- US Approves Super Tucano Attack Planes for Nigeria
After years of foot-dragging, the US State Department has finally approved a $593 million sale to Nigeria of A-29 Super Tucano attack planes with associated parts, training, facilities and weapons.
The Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) delivered its certification of the foreign military sale to Congress, as required by law, on August 2, according to United Press International.
The military equipment sales approval came just as a Nigerian Defence College report submitted to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo in July admitted that Boko Haram had made much impact in its terrorist activities in the North-east because it had superior fire power.
The report, which was the outcome of a research by the college’s Course 25, said the Nigerian military had been hampered in its operations against the terrorists because it lacked the technical equipment necessary to stand up to Boko Haram.
The college’s report corroborated another report by the US Bureau of Counter-terrorism, released in July 2017 and reported exclusively on Monday, that the military lacked the capacity to hold the grounds conquered by it from Boko Haram due to tactical and strategic challenges.
Although the military claimed Thursday that the publication and analyses of the US bureau report were detrimental to national security, the approval of the sale of military equipment to it must be good news to its high command.
By the approval, 12 airplanes would be sold to the Nigerian military.
The 12 A-29s, equipped with wing-mounted machine guns, weapons integration with advanced surveillance and precision-guided bombs, and even air-to-air missiles will help Nigeria to combat the Boko Haram insurgents and other extremist groups, such as the Islamic State West Africa splinter group.
The equipment will also help Nigeria to counter smuggling and other forms of trafficking in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.
The DSCA had determined that U.S. security interests would be served by assisting Nigeria in its counter-insurgency operations and that the A-29 sale would not significantly alter the military balance of power in the region.
The contract would require the U.S. Government or private contractors to provide training and support and would include instructions on rules of engagement and human rights to help prevent civilian casualties.
The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano is a turboprop light attack plane in service with countries across the world. It is designed for counter-insurgency operations and close-air support in areas lacking significant air defences. It is also widely used as a training aircraft.
It is a contender in the U.S. Air Force’s OA-X light attack aircraft competition for a low-cost and easy to operate and maintain air support platform.
Light planes like the Tucano can fulfil air support and surveillance needs in low-risk environments at a much lower operational cost than heavier jets like the A-10 or F-16 and require less flight and maintenance training.
The attack planes will be a big boost for Nigeria’s military anti-terrorism campaign in the North-east of the country.
Past attempts to procure the plane under the Barack Obama administration were frustrated by accusations of human rights abuses against Nigeria’s military.
According to Defence Industry Daily, the Super Tucano is known as the A-29 or ALX in Brazil, but abroad, it’s the EMB 314 successor to Embraer’s widely-used EMB 312 Tucano trainer.
The plane offers better flight performance than the EMB 312 Tucano, plus armouring and wing-mounted machine guns, weapons integration with advanced surveillance and targeting pods, precision-guided bombs, and even air-to-air missiles.
This makes it an excellent territorial defence and close support plane for low-budget air forces, as well as a surveillance asset with armed attack capability. Brazil uses it this way, for instance, alongside very advanced EMB-145 airborne radar and maritime patrol jet platforms.
In Africa, Ghana, Angola, Burkina Faso, Angola, Mauritania, either have the Tucano in their air forces, or they had placed orders for new supplies.
Defence College Report Rues Military’s Deficient Equipment
The expected planes would come in handy to redress the pathetic situation of the military which the Nigerian Defence College report painted. Entitled: ‘Terrorism and National Security: The Nigerian Experience’, a strategy and security policy paper presented to the vice-president by the National Defence College Course 25 in July 2017, it stated that the terrorists were staging a comeback because the military did not have the adequate and requisite equipment to stop them.
“Most of the units overran by the Boko Haram terrorists was not because of the military’s inability to fight, but due to lack of weapons, ammunition and basic fighting equipment,” the report said, explaining that most of the units fighting terrorists required specialised technical equipment to be able to carry out their assigned tasks.
“The units lack the full complements of equipment needed to discharge their roles and this hampers the kinetic efforts in the North-east,” the report emphasised.
