Nigeria has awarded a N180Bn contract to a US defence company, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), to customize and deliver a dozen light attack aircraft and weapons to the Nigerian Airforce (NAF).
SNC said in a statement last week that it is working with plane manufacturers, Embraer Defence & Security, to supply the 12 aircraft as requested by the government of Nigeria.
Negotiations for the supply of the aircraft was concluded as far back as August 2017 when the US Department of State approved the sale.
The aircraft are being made to order to assist the country deal with its domestic security issues that have got out of hand, including insurgency in the North East and highway banditry and kidnapping everywhere else in the country.
According to SNC, the NAF contract includes ground training devices, mission planning and debriefing systems, spares, ground support equipment, alternate mission equipment, and contractor support outside the US.
Although the company did not disclose the contract sum – which was valued at $595million in 2017 – the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompey, said in a recent media briefing that the planes would cost Nigeria $500million.
Mr. Pompey made the disclosure on 4 February 2020 when he addressed a joint press briefing with his Nigerian counterpart, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, in the wake of the immigration blow dealt on Nigeria and five other countries by the Trump Administration.
He told journalists at the briefing that the purchase package will include special training for air force military personnel on the law of armed conflict and human rights, as well as air-to-ground integration to minimize civilian harm in air operations.
Watch the (edited) exchange between Pompeo and Onyeama on the 12 planes below:
SNC issued a public statement on the purchase two days after the joint briefing, on 6 February.
Mr. Pompeo had said at the event that the purchase is part of the effort of the Trump Administration to support President Buhari’s “stated goal of creating a security force with the best training and modern weaponry.”
As the purchase had not been publicly disclosed by the Nigerian Government prior to the meeting between the two secretaries, Mr. Onyeama attempted to downplay the announcement, saying instead that “there are some fighter planes – A29 super Tucanos – that we hope to be able to procure.”
SNC Vice President, Taco Gilbert, said in his company’s statement that the aircraft are being customized to assist Nigerian Airforce with flight and combat training, close air support operations, surveillance and reconnaissance, counterinsurgency and irregular warfare operations.
Jackson Schneider who is President and CEO of Embraer Defence & Security – the joint contractor and aircraft manufacturer – said Nigeria’s purchase of the aircraft has admitted her into the club of “an international coalition that have purchased the A29 Tucano that is helping to bring peace to the world.”
Defence analysts say that the purchase represents one of the best concrete efforts being made by the Buhari administration to address the Boko Haram threat in particular.
Watch the exchange between Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Onyeama on whether Nigeria is about to purchase or has already purchased the fighter planes.