To maintain the fleet of aircraft used in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) spent more than N30 billion in just 11 months.
The Federal Government justifying the controversial $1 billion Excess Crude Account (ECA) fund approved by the National Executive Council (NEC) for anti-terror war, said the aircraft being used for the battle, including fighter jets and helicopters, altogether consumed 64,021.08 litres of fuel per day.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed told journalists in Lagos that the aircraft used in fighting the insurgents fly about 30 sorties a day consuming as much as 64,021.08 litres of aviation fuel at N275 per litre bringing the daily expenditure on fuel to N15,153,428.25.
The NAF also expended a total of N20,019,513,739.88 buying spare parts for combat aircraft between January and November 2017 just as consumables for the aircraft — engine oil, plugs and others — gulped N3, 863,600 monthly, amounting to some N46,363,200.00.
According to Mohammed, about $5 million was spent on ammunition in just 42 days — between November 5 and December 17, 2017.
Meanwhile, The Guardian has confirmed that government plans to spend nearly half of the $1 billion— now a subject of controversy — approved by NEC on the purchase of 12 Super Tucano A-29 ground attack aircraft from the United States.
Reuters’ report of August 29 had disclosed that the headquarters of the US Department of Defence, the Pentagon, had informed the Congress of the sale of 12 Super Tucano A-29 ground attack aircraft and weapons to Nigeria to fight insurgency in the Northeast. The 12 aircraft would cost about N181 billion as at the time of the deal.
The Reuters’ report had quoted Pentagon’s Defence Security Cooperation Agency as confirming the Nigeria high-tech aircraft sale agreement that was reached in April in an announcement to the US legislature. Although the Pentagon’s communication of the sale of the 12 ground attack aircraft evaluated the transaction at $593m (N181bn), government’s latest announcement regarding the transaction value pegged it at $490 million.
The Information Minister, in confirming the deal said, “the 12 Super Tucano aircraft recently approved for sale to Nigeria by the U.S. government costs a whopping $490 million; yet this is government to government contract, and the costs of spares, munitions and other consumables are not included.”
“An agile, propeller-driven plane with reconnaissance and surveillance as well as attack capabilities,” the Super Tucano A-29 is made by Brazil’s Embraer. It has a sophisticated targeting gear.
Mohammed, in asking Nigerians to support the campaign for adequate funding for the anti-terror war in the North East and other parts of the country, wondered whether $1 billion was too much “for the military to tackle these challenges at this time.
“I say not by any stretch of imagination. After all, security of lives and property is at the core of the existence of any government, and the NGF understands this quite well, going by its action in approving the withdrawal from the ECA.”
He stressed that, aside from the expenditure by the air force, “we have not even talked of the army or the navy, which are also fully involved in tackling internal security challenges in the country. Neither have we included the operating cost of the Nigerian Air Force in the Niger Delta to curb pipeline vandalism, in the North West to North Central to curtail herdsmen-farmers clashes or kidnappings, armed robberies and separatism in other parts of the country.”
Abuja-based security analyst, Babangida Aliyu, in a telephone interview on the matter, however, expressed reservations regarding the urgency of the proposed $1billion additional spending on terror war. He described it as potentially ill advised, especially in the context of the concerns over 2019 general elections.