From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The National Assembly Joint Committee on Defence and Air Force has concluded an assessment tour of six of the 12 units of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft ordered by the Federal Government to further deepen battle against insurgency and other criminalities in Nigeria.
The Vice Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Air Force, Abass Adigun, made this known in a statement from Florida, United States on Monday ahead of the delivery of the six aircraft to Nigeria in July.
Adigun, representing Ibadan North-East/Ibadan South-East Federal Constituency of Oyo State, said the delegation was led by Senator Michael Nnachi, representing Ebonyi South Senatorial. He added that apart from the six aircraft expected in Nigeria in July, and the remaining six would be delivered to the country before the end of October.
The lawmaker, who retired from the United States Navy to join politics in Nigeria, explained that the aircraft is equipped with state-of-the-art gadgets that enable it to carry out a series of military missions, including close air support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and can fly on an unpaved runway, among other capabilities.
Adigun, fondly called Agboworin, noted that on the delivery of the six aircraft in July, the Nigeria Air Force (NAF), would be positioned as 10th among countries, where Super Tucano planes are being used globally.
He stated that on arrival of the delegation in the US last week, they were received by officials from Embraer Defence Security Incorporated (EDSI), manufacturers of the Super Tucano aircraft, saying the leader of the delegation, Senator Nnachi, lauded the manufacturers for the quality of work done. But he did not hesitate to question why it has taken about four years to deliver the aircraft, despite the fact that Nigeria made full payment.
The head of the US Air Force Fighters and Advance Aircraft Directorate, Colonel Authur Ford, according to Adigun, explained: “The Colonel explained to us that the long duration was as a result of the challenged encountered, while they were configuring the Tucano aircraft. As a retiree of the US Navy, I know military hardware is not something you pick on the shelf. It takes time. More so, Nigeria gave them a specification that must be met in configuring the fighter plane.
“Ford also assures us that 10 out of the 12 aircraft are ready, while the remaining two are undergoing modification and integration to NAF specific operational configuration. He assures us further that the delivery date won’t change. He said the aircraft would come in handy for Nigeria in its long-running battle against terrorists and criminals.”
Adigun, however, said he was satisfied with the progress of work done on the aircraft as well as the quality of the gadgets. He assured Nigerians that insurgents would be rolled back and decimated once the aircraft arrive.
Members of the delegation also include Babajimi Benson from Lagos, Shehu Koko and Abubakar Maki. They were first received on arrival at Florida by the Nigerian Defence Attaché to the US, Air Commodore Jibrin Usman, the Lead Foreign Liaison Office on the A-29, Air Vice Marshal Sule Lawal and others.