To support the assertion that the Nigerian military lacked the superior firepower to stop Boko Haram, the security document stated: “In March 2017, about 30 soldiers fighting Boko Haram terrorists in the North-east revealed details about the mass killings of their colleagues due to poor firepower and inadequate equipment to combat the insurgents,” adding that the military had been in short supply of equipment for effective operations since 2013.
It stated that inadequate firepower had continued to undermine the efforts of operation ‘Lafiya Dole’ in completely countering the Boko Haram terrorists.
It narrated: “In April 2017, Boko Haram terrorists invaded the military barracks in Sabon Garin in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State and overwhelmed the troops with superior firepower.”
To turn the tide of the event, the strategy document advised that Nigeria should invest in arms and ammunition production locally. “With most countries in the West dragging their feet to sell military platforms to Nigeria, there is the need to start looking inwards to be able to sustain the fight against terrorism in the long run,” it said.
The report said the inability of the military to garner the resources needed to produce these platforms locally was a great obstacle.
The US Bureau of Counter-terrorism report had similar findings and this was exclusively reported on the day Acting President Osinbajo condemned penultimate Tuesday’s ambush of the Chad Basin oil exploration team by the Boko Haram, leading to the deaths and abduction of members of the ill-fated team.
The US report belied the claim by the federal government that it was on top of the situation in the North-east.
While directing military chiefs to relocate to the North-east last week, Osinbajo had said that the government was on top of the crisis despite the resurgence of terrorists’ attacks in the troubled region, the most recent of which was the ambush of the exploration team.
But the report by the US Bureau, which tracks terrorism and counter terrorism measures across the world, found that Nigeria was not on top of the situation.
The report stated: “Despite gains made by the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), much of its reported progress was merely duplication of failed efforts carried over from the end of last dry/fighting season,” adding: “The Nigerian military was unable to hold and rebuild civilian structures and institutions in those areas it had cleared.”
It also faulted the decision of the federal government to return internally displaced people to their original places of abode, saying that this was being done without adequate security.
“The Nigerian government continued to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons to their home communities, although sometimes without providing adequate security and before appropriate conditions were in place for safe, informed, voluntary returns,” it said.
The report also said that Nigeria did not show any evidence that it would implement a coordinated plan to restore civilian security in recaptured territories.
Another weakness in Nigeria’s approach to dislodging Boko Haram as shown by the US report is the lack of coordination among intelligence gathering agencies.
Analyses of US Report on Boko Haram Detrimental to National Security, Says DHQ
Three clear days after publication of the US Bureau report, the Nigerian military finally found its voice, claiming that it was detrimental to national security.
A statement by the Director of Defence Information, Maj-Gen John Enenche, in Abuja, said the analyses that had followed the THISDAY report had continued to derail the nation’s counter-insurgency plans in many ways, adding that they were eroding the confidence of the public in the military.
Enenche said: “It has been observed by the Defence Headquarters that Nigerians and the general public are being misinformed on the ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2016’ released by the United States of America (USA) Department of State.
“The misinformation cuts across sensational headlines in some print and electronic media to prejudiced comments and analysis of the report among others, which are detrimental to Nigeria’s national security and interest. Therefore, it is instructive to present the report in the right and objective perspective to Nigerians.
“Country reports on terrorism are submitted on annual basis in compliance with Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f (the ‘Act’) by the Department of State to Congress. It is aimed at providing a report on those countries and groups that meet the criteria of the Act. The report used to be published as ‘Patterns of Global Terrorism’ up till 2003 but was changed to the present title beginning from 2004.
“Thus, against the contrary picture given to Nigerians and the general public on the report in question, it did not cover only Nigeria but covered; Niger, Cameroon and Chad. That is, all the countries affected by Boko Haram Terrorists menace.”
He explained: “It is necessary to point out that the USA does not publish this report with the objective of causing restiveness among the populace, but to draw government’s attention to areas that could be improved upon to tackle global terrorism.
