The United States Government says the Federal Government is expected to deploy the Super Tucano aircraft only in the northern part of the country where Boko Haram terrorists have engaged the Nigerian state in a decade-long insurgency killing thousands and displacing millions.
This, therefore, precludes the possibility of the Federal Government deploying the security equipment in the South-East despite the designation of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra as a terrorist organisation and the setting up of the armed Eastern Security Network by IPOB.
The South-East has been the epicentre of a secessionist agitation threatening to break up the country.
Briefing journalists earlier in the week, the US Principal Deputy National Security Advisor, Jonathan Finer, at an event attended by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, said the terms of the agreement during the sale of the 12 Tucano aircraft were explicit.
Reacting to a question on whether the Tucano fighter planes might be deployed against secessionists in the South-East, Finer said the planes were an important platform for security, particularly in the North, expressing pleasure over the conclusion of the deal.
Finer said, “We are pleased to deepen our security cooperation with the Nigerian government. I think we made it very clear our expectations about this platform where it would be used and in the right way and we are always raising concerns when we have them and that it’s true with all our security partners around the world.
“This is an important platform for security, particularly in the North and we are pleased the transaction is finally concluded.”
However, the military had not been able to deploy the Tucano planes to crush the bandits in the North-West because the agreement signed with the United States was that the aircraft, bought from the US, would be deployed against terrorists and not bandits.
This implies that the fighter planes have only been deployed to fight Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East.
It was gathered that the complaints by the service chiefs led to the recent recommendation to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, by the Senate and the House of Representatives that bandits should be designated as terrorists, so the planes could be deployed against the bandits.
The Federal Government had ordered 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to aid its war against Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East. The aircraft were said to have cost $423milliion.
The US officials pointed out that the aircraft were designed in accordance with NAF’s specific operational configuration.
Also, a total of 64 pilots and maintainers from the Nigerian Air Force were trained to the US standards with the US Air Force’s 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Base in Georgia, United States.
MASSOB expresses worry over fighter planes
The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra says it fears the Federal Government will deploy the Tucano planes to attack Igbo youths agitating to secede from Nigeria.
It said the worry of its members was triggered by the killings and burning of houses in Igbo communities by the personnel of the Nigerian Army in Imo State in the name of reprisals.
The spokesperson for MASSOB, Samuel Edeson, told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that many innocent Igbo youths had been killed by security agents.
He added, “The Fulani herdsmen have been terrorising the entire Southern and Middle Belt region but the Federal Government has not tagged them terrorists or send soldiers after them. Their agenda is to annihilate Ndigbo and take over our God-given land but one thing is sure, evil will never overcome good.”