The federal government has expressed worry over the stringent conditions imposed by the United States government for the sale of 12 Super Tucano A29 planes and other weapons worth $495million. This was disclosed by the minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali yesterday after the quarterly meeting of the National Security Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja. Recall that The Donald Trump administration last December, agreed to proceed with the sale of the aircrafts to Nigeria after the Obama administration had delayed it following bombing of a refugee camp in January last year by the Nigerian Air Force. According to the minister, the US government insists that the payment must be made by February 20, 2018, saying that the aircrafts can only be available in 2020.
Also the US government has forbidden Nigerian personnel from being sent to understudy the production process of the aircrafts as Nigeria had done in the case of other countries. The minister said the council has therefore approved that the Ministry of Defence meets with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, to iron out the contending issues. He further explained that the $494 million is to acquire the Super Tucano
A-29, train personnel, provide accommodation facilities for the aircraftsand for continuous servicing. He explained that, “Some of the stringent measures include that we will start having them from 2020, which is two years from now. “They are also thinking of not allowing our technicians to be part of the production inspection. But this is what we normally do in all the defence contracts, we send our personnel to go and understudy especially when it comes to specialised contracts. Like in Russia, our personnel are permanently based in where the production is being done for this MI35 helicopters.”
The minister revealed that the council also discussed the remote and immediate causes of the frequent farmers/herdsmen deadly clashes in the country, which he blamed on the blockage of cattle routes, the establishment of anti-grazing laws by some states and the existence of local militias. He said: “Look at this issue (killings in Benue and Taraba), what is the remote causes of this farmers crisis? Since the nation’s Independence, we know there used to be a route whereby the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation. You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked what do you expect will happen? “These people are Nigerians. Is just like one going to block shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law. “These people are Nigerians and we must learn to live together with each other. Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave. Finish!”
Asked if he was justifying the killings because of the blocking or the routes, the minister said: “You are going away from what I came here to do. However, this is internal security. I can provide some answers. I have told you that the remote cause is part of the grazing law. Since independence there are clear routes where these people pass.”
On the curtailment of the proliferation of light arms, he said the council has set up a committee to work out modalities to transform the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) to a National Commission.
He added: “In compliance with the presidential directive for the establishment of National Commission on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the country, the Ministry of Defence in conjunction with the office of the National Security Adviser has set up a committee to work out modalities to transform the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) to a National Commission.”
Dan Ali said he informed the meeting that in line with the decision of the present government to increase the strength of the Armed Forces to address manpower problem, the three services have in the last two years enlisted and recruited qualified Nigerians. He said the Ministry of Defence is also building befitting accommodation for members of the Armed Forces in the six geopolitical zones.
According to him, “Similar accommodations were built by Defence Headquarters and commissioned by the HMOD in Abuja last month. This has gone a long way to solving accommodation problem and boosting the morale of personnel serving in Abuja.” He also spoke on the Military Pension Verification Exercise which was conducted in all the 36 states and FCT during the period under review, saying that the process enabled the Military Pension Board to update its data payroll and ensure financial savings for the government. He also stressed to the council, the need for the relevant security agencies to as a matter of urgency tackle “the propagation of hate speeches especially through the social media particularly by some notable Nigerians.”