The twin hydra-headed monsters of terrorism and insurgency, as well as other sundry evil dynasties, have slowed the wheel of economic growth and sustainable development in Nigeria for over one decade
. These are in addition to human carnage, a threat to food security, unimaginable humanitarian crisis, and humongous destruction of properties, public and private across the theatre of operations.
Meanwhile, the latest stories emanating from the theatre of operations suggest that the criminal dynasties are speedily crumbling to extinction writes our Defence Correspondent LINUS ALEKE.
It was a Russian-American aviation pioneer, inventor, and influential advocate of strategic airpower, Alexander Nikolaievich Prokofiev de Seversky who posited that “Only air power can defeat airpower. The actual elimination or even stalemating of an attacking Air Force can be achieved only by a superior Air Force”.
Regrettably, the alleged infighting, rivalries, and lack of synergy amongst the tri-services and other security agencies in Nigeria, especially during the long tenure of the former Service Chiefs have no doubt slowed the defeat of Boko Haram, Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) terrorists and other adversaries of the state longer than necessary, even with the employment of airpower.
Reports of ragtag terrorists overrunning communities and military formations in the northeast theatre and carting away weapons including gun trucks from troops were sad commentaries in the history of unconventional warfare, that the Nigerian state and by extension the Nigerian military have wagged in the Northeast.
Other issues that slowed down the speedy end to the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in the country included but were not limited to the low morale of troops, orchestrated by poor remuneration, use of old fashioned and obsolete weapons to fight terrorists with sophisticated armaments, and war fatigue on the part of troops due to their staying longer than the stipulated period in the frontline.
Video of soldiers complaining of the above-enumerated factors still populate the nation’s cyberspace and social media platforms. It is on record that Major General Olusegun Adeniyi openly complained about these in a viral video while serving in the northeast as the Theatre Commander.
Then comes the issues of incessant military air mishaps that left so many countrymen shocked and dumbfounded, even as some critics found humor in the tragic situation and compared the horrific episodes to ripped oranges falling freely from its tree.
However, while the nation awaits the day that government will declassify the investigative reports of these perennial crashes that consumed lives of top military brass, including a serving Chief of Army Staff
(COAS), to know if the tragedies were caused by a mechanical fault, human error or natural occurrence, it is also imperative to look at some of the factors that led to the incapacitation of the terrorist dynasty.
Nevertheless, it was at the burial of the seven Air Force personnel that died in the crashed Beechcraft King Air B350i on February 21, while laboring to secure the release of the staff and students abducted from the Government Science College Kagara, Niger State, that the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao vowed to deal with the criminal elements.
He noted that the death of the officers and airmen ought to spur the rest of Nigerians to relentlessly expose and fight crimes.
“We must throw everything that we have into this fight to ensure that our departed colleagues did not die in vain,” he threatened.
The CAS who almost submitted to tears in grief, said, “I stand here today bearing my personal grief as well as the entire NAF and the country as we lay to rest the remains of our fallen colleagues while in active duty to the Service of their fatherland.
“I must confess that even at this moment, NAF is still in palpable shock and grieving very deeply upon this loss of our gallant and courageous heroes”.
He added, “Their death is a huge loss to the NAF family and indeed the entire nation. They will be greatly missed but fondly remembered for their invaluable services to the nation and humanity”.
Just last week, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), in its bi-weekly briefing on military operations across the federation disclosed that no fewer than one thousand (1000) Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) terrorists laid down their arms and surrendered to the state forces alongside their families.
What this new development presupposes is the fact that the nation’s military and by extension the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is making truth the threat by the CAS that the sacrifices of the fallen heroes can not be in vain and therefore had spurred them to shatter the foundation of terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria.
The Acting Director Defence Media Operations, Brigadier General Benard Onyeuko who shared the testimony of how the terrorists’ empire is crumbling, while briefing Defence correspondents, also disclosed that no fewer than one hundred and fifty-six (156) criminal elements including terrorists and bandits were killed within the same period.
