Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is expecting arrival of war-planes and helicopters from Pakistan and Russia to boost its fleets as the war against terror progresses, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar. Air Marshal Abubakar said: “I want to say that we have been enjoying support from other countries. (Sometimes arm procurement) is shrouded in a lot of politics. Unfortunately, I’m not a politician, so I cannot be able to say much on that. But what I can tell you is that right now as I speak to you, we are expecting the Pakistani Chief of Air Staff in Nigeria soon. Pakistan has accepted to sell 10 trainer airplanes.
And that is why the Pakistan Chief of Air Staff is coming for the induction ceremony, which is going to take place in Kaduna. “We are really getting support from many countries. Similarly, we have trained so many people in Pakistan, China. In the US, we have pilots that are training right now. We have other pilots that have just finished training from the United Kingdom.
We have additional pilots that are training in South Africa. We have more pilots that are training in the Egyptian Air Force and so many other places including Russia. We are really getting support,” he said.
On the competence of Nigerian fighter pilots, Abubakar said “In the last 18 months, we have flown almost 3000 hours with no incident. In terms of competence I can tell you that the Nigerian Air Force pilots are amongst the most competent.
Because the training curriculum is very clear. And that is why now in the Air Force you look at the wings, pilots wear wings. We have categorized the wings according to their skill levels. We also organized simulation training for our pilots; we organized evaluation visits where pilots are evaluated without any notice. We have also sent over 700 personnel of the NAF to different parts of the world to train and acquire the skills required for them to be effective.
The Chief of Air Staff said the air force is currently assisting the Nigerian Army and Navy in the North and South in countering criminal activities of terrorists and militants through operational strategy, air interdiction strategy and soft-core strategy.
He explained that the main objective of is to create an enabling environment for the ground and surface forces, to be able to operate with little or no hindrance. He continued: “Another sub strategy under this is the reactivation of airplanes.
We have embarked on the reactivation of airplanes and today as I speak to you we are on the thirteenth aircraft. What I mean by reactivation is that aircrafts that were not in involved in any fight before the coming of the present Federal Government; they were parked before but are today part of the fight. “The 13th aircraft as I speak to you is being worked upon in Yola and we are hoping that before the end of this month that airplane will be flying. When you train, you must reactivate the platform to be used in flying.”
The Air Force boss also denied a recent rumour of helicopter crash in Makurdi. Explaining the incident involving Agusta AW 101 helicopter handed over to NAF by President Muhammadu Buhari, he said: “What happened in Makurdi was not a crash. Immediately we received the aircraft from the Presidency, we took one of them to Kaduna to paint it into desert camouflage. They removed the seal of the President and painted it into a combat machine. “When they finished the painting, they were supposed to go to Maiduguri, but they needed to go to Makurdi to pick certain things before proceeding to Maiduguri. So the aircraft took off from Kaduna, landed perfectly in Makurdi. They were just taxiing to go and park when the incident happened. I don’t want to pre-empt whatever investigation that is going on.
“Those same pilots were the ones that picked the 21 Chibok girls that were moved out in the night and brought them back to Maiduguri and from Maiduguri to Abuja. So accidents happen and we are investigating to find out why it happened and we will make it public when we get the picture of what really happened.”
The Chief of Air Staff also disclosed that the welfare of air men and other officers in the Airforce have been improved upon through provisions of accommodation, agricultural programs, housing schemes and other welfare packages. He added that people in host communities are also beneficiaries of its services through the provisions of health facilities, water boreholes, schools and skill acquisitions centres.
It would be recalled that, the human rights abuse record and uncooperative attitude of the Federal Government under the immediate past administration and its military authorities was identified as factors that hindered United States of America from offering Nigeria effective security assistance. Speaking before the US House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Africa’s hearing then, entitled, ‘Human Rights Vetting: Nigeria and Beyond’, the Specialist at African Affairs Congressional Research Service, Lauren Blanchard, said the Nigerian government then and its military had not been yielding to America’s suggestions. The Congress was briefed that the main impediment to America’s efforts to support Nigeria’s broader response to Boko Haram is “gross violations committed by the Nigerian forces, the Nigerian government’s resistance to adopting a more comprehensive approach to Boko Haram, and the continued lack of political will” within the government to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and hold perpetrators accountable.