“Thus, credit must be given to the USA for its strategic global efforts towards ensuring a more secure world. As such, Nigeria and the general public should not believe the misinformants whose intentions are to pit the Nigerian Military negatively against the USA.
“At this point, it is necessary to let Nigerians and the general public know that the USA and other international partners have been supporting the Armed Forces of Nigeria in the fight against insurgency and terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin region.
“The report is not being objectively analysed by the misinformers because of their ulterior motive. Thus, it behoves the Defence Headquarters to clarify the particular sentence that was capitalised upon, which is ‘The Nigerian Military was unable to hold and rebuild civilian Structures and Institutions in those areas it had cleared’. The simple and objective interpretation is as follows:
“The report was for 2016 and not January to July 2017. Hence, attributing the assertion to be current is rather wicked and should be disregarded.
“To clear an area in this context is a military task while to hold is the task of para-military and other security agencies.”
Enenche said: “After the decimation of the terrorist strongholds in the North-east, other security agencies such as the Nigeria Police, National Security and Civil Defence Corps have been taking hold of areas cleared by the military. That is why Adamawa and Yobe States have virtually little incidents of terrorist acts in the recent past.
“Furthermore, the rebuilding of civilian structures and institutions is not a military task. It is purely the responsibility of the government of which a lot is being done.
“The efforts of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States are evident in this regard. Equally, are the visible positive deliberate efforts of Presidential Committee on the North-east Initiative (PCNI).
“In addition, there are non-governmental organisations and good spirited individuals and private organisations contributing to rebuilding civilian structures and institutions in the North-east.
“The above notwithstanding, the Nigerian Army has all along been involved in the restoration and construction of roads and bridges demolished by the terrorists, to open up transportation routes in the North-east.
“As laudable as these efforts amongst other quick impact projects executed by the Nigerian Army and Airforce, even in 2016, they were not captured in the report. Thus, it is educative for Nigerians and the general public to be aware of this corporate social responsibility by the military in the North-east.
“It is worthy to let Nigerians know that, the report highly commended Nigerian Government of which the Nigerian military is a part.
“Clearly without ambiguity, it stated ‘the Nigerian Government actively cooperated with the United States and other international partners to prevent further acts of terrorism in Nigeria against U.S citizens, citizens of third world countries, and Nigerian citizens’.
“From this, therefore, is it possible for the report to contradict itself? Obviously no. Thus the misinformers deliberately decided to hide this commendation from Nigerians and the general public, to cause disaffection for the Nigerian Military among the populace, which should not be accepted.”
US Congress Puts On Hold Proposed Arms Sales, Pressures Biden to Reassess US-Nigeria Relations Over Human Rights Record
United States lawmakers have begun to mount pressure on President Joe Biden over concerns about Nigeria’s human rights records.
Already, a proposed sale of 12 attack aircraft and 28 helicopter engines worth $857 million has been put on hold.
Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military, pausing a deal worth some $875 million, according to U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter.
In addition to the helicopters, the proposed sale included 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems—laser-guided rocket munitions, according to information sent by the State Department to Congress and reviewed by Foreign Policy, a US-based magazine.
It said the behind-the-scenes controversy over the proposed arms sale illustrated a broader debate among Washington policymakers over how to balance national security with human rights objectives.
It said the hold on the sale also showcased how powerfully the US lawmakers wanted to push the Biden administration to rethink the country’s relations with Africa’s most populous nation amid overarching concerns that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was drifting towards authoritarianism as his government has been besieged by multiple security challenges, including a jihadist insurgency.
Foreign policy observed that Western governments and international human rights organisations had ramped up their criticisms of the Nigerian government, particularly, in the wake of its ban on Twitter, systemic corruption issues, and the Nigerian military’s role in deadly crackdowns on protesters after widespread demonstrations against police brutality last year.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria during a Senate hearing with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June.
Both Menendez and Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have therefore placed a hold on the proposed arms sale, according to multiple U.S. officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter, who spoke to Foreign Policy on the condition of anonymity.
