By Edwin Nwachukwu
The U.S. says it will in 2020 deliver the 12 Super Tucano fighter jets and other weapons it agreed to sell to Nigeria to combat Boko Haram insurgents and other extremist groups.
A senior U.S. Department of State official made the disclosure during a background briefing with selected journalists at the U.S. Consul General’s Residence on Sunday in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The official, who confirmed that the Nigerian government had paid for the war planes, said sale of the aircraft with weapons and services worth over 400 million dollars included bombs and rockets.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that the propeller-driven plane with reconnaissance, surveillance and attack capabilities is made by Brazil’s Embraer.
Embraer’s second production line is in Florida in a partnership between Embraer and privately held Sierra Nevada Corp of Sparks, Nevada.
The Super Tucano is said to cost more than 10 million dollars each and the price could go much higher depending on the configuration. It is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT 6 engine.
On the planned visit by President Muhammadu Buhari to the White House on April 30, the official said the Nigerian leader would be the first African president to meet U.S. President Donald Trump.
“We are excited about the planned visit by President Buhari as the first African leader to be engaged by President Donald Trump at the White House.
“The most important is that it is in Washington. It will be a very high level meeting; it will help the U.S. to also understand Nigeria’s projection.
“There will be independent conversation on security, governance, the Lake Chad Basin and Nigeria’s role as a democratic leader in the region,’’ the U.S. government official said.
Commenting on Nigeria’s 2019 general elections, the official said: “U.S. will remain non-partisan as it had the commitment to continue to support Nigeria’s elections.
“Will continue to help Nigeria’s security agencies to build capacity, not only in Nigeria but other countries in Africa,’’ the senior U.S Department of State official said.
On the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the official noted that the electoral umpire had benefited from the U.S. in several ways in ensuring level playing field for all interested parties.
The official, however, tasked the Nigerian media to be professional in their reportage as the 2019 elections get close.
“The media should be able to inform the public on the processes leading to the election proper; you need to educate the public on the importance of Permanent Voter Card (PVC), and this should not be left to INEC alone to handle.
“The media should allow transparency in their relationship with politicians and in carrying out their responsibilities,’’ he added.