Blanchard told the Congress, “The Nigerian government also has appeared reticent in some cases to allow its security forces to participate in US training programmes. The State Department indicates that there are currently 187 Nigerian military units and 173 police units that have been vetted and cleared to receive U.S. assistance and training. It is unclear whether the Nigerian government has given approval for such training to occur.
A 2013 State Department audit report noted that, in addition to human rights concerns, Nigeria’s late submission of names of candidates for assistance was a ‘recurring problem’ for the US embassy. Multiple systemic factors further constrain the effectiveness of the Nigerian security force’s response to Boko Haram, notably security sector corruption and mismanagement, and some of these factors impede US support even for units that have been cleared for assistance”.
She added that the security relationship between Nigeria and the US was hampered by the lack of cooperation and systemic failure in Nigeria. The security relationship also has been hampered at times by a lack of cooperation from Nigerian officials and by systemic problems in the Nigerian military.
Political and human rights concerns have been a prominent factor in shaping US-Nigeria relations for decades. State Department human rights reports have continued to highlight serious human rights violations by the Nigerian security forces every year. These violations include politically motivated and extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, and torture, Blanchard said at the hearing.
Despite about N1trn ($5.8b) security budget, the ACRS specialist said the Nigerian troops are not adequately resourced or equipped” to counter Boko Haram insurgency. During the hearing, the American disclosed that the troops were “slow to adapt with new strategies, new doctrines and new tactics, and described Nigeria as “an extremely challenging partner to work with.”
Undoubtedly this is a very serious indictment on the Nigerian government and military then, the war against terror and the counter insurgency campaign was adversely affected by the lethargy and negative disposition of both the government and the military. The terror attacks on Nigeria have not only cast a big blight on the image of the country, but the productive capacities in the country are massively depleted. Innocent citizens are being wiped in very large numbers and government then was too laid back behaving as if everything was okay in the country.
It would be recalled that at a point, Rtd General T.Y. Danjuma told president Goodluck Jonathan that the war against terror is taking too long a time to persecute and that from all indications, it seems the Boko Haram insurgents are getting the upper hand, an observation to which the president kept mute and have no prompt response to is sickening and very disturbing. It is appalling that the Nigerian military will not cooperative with the US military, the question that arises therefrom is, why would the Nigerian military be uncooperative, thereby prolong strategies to put paid to the menace of Boko Harem in the country?
Perhaps, if the military had cooperated, there is every likelihood that the war on terror in the country would have been put behind us. It is very unfortunate that the war is still dragging on with serious catastrophic consequences in terms of human casualties and the government seems to be very comfortable with the trend of things in the country by its very passive approach and intervention.
It is imperative to recall with the benefit of hindsight that, under the immediate past government of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Boko Haram insurgents had a field day, killing and maiming innocent citizens at will, the situation got so bad that, even soldiers that were supposed to fight the insurgents ran away from battlefront, claiming the terrorists had far more superior firepower and weapons; now with the Dasukigate scandal, we all know that, the funds that was meant to procure arms and ammunitions were diverted to individual accounts to satisfy private interests while the terrorists kept on killing helpless citizens and the government turned a blind eye to everything that was happening. It is appalling to observe that, Boko Haram under Jonathan’s administration killed helpless and hapless people indiscriminately, from innocuous bystanders to impeccant school children. In total, there have been immeasurably terrorist attacks with countless heavy causality figures, across Northern Nigeria, since December 2010. As a matter of fact, there have been numerous bomb attacks across Northern Nigeria since May 2011.
A series of bomb attacks occurred in many states, including, Borno, Bauchi, Katsina, Adamawa, Kaduna, Yobe, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Yet it was practically impossible for the State Security Service to know the sponsors of the group, where their lethal weapons came from, and their modus operandi. The analyses of the Boko Haram insurgents were predicated on conjecture and second-guessing; these could not have helped the country out of the precarious situation. Not only this, territories of the Nigerian state, were captured and controlled by the insurgents; and the counter-terrorism efforts ended in a fiasco.
