- Trump to Sell 12 Attack Planes to Nigeria for Boko Haram Fight
In line with United States President Donald Trump’s pledge to assist the Nigerian government in its fight against terrorism, his administration has indicated that it will move forward with the sale of high-tech aircraft to Nigeria for its campaign against Boko Haram Islamic extremists.
During Trump’s phone call to President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after the U.S. president was sworn in last January, he had pledged to sell attack aircraft to Nigeria, despite concerns over abuses committed by the country’s security forces.
According to U.S. officials, Congress is expected to receive formal notification within weeks, setting in motion a deal with Nigeria that the Obama administration had planned to approve at the very end of Barack Obama’s presidency, reported Associated Press (AP) on Monday.
The arrangement will call for Nigeria to purchase up to 12 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano aircraft with sophisticated targeting gear for nearly $600 million, one of the officials said.
The officials were not authorised to discuss the terms of the sale publicly and requested anonymity to speak about internal diplomatic conversations.
Though President Trump has made clear his intention to approve the sale of the aircraft, the National Security Council is still working on the issue.
Military sales to several other countries are also expected to be approved but are caught up in an ongoing White House review. Nigeria has been trying to buy the aircraft since 2015.
The Nigerian Air Force has been accused of bombing civilian targets at least three times in recent years. In the worst incident, a fighter jet on January 17 repeatedly bombed a camp at Rann, near the border with Cameroun, where civilians had fled from Boko Haram.
Between 100 and 236 civilians and aid workers were killed, according to official and community leaders’ counts.
That bombing occurred on the same day the Obama administration intended to officially notify Congress that the sale would go forward.
Instead, it was abruptly put on hold, according to an individual who worked on the issue during Obama’s presidency. Days later, Trump was inaugurated.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said this past week that he supported the A-29 deal to Nigeria as well as the sale of U.S.-made fighter jets to Bahrain that had been stripped of human rights caveats imposed by the Obama administration.
Under Obama, the U.S. said Bahrain failed to make promised political and human rights reforms after its Sunni-ruled government crushed Arab Spring protests five years ago.
“We need to deal with human rights issues, but not on weapons sales,” Corker said.
The State Department said in a 2016 report that the Nigerian government has taken “few steps to investigate or prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, and impunity remained widespread at all levels of government”.
Amnesty International had accused Nigeria’s military of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the extrajudicial killings of an estimated 8,000 Boko Haram suspects.
Buhari had promised to investigate the alleged abuses after he won office in March 2015, but no soldier has been prosecuted and thousands of people remain in illegal military detention. Nigeria’s military has denied the allegations.
The A-29 sale would improve the U.S. relationship with Nigeria, Africa’s largest consumer market of 170 million people, the continent’s biggest economy and its second-largest oil producer.
Nigeria also is strategically located on the edge of the Sahel, the largely lawless semi-desert region bridging north and sub-Saharan Africa where experts warn Islamic extremists like the Nigeria-based Boko Haram may expand their reach.
The aircraft deal also would satisfy Trump’s priorities to support nations fighting Islamic uprisings, boost U.S. manufacturing and create high-wage jobs at home.
The A-29 aircraft, which allow pilots to pinpoint targets at night, are assembled in Jacksonville, Florida.
“It’s hard to argue that any country in Africa is more important than Nigeria for the geopolitical and other strategic interests of the U.S.,” said J. Peter Pham, vice-president of the Atlantic Council in Washington and head of its Africa Centre.
Once Congress is officially notified of the sale, lawmakers who want to derail it have 30 days to pass veto-proof legislation. That’s a high hurdle given Corker’s support.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also said he backs the sale.
“We’ve really got to try to do what we can to contain them,” McCain said of Boko Haram.
In Trump’s first phone call with Buhari in February, he “assured the Nigerian president of U.S. readiness to cut a new deal in helping Nigeria in terms of military weapons to combat terrorism”, according to Buhari’s office.
A February 15 White House statement that provided a summary of the call said “President Trump expressed support for the sale of aircraft from the United States to support Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram”.
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in mid-February he was “leery” of the sale because of the Nigerian military’s impunity. Cardin said this week he’s not trying to block the deal.
“Ultimately we hope that the sale goes forward,” he said. “But there is progress that needs to be made in protecting the civilian population.”
