John Alechenu, Abuja
Five years after the anticipatory approval of $496,374,470 given by President Muhammadu Buhari, for the purchase of 12 A29 Super Tucano Aircraft without legislative approval, the Buhari Media Organisation and the Media Office of former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, are still quarrelling over the transaction.
The Buhari Media Organisation had in a statement titled: “Tucano Jets: Saraki lied, actually wanted to impeach Buhari on purchase,” accused the former Senate President of lying about playing a positive role leading up to the acquisition of the military hardware.
In the statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, the BMO said, “It has come to our notice that former Senate President and presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Bukola Saraki had been giving the impression that an intervention he spearheaded paved way for the sale of the aircraft to Nigeria.
“While we understand that he needed to make himself look good at a time he is seeking his party’s Presidential ticket, we make bold to say that the claim is far from the truth.
“A timeline of the interaction that led to the deal showed that then-President Donald Trump had, within one month in office, assured President Muhammadu Buhari, during a phone call in February 2017, of his readiness to support Nigeria’s plan to procure the counter-insurgency aircraft.”
In response, the Abubakar Bukola Saraki Media Office dismissed claims made by the BMO a product of an empty propaganda machine.
Head of the ABSMO, Mr Yusuf Olaniyonu, in a statement titled, “Tucano Jets: BMO’s Revisionist Antics Depict it as Empty Propaganda Machine – Saraki’s Office, said the attempt by the BMO to downplay the role played by the Saraki-led 8th National Assembly in getting the Americans to sell the set of aircraft to Nigeria, to fight Boko Haram terrorists in 2017, as “ a mere revisionist antic which depicts the group as an empty propaganda machine whose members lacks substance and simple understanding of the American system”.
Olaniyonu explained that the refusal of the US to sell military equipment to Nigeria at the time was based on provisions of Leahy’s law which prohibits the sale of arms and training to foreign militaries adjudged to be violators of the rights of their own citizens.
He noted that the BMO went to great extents to distort facts to push its argument.
Olaniyonu noted that while Buhari wrote to the Nigerian Senate on August 25, 2017, “The BMO did not do enough research to find out that as far back as April 12, 2017, Saraki had held a closed-door meeting with then US ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington where the sale of the Tucano Jets was the main issue for discussion.
“The US wanted to know if the National Assembly was in support of the sales. We refer BMO, Akinsiju, Madueke, and their ilks to a Vanguard newspaper report published on April 13, 2017, titled “Saraki, US ambassador meet over the sale of attack planes to Nigeria”.
“Also, on August 28, 2017, three days after Buhari notified the Nigerian Senate of the proposed sale of the Tucano Jets and three weeks after the Trump government briefed the American legislature about it, Saraki again received in the audience an 8-man US Congressional delegation headed by Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware in the National Assembly.
“The main issue for discussion was the sale of the Tucano Jets and the setting aside of the restriction imposed on Nigeria under the Leahy Law.”