The suspension of aid coincided with preparations for the start of a U.S. led war on Iraq, which Nigeria publicly opposed.

Many Nigerians interpreted the suspension as U.S. retribution after Nigeria refused to support the coalition efforts.

U.S. officials said there was no connection between the two issues.