THE reported approval of the United States of America’s Department of State to sell crucial military aircraft to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram represents a major policy shift which gladdens the hearts of all well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians. It shows that the government of President Donald Trump is genuine in its avowed determination to “stamp out radical Islamic terrorism” in all parts of the globe.
The deal, which is worth nearly $600 million (about N216 billion), involves the sale of 12 Super Tucano A-29 ground attack aircraft and associated materiel to help in finishing off the insurgency that has proved intractable over the past eight years.
A Wikipaedia entry on the capacity of the aircraft reads as follows: “The Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano, also named ALX or A-29, is a turboprop light attack aircraft designed for counter-insurgency, close air support, and aerial reconnaissance missions in low-threat environments, as well as providing pilot training. Designed to operate in high temperature and humidity conditions in extremely rugged terrain, the Super Tucano is highly manoeuvrable, has a low heat signature, and incorporates fourth-generation avionics and weapons systems to deliver precision-guided munitions.”
With such acquisition, the air dominance of the nation’s armed forces over the insurgents will be considerably augmented, and the effort to exterminate the terrorists is likely to go into irreversible gear.
We commend the Trump administration for this change of policy direction from what its ex-President Barack Obama had adopted towards Nigeria. In October 2014, the former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, had explained that allegations of “human rights abuses” against captured Boko Haram fighters were behind the refusal of his country to sell arms and ammunition to Nigeria. He pointed to the Leahy Law, which forbade the sale of US weapons to countries that violate human rights.
Unfortunately, America did not consider that the terrorists, who were capturing territories, slaughtering innocent citizens like chicken and creating widespread human misery, were violating human rights. The American government went beyond refusing to sell arms to Nigeria and even blocked efforts to buy from other countries, which led the Goodluck Jonathan government to turn to Russia for the armaments which helped in the six-week surge in February/March 2015.
We are happy that President Muhammadu Buhari’s pleas for America to relax its emphasis on the Leahy Law has been met with a favourable response.
It is a pleasant irony that the Trump administration, which has severally been linked with true or made-up belligerent rhetoric towards Nigerians, is far more willing than the Obama regime to do strategic business with our country towards removing a major threat to our national unity, the Boko Haram insurgency.
We hope this will be extended to other areas such as restoring America’s full patronage of Nigeria’s oil.