New Telegraph

February 28, 2024

Group faults Saraki on Tucano jets

The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has accused former Senate President Bukola Saraki of rewriting history in a bid to claim credit for the United States deal with Nigeria on the purchase of the Super Tucano light-attack aircraft for the ongoing war against insurgency. This is in the aftermath of suggestions by Saraki that the $593 million deal would not have scaled through without his intervention as the then head of the 8th Senate. BMO said in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke that facts on ground showed that former US President Donald Trump gave his approval to the deal within one month of assuming office in 2017.

The statement read in part: “It has come to our notice that former Senate President and presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bukola Saraki, had been giving the impression that an intervention he spearheaded paved way for the sale of the aircraft to Nigeria.

“While we understand that he needed to make himself look good at a time he is seeking his party’s presidential ticket, we make bold to say that the claim is far from the truth. “A timeline of the interaction that led to the deal showed that then President Donald Trump had, within one month in office, assured President Muhammadu Buhari, during a phone call in February 2017, of his readiness to support Nigeria’s plan to procure the counter-insurgency aircraft.

“By April, there were reports in the international media that the U.S. Congress would be notified of the sale in the coming weeks. So, it was not surprising that the Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified the U.S. Congress on August 2, 2017, indicating who the contractors are and how the proposed sale would not have an adverse impact on U.S. defence readiness.”

The group noted that the Senate under the watch of Senator Saraki actually threatened to impeach President Buhari for making that move. “It all began on August 25 when President Buhari notified the Senate in writing that he had granted anticipatory approval for the release of $496.3 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) directly to the Treasury of the U.S. government for the purchase of the 12 aircraft. “The presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had explained it, in line with the principle of doctrine of necessity, and cited how previous administrations had taken similar steps, but the Saraki-led Senate threatened to impeach the President for making what it called an extra budgetary spending.

“The impeachment threat was made through a motion by Chairman Senate Committee on Public Account, Senator Mathew Urhogide, but was countered by APC Senators led by Senator Abu Ibrahim, who insisted that since the establishment of the ECA, no government had ever sent a formal request to the National Assembly for approval for appropriation of funds.

“It was not until about four months after the deal was sealed, that the Senate leadership showed any form of support and that was when a US congressional delegation came into the country. “So, it beggars belief that Saraki could seek to claim credit for the purchase of counter-insurgency aircraft that he tried to block on the grounds of extra-budgetary approval,” the group said. It added that the PDP presidential aspirant should look for something else other than the Tucano jets to convince his party members to give him their support.

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