The details on the proposed sale were first sent by the US State Department to Congress in January before then former US Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, according to officials familiar with the matter.
Nigeria has relied on US arms sales in the past to help address multiple security challenges, including the 12-year insurgency by Boko Haram militants in the country’s northeast, a spate of high-profile kidnapping-for-ransom campaigns targeting schoolchildren in the country’s North-west, and deadly clashes between the country’s semi-nomadic herders and farmers fueled by climate change and environmental degradation of the country’s arable land.
The State Department, it was said, described the US-Nigeria relationship as “among the most important in sub-Saharan Africa” and had provided limited funding for various military training and education programmes.
Some experts said the United States should hit the pause button on major defence sales until it could make a broader assessment of the extent to which corruption and mismanagement hobble the Nigerian military and whether the military was doing enough to minimise civilian casualties in its campaign against Boko Haram and other violent insurrectionists.
“There doesn’t have to be a reason why we don’t provide weapons or equipment to the Nigerian military,” said Judd Devermont, Director of the Africa programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.
Continuing, he added, “But it has to be done with an assessment of how it will actually, one, change the direction of conflict in Nigeria, and, two, that they will use it consistent with our laws. In both cases, it’s either a question mark or a fail. There is a culture of impunity that exists around abuses by the military,” said Anietie Ewang, the Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Ewang cited the Nigerian military’s killing of unarmed protesters during the country’s massive #EndSARS demonstrations against police corruption and brutality last year as well as cases documented by human rights organisations of abuses in the military’s campaign against Boko Haram.
“I’m sure it’s a difficult situation. There are so many conflicts springing up across the country now. The authorities, I presume, are trying to do the best they can to save lives and properties. But this must be done in accordance with human rights standards. You can’t throw one out just to be able to achieve the other.”
Nigerian Embassy in Washington did not, however, return a request for comment, foreign policy claimed.
In the past, the Nigerian military had dismissed reports of human rights abuses by its soldiers as baseless and accused human rights groups of undermining the military’s resolve to combat terrorism.
But the United States had scrubbed proposed arms sales to Nigeria in the past on a case-by-case basis.
Former US President Barack Obama’s administration cut back arms sales to Nigeria over concerns about civilian casualties and human rights abuses, including blocking a 2014 sale of Cobra helicopters by Israel to Nigeria.
During that time, US officials reportedly voiced concerns that Boko Haram had infiltrated the Nigerian military—an accusation that provoked indignation from the Nigerian government.
These moves severely strained US-Nigeria relations, with Buhari accusing Obama of having unintentionally “aided and abetted” extremist groups by refusing to expand military cooperation and arms sales.
In late 2017, then US President Donald Trump’s administration agreed to sell the Nigerian government 12 A-29 Super Tucano warplanes, resurrecting a proposed sale the Obama administration froze after the Nigerian Air Force bombed a refugee camp that January.
Over 1M Nigerians Have Completed Online Voters Card Pre-Registration – INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) affirmed that over 1 million additional voters have completed their online pre-registration for the ongoing nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) within the last four weeks across the country.
INEC’s national commissioner, and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said this through a statement released in Abuja on Monday.
Of the 1 million new eligible voters, 259,450 people have completed their registration in Osun State and it is currently been followed by Edo state with 98,286 new voters.
These two states were closely followed by Anambra state with 65,014, followed by Bayelsa with 63,250, and later Lagos State with 61,991, this came as Yobe with 1,893, followed by Sokoto State with 2,453, Jigawa 2,593, and Zamfara with 2,769 were some of the least stare registered.
The state’s distribution of the online fresh registration released by INEC in Abuja on Monday showed the weekly update provided by INEC for week four which also reveals that the commission received 1,135,395 applications.
The figure of the total applications received includes those for voter transfer, requests for replacement of Permanent Voter Cards, and update of voter information record, etc.
According to the commission, the distribution of the 1,135,395 total applications by age group showed that 740,063 of them were youths between the ages of 18 to 34 years.