Since the Boko Haram insurgents started their condemnable and objectionable activities nobody of note has been apprehended and brought to book, except just to score cheap political points and make pointless media stunt, even the small fries that were caught were not given any serious reprimand, in terms of state sanctions, they are treated with kid-gloves, this has more than anything else, emboldened them to continue with their wicked campaigns. Also, Nigeria borders are so porous and open that the insurgents come in and go out of the country at will and there is no one to stop them. Besides, the amount of funds are have been committed to fighting the scourge of Boko Haram is so huge but not reflected in the arms and ammunitions used by the Nigerian armed forces as well as their motivation, necessitating the objective question, as to how and on what the massive funds were expended on. Similarly, the insecurity situation created by the Boko Haram sect threatened the very existence of NYSC scheme, which is generally regarded as a unifying factor in this country. The activities of the Boko Haram sect obviously threatened the corporate existence of Nigeria’s sovereignty. Boko Haram succeeded in instilling fear and hatred among the people who have been living in peace and harmony for decades.
In Nigeria, there was a general feeling of insecurity among the Nigerian populace. The terrorizing effect of the activities of the fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram on the socio-economic condition of the northern states of Nigeria has become so devastating that some financial institutions and other business ventures have closed down in many areas, thereby causing relocation of non-indigenes to their own states and others to neighbouring countries that share borders with Nigeria. The dangerous dimension the insecurity challenge has posed by the fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, has heightened serious fears among Nigerian populace. The trend has led to incessant suicide bombings and all sorts of attacks in the northern parts of the country with little or no provocation. Consequently, lives and property were lost, business ventures and shops have remained closed especially in the north.
In the case of the Chibok school girl’s that were horrendously taken away by the Boko Haram insurgents; it was a very sad experience that the country would never want to go through again. However, it is imperative to underscore the fact that, there was no swift response by the Nigerian government to get the abducted Chibok School girls back to the country and to their parents. The Federal Government and Borno State government gave different accounts of how the girls were kidnapped, and both governments traded blames, with obvious communication breakdown. But the manner in which the girls were kidnapped in several buses and trunks without any security interception is really very disturbing and worrisome.
This was accentuated by the assertion by Amnesty International that the military had been tipped off about the abduction but they failed to act, this is a glaring egregious error that cannot be explained away under any guise.
In all of this, the Nigerian government was very lethargic, standoffish and unconcerned, behaving as though nothing of any significance had occurred.
In fact, with the benefit of hindsight and body language of the Federal Government, it was glaring that, the government then did not initially believe that the girls were actually kidnapped, it carried on as if, it was a political gimmick meant to settle political vendetta, in order to attract undue attention to the political foes of the government.
This raised question about the information gathering mechanism of the security agencies and the quality of advice it offered to government. It was only much later that it dawned on the Federal Government that the girls were actually abducted, and president was busy traveling all over the world, even campaigning for elections in these devastated areas; and not batting an eyelid about the plight of the abducted school girls.
Instead of getting to the brass task of rescuing the girls, government was more concerned about the politics of terror, initially, government treated the kidnap saga with levity, thinking it was a façade, but the general public outcry and demonstrations across the country and beyond, even by very prominent people in the society made the government to come to the realization that it gaffed and made a strategic miscalculation and to this end, took sluggish steps to retraced its earlier stance to no avail. The point of departure in this regard was the reluctant acceptance of global assistance not only to help rescue the abducted school girls, but also to fight terror in the country. This is because Nigeria’s economic wellbeing is strategic to the economic interest and prosperity some economic superpowers. It would be recalled that initially, President Goodluck Jonathan had rebuffed all entreaties to make him accept the offer of the international community to fight terror in the country. The management of the Chibok school girl’s abduction which has now attracted global attention and outrage was a bad advertisement of the country, in terms of how the government cherished and catered for her citizens. This is indicative of the fact that those who claim to really be in charge of the affairs of the Nigerian State then were indeed not on top of their game. This was further buttressed by the fact that, after several weeks of the unfortunate kidnap saga, the president claim not to know the whereabouts of the abducted minors, as if to say, they were been abandoned to their fates.
