The United States has warned Nigeria that the use of the Super Tucano must comply with international norms as articulated in the United Nations Charter.
The US gave the warning on Thursday as the Nigerian military was set to deploy the Super Tucano aircraft in the North-West and North-Central after the Federal Government officially designated bandits in the regions as terrorists,
But the US while advising Nigeria said the Federal Government should not deploy the aircraft in operations that encroach on traditional law enforcement role which is under police authority.
The Acting Director, Defence Information, Air Commodore Wap Maigida, allayed fear of civilian casualties during the deployment of the fighter jets against bandits in the forests.
Earlier on Thursday, the Press Attaché, US Embassy, Jeanne Clark, in reaction to a statement by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), that the Federal Government had secured approval to deploy the jet fighters which were acquired from the US, against bandits who had just been designated as terrorists, acknowledged the security challenges confronting Nigeria.
The US, however admonished the government of Nigeria and the military to address insecurity while respecting human rights
The military had been reluctant to deploy the aircraft outside the North-East because of the conditions attached to the sale of the aircraft which bordered on human rights.
Clark in her statement said the US government was, however, pleased that the Nigerian Air Force had used the A-29 Super Tucanos successfully against Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province.
She stated, “We are pleased the Nigerian Air Force has used the A-29 Super Tucanos successfully against Boko Haram and ISIS-WA. The sale of the A-29 Super Tucanos is governed by the US Arms Export Control Act, the Foreign Assistance Act, and other applicable statutes, and their use must conform with international norms as articulated in the United Nations Charter.
“The AECA applies to sales to all of our allies and partners and it generally cautions against uses that encroach on traditional law enforcement roles. We are proud to partner with the government of Nigeria towards shared goals.”
A top military officer said, “We now have the green light to deploy the Super Tucano aircraft. Based on the gazette issued by the AGF, all persons kidnapping and killing in the North-Central and North-West are terrorists. Of course, there is a need to separate armed robbers from terrorists.
“So, our operations will centre on forests and known bandits camps. The US will continue to assist with training to prevent the bombing of IDP camps and other civilian habitations.”
Also, the Acting Director, Defence Information, Air Commodore Wap Maigida, said the fighter jets would be used for intelligence driven operations.
When asked if measures were in place that would ensure that innocent citizens in bandits’ captivity would not be affected during operations, the air force spokesman said, “The Armed Forces of Nigeria has respect for human rights and we would only use it (Super Tucano) on terrorists. We understand the aircraft is a very strategic aircraft and it would be used for highly intelligence driven operations. Anything we are hitting would be terrorists. I can tell you the pilots have gone through rigorous training to be able to use the equipment. We are assuring Nigerians that those fighter jets would be well utilised.”
In the past, the Air Force during some missions against mistakenly bombed civilian targets.
On 17 January 2017, a Nigerian Air Force jet mistakenly bombed an IDP camp near the Cameroonian border in Rann, Borno State killing at least 115 people including six aid workers while more than 100 others were injured. On April 09, 2020, a military air strike on Shokotoko village in Damboa LGA, Borno State resulted in numerous civilian casualties.
On September 17, 2021 no fewer than nine people were killed and 23 others injured in an air strike at the Buhari village in Yobe. On November 12, 2021 air strikes launched by a Nigerian military fighter jet at Fulani herdsmen settlements in the Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State, reportedly killed about 1,500 cows belonging to the herdsmen.
A former Army Intelligence Officer, Col Hassan Stan-Labo (retd), in an interview with one of our correspondents, urged the military pilots to be cautious while going on these operations, stressing that if the supreme price must be paid by some victims in the interest of the country, so be it.
He said, “The key word here is caution on the part of the pilots. Nigerian combat pilots are some of the best trained in precision bombing. These pilots will bring all these expertise to play in the course of execution. However, wars are never fought and won on the platter of sentiments and emotions.
“The enemy should never be given the freedom to alter your battle plans or strategy by whatever guise including the use of victims as shield. If it becomes necessary that the supreme price must be paid by some victims in the national interest, then so be it. They like soldiers have given their today for our tomorrow. They died as heroes.”Follow us on social media