The applications from the middle-aged of between 35 to 49 years old were 278,042; the elderly from 50 to 69 years were 102,578; while the old from 70 years and above were 14,712
The distribution by occupation indicated that artisan constituted 75,877 of the total applications; farming/fishing – 81,096; public servants -25,298; business -230,551; house wives -25,816; students 355,227; civil servants 44,093; traders 97,624; others/not specified 199,813.
Also, the distribution by gender showed that females constituted 492,449 of the received applications while males were 642,946 as well as showed that 12,274 of the applicants indicated to be persons living with disabilities.
Okoye, providing an update on the online pre-registration which started nationwide on June 28, disclosed that the commission, also on Monday, commenced physical registration at its 811 state and local government area offices nationwide.
According to the statement, “As of 7 am today, Monday, July 26, the number of new registrants has risen to 1,006,661. The detailed distribution of the registrants by age, State/FCT, gender, occupation, and disability for week four of the exercise has been uploaded on the commission’s website and social media platforms.
“However, the distribution by age still shows that 740,063 (or 73.5 percent) are young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 34. As earlier announced by the commission, physical or in-person registration begins today, Monday, July 26 at our 811 state and local government area offices nationwide.
“The exact locations of the designated centers have already been uploaded to our website and social media platforms. For further details, citizens are encouraged to contact our state offices through the dedicated telephone numbers provided in the uploaded publication.
“‘Nigerians who pre-registered online can now complete their registration at those centers based on scheduled appointments. In addition, other Nigerians who prefer to register physically/in person can now do so at those centers.
“Both online pre-registration and physical/in-person registration will continue simultaneously until the suspension of the CVR exercise on June 30, 2022, to enable the commission to clean up the data and compile the voters’ register for the 2023 General Election.”
Okoye appealed to all citizens who wished to register to approach any of INEC’s state or local government area offices nationwide to do so, as the commission entered the next phase of the CVR exercise.
Oyo State Budgets N330M Monthly To Support Community Policing In LGAs
Oyo State Governor, Seye Makinde has said that the state has set aside a monthly budget of N330 million to be spent on security across the 33 local governments in the state.
The governor who disclosed this in Ibadan said each local government in the state is expected to spend N10 million to support the security of lives and property in their domain.
He said part of the measures was the instruction to local government chairmen to involve traditional rulers as well as other voluntary residents in policing their areas.
Each local government is to spend N10 million monthly on this security arrangement.
Makinde explained that the initiative amounts to spending N330 million in the 33 local government areas, besides other efforts the state government had put in place to tighten security.
“We said each local government should set up a security committee, which should include traditional rulers and voluntary people willing to police their areas.
“I encouraged them to budget N10 million to service the committee every month. For the entire state, that’s N330 million per month by all local governments, excluding what we are doing generally at the state level,” the governor told a group on a visit to him during the recent Muslim festival.
“On security, most of the data in the past months shows that things are now improving. The Igangan incident, some days ago, was only falsified by some people who were saying that Fulani herdsmen had invaded Igangan again. The truth is actually about the NCS and smugglers. They know each other.
“Customs officials were accused to have entered Igangan, which is not a border town. But we are working with Federal authorities and they have arrested most of them.
“The gun that was collected is still with us. I said I won’t release it until I get the attention of the Federal authorities.
“In the Constitution of Nigeria, Oyo State is a federating unit. We are not saying Federal agencies should not carry out their operations here. But they must tell us; they must inform us. They may not disclose the details of the operation to us, but we must know about it.
“If we had known about the operation, we would have pre-informed the security detail in the town and those who died could have been alive. The Amotekun Coordinator that died in Igboora would have still been alive today.
“How can you go operating in an unidentified vehicle in a town where the security tactics have been heightened? As they wanted to enter the town, they were confronted because we have heightened security in all of those places.
“So, we will keep appealing to them and to our people that false information won’t help anybody. Nobody will profit politically from the security issues we are faced with. It is our collective responsibility. The people will play their part and the government will play its own part,” Makinde said.
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