It would also be recalled that, when the Boko Haram insurgents went to students hotels and killed, maimed as well as slaughtered helpless minors, all the government did was to commiserate with the parents of the departed souls, with no concrete game plans to deal with nagging problem of insurgents and its concomitant effects on the polity, only for such to repeat itself again and again. Hence, the whole war on terror in the country before now, was nothing but an unmitigated disaster, hence, its funding should be thoroughly probed. From all indications, the fear of the Boko Haram was the beginning of wisdom, even in Abuja, schools were shut down, business were closed, people lived in fear and the insurgents were dictating the scheme of things, as the security agencies were apparently confused and clueless, unfortunately the people of Nigeria and the national economy are the worst for it.
The information gathering mechanism of the security apparatuses in the country were very poor; and insurgents seemed to have infiltrated the rank and file of the security architecture enabling them to strike at will with reckless abandon and precision. The government is finding it difficult to galvanize confidence and hope amongst the people under Goodluck Jonathan.
Each time the insurgents struck killing hundreds of people, government official just came out talk tough and promise the people that the culprits would not be apprehended, but that such dastardly act will not occur in the country again, only for such mindless attacks to repeat itself over and over again; the people were fed up and thoroughly frustrated. This is compounded by the fact that several countries issued travel warnings and restrictions to their citizens; steadily Nigeria was classified as “one of the axis of evil” in the international community.
It was under this confusion that President Buhari became the leader of the country, and he is of the firm view that the responsibility of putting paid to the ugly insecurity is with the government; and that must government should sit up, and find very, lasting urgent, all-embracing solution to the menace and that trading blames would not take the country anywhere. The government should not only take responsibility but it must show capacity and capability to resolve this quagmire as soon as possible. The senseless bombings and security challenge must stop, this is exactly what the Buhari administration has done, it has reorganized the armed forces and motivated them accordingly, the counter-terrorism war is now prosecuted with determination and vigour, new arms and ammunitions have been procured, the probe of the $2.1 billion arms procurement is on-going, all the territories previously occurred by the insurgents have been captured by Nigerian soldiers, the rescue of the Chibok girls has gathered the much needed steam, yes, there are still incidents of bomb detonation, here and there, but by and large, the insurgents have been largely defeated and incapacitated, but the government is not resting on its oars, as it is collaborating with the country’s immediate neighbours and indeed the international community to stamp out terrorism completely from the country. The Federal Government is now collaborating and not fighting the governments of the North Eastern states, as used to be the case; in order to find a lasting solution to the activities of the insurgents in the areas, therefore, it is imperative that the efforts of the government in this regard should be deeply appreciated, after all, the 1999 constitution states unequivocally that the security and welfare of the people shall be the purpose of government. Hence, this is the best of constitutional democracy in practice. This is in spite of recent campaigns by a group to use the issue to get personal things for themselves.
With the technical defeat of the Boko Haram insurgency and the systematic reorganization of the military architecture, as well as proper funding, the issue of security is the topmost agenda of this administration. Corruption is being carefully dealt with in the military; the military is being gradually professionalized and equipped. Today, normalcy and development is getting back to the north-eastern part of the country.
This is as a result of the peace that is brought about by heavy military presence; also, efforts are still on-going to rout out the remnants of the insurgents the geo-political zone. In a similar vein, the government is curtailing the menace of kidnappers and the scourge of Fulani herdsmen. Moreover, the government is actively engaging the militants and taking necessary actions against miscreants in the south-south geo-political. Now that the issue of security is paramount in the polity, the atmosphere of peace would usher in the much needed development that the country needs. And, the government as well as the relevant stakeholders should engage is widespread advocacy and public enlightenment on the need for peace to aid development, as insecurity of any sort is an enemy of progress.
Ayobolu, a public affairs analyst contributed this piece from Lagos State.