Mali Sworn In Bah Ndaw as Transition President
Mali’s interim president, Bah Ndaw, chosen to head a transitional government following a coup last month, was sworn in during ceremonies in the capital Bamako on Friday, AFP journalists witnessed.
A committee appointed by the junta which seized power on August 18, toppling President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, selected Ndaw, a 70-year-old retired colonel, as interim president.
Ndaw is due to lead a transition government for a maximum of 18 months before organising national elections.
Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the military junta, was also sworn in as interim vice president.
The ceremony on Friday took place in a theatre filled with officials dressed in military fatigues, senior judges, and foreign diplomats.
During the ceremony, Supreme Court Chief Prosecutor Boya Dembele said the challenges facing both men were “enormous”.
“It will truly require a reformulation of the state,” said the judge, dressed in red fur-lined robes.
The swearing-in comes as the fragile Sahel state’s neighbours have leaned on the military junta to appoint civilians as interim president and prime minister.
The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) slapped sanctions on the poor country on August 20 to push for a swift return to civilian rule.
A decision by the bloc on whether to ease the measure is possible on Friday, according to former Nigerian president and ECOWAS mediator Goodluck Jonathan.
“We are optimistic that this event will signal the beginning of the return to normalcy in Mali,” he said on Twitter on Thursday night, referring to the swearing in of interim-government leaders.
Last month’s coup followed weeks of mass protests against Keita, spurred by frustrations over a brutal jihadist conflict, perceived corruption and the country’s slumping economy.
Mali has struggled to quell an eight-year-old Islamist insurgency which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.
Imo State Bans Traffic Agents, Task Forces Over Bribery
Uzodinma Bans Traffic Agents, Task Forces Over Bribery
The Executive Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, has restricted all traffic agents and task forces from operating in the state over bribery and extortions.
Declan Emelumba, the state commissioner for Information and Strategy, disclosed this at the Government House in Owerri on Thursday.
Checks revealed that the task force team that operates from Heroes’ Square still demands as much as N27,000 fines from people arrested. A shocking situation that has plunged the limited resources of hardworking Imo people.
However, the information commissioner, who described the task force as “illegal”, said the state government has sanctioned its personnel.
Emelumba said, “The governor has since banned all traffic agents and task forces in line with the desire of the people.”
FG Puts Nine-year Presidential Jet Up For Sale
The Federal Government has put up for sale a jet in the presidential fleet, Hawker 4000 aircraft with registration number, 5N-FGX/: RC 066.
The business-size jet which entered into service in December 2011, has capacity for nine passengers and three crew members.
Findings indicate that only 73 Hawker 4000 aircraft were manufactured by Hawker Beechcraft between 2001 and 2013 and they were sold for $22.91m each as of 2012.
The FG in a published advert on Wednesday disclosed that the aircraft with a range of 3,190-nautical mile had flown for 1,768 hours.
It said the aircraft could be inspected at the Presidential Air Fleet’s hangar located at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Interested buyers were requested to submit their closed bid to the Chairman, Committee for Sale of Aircraft, Office of the National Security Adviser, care of Special Services Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
In an advertisement published in some national dailies on Wednesday, prospective buyers were directed to submit a refundable bank draft for $50,000 to the committee with the bid.
It also said that all the bids should be quoted in dollars.
The notice read, “Please note that all bids must be submitted within one week of this publication.
“Background check is required as a pre-qualification for the bid. Prospective bidders who want to inspect the aircraft will be granted access within one week from this advertisement.”
The Presidency had similarly in 2016 put up for sale two presidential aircraft, a Falcon 7X executive jet and Hawker 4000, in line with the directive of the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), that aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet should be reduced to cut down on waste.
The government also said some aircraft in the fleet would be handed over to the Nigeria Air Force for its operations. It could not be confirmed if this had been done.
According to the Presidency, the PAF has 10 aircraft and they include Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or Air Force One), one Gulfstream 550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Sidley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters.
Reports said each of the two Falcon 7X jets were purchased in 2010 for $51.1m, while the Gulfstream 550 costs $53.3m.
The Senior Special Assistant, (Media and Publicity) to the President, Garba Shehu, had yet to respond to inquiries on the number of presidential aircraft sold so far, as of the time of filing this report.
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