In 2018, President Buhari hurriedly withdrew $496M from the excess crude account without the approval of the senate as is stipulated by the Nigerian constitution to pay for 12 Super Tucano planes. In a letter sent after the money had already been withdrawn, Buhari deliberately left them in the dark as to the model of the planes and told the senate that he was rushing to meet a deadline. That is the first red flag as far as the purported $496M purchase of 12 Super Tucano light assault airplanes is concerned. Was our President being duped by fraudsters?
The US government (which sent us $40M in aid just weeks ago by the way) would ordinarily buy and hand us those planes if they could, considering our well-publicized fight against terror and not set a deadline for the purchase of fighter planes from a defense contractor operating in its territory. It was absurd. But somebody played his card well.
The Bukola Saraki led senate wasn’t Buhari’s rubber stamp. It would grill him or anyone he sends over on the costs of those planes after finding out all there is to know about them. Buhari then would be forced to disclose the model and why he is paying a staggering $41M each for them when a quick search will reveal an A 29 model ranges from $25M to $30M at the very most.
An article I stumbled on by The Defence Post about a week ago made things explicitly clear. The man didn’t want anyone knowing how much was really going to be spent on those planes. The US government has to approve arms requests to defense contractors and it turns out the US Department of Defense issued a press release on Wednesday 28th November 2018 saying the Pentagon had awarded a $329M contract to the Sierra Nevada for the construction of 12 A 29 Super Tucano light assault airplanes for the Nigerian Air Force.
Not only that, a caveat was included in the undefinitized contract for the sum not to exceed $344M.That answers why Buhari hurriedly withdrew $496M; a staggering $167M more than the contract sum. Be clear on this, there was never any ambiguity as to the price he claims to have paid for that planes-$ 496M!! And at no point did he say it included other purchases.
There were media reports as early as February 2018 that Buhari had paid for the planes and not until April 17th, 2018 did the Senate get his letter explaining why the payment had to be quick. HOW DID BUHARI PAY IN EARLY 2018 FOR A CONTRACT THAT WASN’T EVEN AWARDED TILL LATE THAT YEAR? The press release from the US Department of Defense also clearly states that payment would be made shortly after the award of the contract. Technically, Buhari couldn’t have paid for those planes any earlier than 28th November 2018 despite having written to the senate 7 months,2 weeks and 3 days before that saying he didn’t seek their approval in accordance with our laws because he had to rush payment. It is as clear as day, Buhari is not being honest. When he sought and got approval from the governors to withdraw $1bn from the Excess Crude Account to tackle insecurity, quite a number of people screamed to high heavens about it being a ploy to reserve money for the 2019 elections. Buhari’s dubious purchase has all but confirmed that.
The contract entered into on our behalf by the US government with the Sierra Nevada for those 12 planes clearly states that the contract sum is $329M and that it must not exceed $344M.That is a term on which the validity of the contract stands so it is not in any way possible for Buhari to pay more than that amount. He owes us $167M or at the very least, $152M.
Before I read the Defence Post article, I had said much earlier that there was a great chance the Americans used the shady plane purchase to scare Buhari behind the scenes into releasing activist, Omoyele Sowore. They had him by the balls so bad, he added former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki as a bonus; a man who ironically, Buhari is prosecuting for embezzling funds meant to fight Boko haram. Even without this piece of overwhelming evidence, the $41M Buhari claimed to have paid for each of the 12 light assault planes was just too outrageous. The fact that they weren’t forthcoming with the model of the planes meant they were hiding something.
Just days ago, the US raised alarm over Buhari’s plan to hand $100M out of an Abacha loot they had recovered to Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu and Buhari’s people are denying without being confrontational. They don’t want to make an enemy of the Americans.
Now it is out in the open, the United States government entered into a $329M contract for 12 A 29 Super Tucano light assault planes with the Sierra Nevada; planes President Buhari claims to have paid $496M for. Buhari owes us an explanation as to where $167M of that sum went.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is based in Kano