Federal Govt set to deploy fighter jets against bandits

The Federal Government is set for the deployment of 12 Super Tucano jets against bandits as part of concerted efforts by President Muhammadu Buhari to end terrorism before 2023.

As a prelude to the deployment, government has also started perfecting the conditions for the release of a gazette, which will legally classify bandits as terrorists.

Already, the government has secured a court order declaring bandits as terrorists.

But, the United States (U.S.) has not given a blank cheque to Nigeria on the use of the fighter jets.

The U.S. has floated a monthly schedule to monitor the deployment of the jets, the battle grounds and the purpose of the deployment.

Some U.S. officers have been coming to Nigeria to evaluate the use of the jets in line with the terms of sale, it was learnt yesterday.

Sources said the Super Tucano jets will be deployed as soon as the gazette against bandits is out.

The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice last night confirmed that the procedures were almost met.

It was learnt that the Armed Forces, top government officials and some states and communities held hostage were excited about the news of imminent deployment.

A source, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said the court declaration of bandits as terrorists was an impetus to the war against insurgency.

The source said: “You know that the Federal Government, on its own, went to court and got the judgment declaring bandits as terrorists. This has excited everyone.

“The American suppliers of the aircraft needed to be assured that Nigeria will keep to the terms of the sale, which is to strictly use them against terrorists.

“Now that the courts have said so, you should expect the deployment of the aircraft as soon as all processes, including the gazetting of the judgment, are completed.

“But, even before this is done, new platforms are being received and deployed and you can see the devastating effects of the nation’s airpower on the terrorists and bandits in the Northeast and the Northwest.

The source added: “Last week’s Nigeria Air Force bombing of the camp of the notorious bandit, Turji, in Zamfara State, is a case in point. Things are changing very rapidly.”

When contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said: “We in the presidency are excited by the decision of the court.”

The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice said the procedures for the gazette on bandits were almost done.

The Special Adviser on Media to the AGF, Dr. Umaru Gwandu, said: “The Federal Government has published the proscription order in two national dailies as a requirement.

“The Federal Government has also ordered that the order be in the gazette. I am optimistic that the Nigerian public will soon see the published order in the gazette. I think if it is not out, it could be out any moment from now.”

However, the U.S. has not given a blank cheque to Nigeria on the use of the Super Tucano jets.

Apart from limiting the jets for campaign only against terrorists in the North, a US team has been monthly auditing their operations.

The condition made the Federal Government to apply to a High Court to declare bandits as terrorists, said the source.

Also, the U.S. has been “very strict” in evaluating the deployment of the jets to avoid abuse by the military,

The source added: “Every month, a team from the U.S. used to come to audit the deployment of the jets. They have asked us to ensure that the number of hours of operations will be registered in the box; where the jets have been to for operations and for what specific purposes.

“They sold the aircraft to us but they did not give us a blank cheque on how to use these aircraft. We have kept to the terms and we are winning the war. This is why the President directed the Armed Forces to end the war before his exit in 2023.”

In October, the U.S. Principal Deputy National Security Advisor, Jonathan Finer, said the terms of the agreement during the sale of the 12 Tucano aircraft were unambiguous.

Finer said: “We are pleased to deepen our security cooperation with the Nigerian government. I think we made 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 is 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.”

(THE NATION)