Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd) said weekend that airpower and the right military equipment would turn the tide against insurgency and armed banditry.
This comes as the United States said the security cooperation between the US and Nigeria would strengthen the country’s capabilities to secure land and sea borders and combat terrorism in the North-east of the country.
A US delegation made up of the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Mary Beth Leonard; Foreign Policy Adviser, Russell Schiebel; and US Defence Adviser to Nigeria, Col. Andrew Clerk; and the head of the United States African Command (AFRICOM) held bi-lateral talks with Magashi last week.
In a chat with THISDAY at the weekend, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Minister of Defence, Mr. Mohammad Abdulkadir, said the US pledged support for Nigeria’s effort to tackle security challenges.
“They pledged support for Nigeria’s efforts to tackle security challenges and part of it is the aspect of equipment. The minister appealed to them to consider releasing the 12 Super Tucano aircraft.
“They are supposed to supply six; they supplied one. We are still expecting five more. He laid emphasis on air power required to tackle the problem of insecurity”, he said.
“The minister told the delegation that if we are able to get the equipment to carry out this fight, it’s as good as we have won the fight.
“He appealed to them to ensure that the remaining Super Tucano aircraft are supplied in good time. He also appealed to them to help them develop the army’s aviation unit”.
A statement posted on United States Embassy website, Abuja quoted the Commander of the US African Command (AFRICOM), General Stephen Townsend, as saying that
“The bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the US is built on several pillars including security cooperation.
“US Africa Command will do our part to advance the security cooperation pillar, so that Nigerians can enjoy the more secure future they all deserve.”
It said “as close partners, the US and Nigeria have worked at ensuring the collaborative relationship continues to grow to include a commitment to interoperability.
“Nigeria purchased 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, which will be delivered later this year. Nigeria’s purchase of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is another example of their commitment to interoperability and security in the region”.
The US added that its economic relationship with Nigeria is already strong, adding that it was looking forward to the continued strengthening of security relationships.
According to the US, Nigeria’s leaders understand the importance of a collaborative approach to ensuring stability in West Africa and partnering on areas of mutual interest.
The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Leonard, said “our security cooperation partnership with Nigeria’s military will strengthen the country’s capabilities to secure land and sea borders, enhance overall security and combat terrorism in the North-east.”
Magashi had at the meeting last week said a full-fledged Nigerian Army Aviation was a critical component in the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency campaigns in the country.
He said Nigeria would appreciate the US intervention to fully establish the Aviation Unit of the Nigerian Army as a force multiplier in the on-going fight against ISWAP/terrorists in the country.
The minister thanked the United States for its technical and manpower training support towards enhancing the nation’s capacity and capabilities to end insecurity bedevilling the country.
While recalling specific instances of US strategic support to the Nigerian Military, he mentioned progress recorded in the supply of Super Tucano aircraft, Thunder Boat for Maritime Operations and logistics to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) for enhanced combat efficiency and effectiveness.
On human rights issues, he told the US delegation that the Nigerian military is adopting international best practices to reduce collateral damages in the fight against terrorism.