Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Almost a month after the United States approved the sale of 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has conveyed Nigeriaâ€™s gratitude to the American government for the kind gesture.
Osinbajo, who announced Nigeriaâ€™s gratitude on his Twitter handle, said the nation was grateful to the U.S. government for the decision which he said would aid Nigeriaâ€™s fight against the insurgency in the North-east.
â€œWe are thankful to the U.S. Govt. for its decision to sell Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria to aid its fight against the insurgency in the NE,â€ the vice-president tweeted.
The US Department of Defence had on August 3 approved the sale of 12 attack planes, known as A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, bombs and other ammunition valued at $593 million, to Nigeria.
The approval was preceded by the delivery of a certification of foreign military sale to the U.S. Congress, in accordance with the countryâ€™s law.
The aircraft are reportedly equipped with â€œwing-mounted machine guns, weapons integration with advanced surveillanceâ€¦ precision-guided bombs, and even air-to-air missilesâ€.
Aside the original intention to deploy the aircraft to fight Boko Haram in the North-east, the planes will also be used to combat smuggling and trafficking in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.
The U.S. decision, which came after years of reluctance by the Barack Obama administration, was eventually spurred by a resolve that the security interests of the country needed to be served by providing assistance to Nigeria in its running battles against terrorism.
Beyond the sale of the planes, the decision also involves the commitment of the U.S. government to provide training and support to the Nigerian military including â€œinstruction on rules of engagement and human rights to help prevent civilian casualtiesâ€.
Trumpâ€™s US Ready to Support Nigeria
Meanwhile, the Donald Trump administration, which approved the sale of the military hardware, has reiterated its readiness to support the Nigerian government to accomplish its mission of defeating the Boko Haram insurgency and restore normalcy in the North-east.
Senator Christopher Coons, Head of the U.S. Congress Delegation, stated this during an assessment visit Tuesday to the Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, and epicentre of the insurgency.
Coons said the visit was designed to appraise the performance of the military and to enable him to understand the challenges facing the Nigerian Armed Forces in accomplishing its mission to defeat the insurgents.
â€œI am pleased to head the delegation of the U.S. Congress; three Senators and three House members to come and hear about the hard work of the military in the North-east of Nigeria.
â€œThe U.S. is strongly supporting the hard work of the military in combating terrorism and we are glad for the opportunity to know how we can support Nigeria in combating terrorism,â€ he said.
Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, said the visit would strengthen the relationship between the Nigerian government and the U.S.
Attahiru said the delegation visited the Army Command and Control Centre to appraise its performance and determine how they could support the military to accomplish the counter insurgency operations.
â€œThe U.S. promised that it will soon equip the military with fighter jets and other state-of-the-art combat equipment to enable us to root out Boko Haram from their enclaves once and for all,â€ he said.
He observed that the refusal of the U.S. to sell weapons to Nigeria in the past was caused by the absence of commitment on the part of the government in power at that time, but explained that the American government had shown interest as a result of the zeal of the present government.
Members of the U.S. Congress delegation included Senators Gary Peters, Michael Bennet and Representatives Lisa Rochester, Terri Sewel, Charlie Dent, Barbara Lee and Fedrica Wilson, among others.