Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, says criticism of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari contributed to delaying the delivery of the Super Tucano fighter jets ordered from the United States.
In October 2021, the federal government announced the delivery of 12 A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets expected from the United States.
In a statement on Sunday, Shehu said the jets were requested in 2015, but the delivery of the jets was initially delayed over concerns raised by the US on religious issues in Nigeria.
The presidential spokesman said the persistent lobbying of the US congress by opponents of the Buhari administration “who had lost the previous election” also exacerbated the situation.
According to the him, “religious supporters”, including Matthew Kukah, Catholic bishop of Sokoto diocese, joined the “opponents” who criticised the federal government.
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“In 2015, the then newly-elected Buhari government requested US military support in the form of Super Tucano jet fighters for the Nigerian Air Force,” he said.
“The Nigerian military, security, and intelligence services repeatedly made this request. The US administration of the time concurred: the delivery of such jets would help deliver a critical turning point in Nigeria’s struggle against jihadist terrorists across the Sahel.
“Yet, two years later, that jet delivery was rescinded, the reasons given that unless Nigeria improved its religious relations between Christianity and Islam then US support would not be forthcoming in this, and many other areas.
“Such views were compounded by the constant lobbying of US Congress by the opponents of the Nigerian government who had lost the previous election, and many of their southern religious supporters – including Bishop Mathew Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Diocese of Sokoto, who, unsurprising, provides a supportive quote for the dustcover of the new edition of Campbell’s book. (Kukah even took to addressing the US Congress himself, briefing his audience on the history of coups in Nigeria – without, of course, mentioning that none had occurred since 1993, some 29 years ago).
“Fortunately, now today under a new US administration these jets have been delivered, and with it, a serious blow against the terrorists — with the supreme leader of Islamic State in West Africa and scores of other leaders of the group eliminated in airstrikes.
“It is all very well to claim it is in the United States’ interests to help Nigeria become an even-better democracy and stable country. It is quite another to forever avoid mentioning the last coup was 29 years ago, and that since 1999 Nigeria has enjoyed 23 unbroken years of democratically elected governments and peaceful transition between them.
“It is also inconsistent to preach the need for stability but needlessly delay sharing military equipment in the form of jets — not least when it is now proven they would have helped Nigeria much earlier defeat the terrorists who threaten our country.”
Shehu added that the US and Nigeria will continue to partner in “fighting terrorism in and out of the subregion”.