By Favour Goodness
A former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell has expressed fear that the recently acquired Super Tucano fighter jets may be hijacked by bandits and terrorists.
Campbell relates his prediction to the fall of the Afghanistan government and the takeover of similar high-grade military jet fighter by the Talibans.
The Afghan government had also acquired 23 Super Tucanos from US to combat the Talibans but with the collapse of the Afghan government and the fall of Kabul, not all of the aircraft have been accounted for. Some Afghan pilots flew their planes out of the country. However, at least one Super Tucano is now in the hands of the Taliban.
Campbell who wrote for CFR, explained the instances of how terrorist groups seized other military equipment in Nigeria, expressing worries on whether the aircraft will be used to combat terrorism or used against other targets such as the Biafran agitators or Delta militants.
“Though it seems unlikely at present, there is also the potential that a Super Tucano could fall into the hands of a jihadi terrorist group.
“Now that the Super Tucanos are part of the Nigerian Air Force, an issue will be how they are used. Will they be used only against jihadi terrorists in the North, or will there be the temptation to use them against other targets, such as Biafran separatists, Delta militants, or even cattle rustlers? Broader use increases the potential for civilian casualties.
“A Biafran separatist movement, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), is suing to block the sale in a Washington, D.C. court,” he said.
Nigeria separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had sued U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over the sale of attack planes.
IPOB said the Nigerian government will use the warplanes to attack its supporters.
Also some critics, human rights groups and some members of the U.S. Congress had opposed the sale of the aircraft to Nigeria, citing the constant abuse of human rights by the regime of Muhammadu Buhari.
NAF officially inducted the six A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets on Tuesday, to aid its fight against insecurity in the country. Nigeria was said to have purchased the A-29s at about $500 million through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. The American embassy in Abuja had described it as the largest sale in sub-Saharan Africa.
During the induction ceremony of the Super Tucano jets where journalists were denied entrance, U.S. Department of Defence leaders who were also present said that the “aircraft will assist the Nigerian Air Force in their fight against violent extremist organisations including the Islamic State West Africa Province.”
U.S. is providing $36.1 million in infrastructure as support at the Kanji Air Base, where the Super Tucanos will be housed a statement by the embassy disclosed.
No few than 64 Nigerian pilots have been trained at an American air force base on how to handle the aircraft.