While disclosing that eighty-nine (89) livestock were intercepted from cattle rustlers, the Acting Director also revealed that no fewer than thirty-three (33) kidnaped victims were rescued by the troops within the period under review.
General Onyeuko said that various kinetic operations were carried out to deny terrorists, armed bandits, and other criminal elements freedom of action as well as the frustrate movement of arms and other illegal items in all theatres of operations.
He said: “The Headquarters of Operation HADIN KAI has intensified its operations in the North East theatre. The intensity of these operations has yielded tremendous results as evidenced in the number of casualties and massive surrender of terrorists in Buni Yari, Gorgore, Baga, and Monguno Towns as well as Maiduguri – Baga Road, Maiduguri – Damboa Road, and Bula Yobe – Darel Jamel Road. Operations were also carried out at Kayamri and Mairari villages as well as Monguno and Kukawa Towns, all in Borno State.
“Cumulatively, the operations led to the neutralization of 27 BHT/ISWAP fighters, arrest of 51 BHT/ISWAP terrorists, 3 terrorists’ collaborators as well as recovery of 35 assorted arms and 1,051 round of ammunition including AK-47 and FN rifles, Dushka anti-aircraft guns, GPMG, PKT guns, 60mm mortar tubes, Makarov pistol and other machine guns, amongst other items. In addition, 29 abducted civilians were rescued within the period under review. Gentlemen no fewer than 1,000 terrorists and their families comprising adult females and children surrendered to their own troops at different locations in the North East. Notable among them is the notorious BHT bomb expert named, Musa Adamu aka Mala Musa Abuja, and his deputy, Usman Adamu aka Abu Darda. This has in no small measure depleted the BHT fighting force”.
Also, the Borno State Governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, on Saturday last week in Gwoza, received another Chibok Girl who presented herself to the Nigerian Army.
The schoolgirl, Hassana Adamu, alongside her two children, was handed over to Governor Zulum by the Commander, 26 Taskforce Brigade, Brigadier General DR Dantani.
Hassana was one of over 200 schoolgirls abducted at a Government Secondary School in Chibok on April 14, 2014, by Boko Haram insurgents.
Recall that Ruth Ngladar Pogu and a man said to be her husband had earlier presented themselves to the Nigerian Army on July 28, 2021, at a location in Bama.
These and many more are clear indications that the terrorism and insurgency dynasties are not only crumbling to the ashes but the needed peace that would user in prosperity and food security is knocking hard on the doorsteps of residents of North-East who had abandoned their ancestral homes and taken refuge in makeshift IDP camps where hunger and fear were their known companion.
The above advancement to the gate of hope of an end to terrorism in Nigeria is not unconnected with combined air and artillery bombardment of terrorist enclaves and armory, as well as a huge investment in the procurement of platforms and capacity building of manpower to intensifies employment of airpower.
Supporting the earlier quote on the imperative of airpower in fighting all kinds of war, the United Kingdom wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill, averred that, “The Navy can lose us the war, but only the Air Force can win it. The fighters are our salvation, but the bombers alone provide the means of victory”.
Also giving credence and legitimacy to the above proposition, an American journalist, author, and critic of United States foreign policy, William Henry Blum said: “A terrorist is someone who has a bomb, but doesn’t have an Air Force”.
However, the cheering news of the decapitation of terrorist groups by the combined artillery and air bombardment is not unconnected with huge investment in the procurement of modern armaments and training of personnel by the incumbent administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
It is on record that the NAF recently conducted a holistic assessment of its combat efficiency in order to determine requirements, in terms of air platforms, armament, communication, manpower, and medical, amongst others, to raise the efficiency of the Service to appropriate levels to meet current and emerging national security imperatives.
To feel the identified gap, available statistics reveal that in the last six (6) years, the incumbent administration acquired 26 brand new aircraft to boost the combat readiness of the NAF.
The data further disclosed that the newly acquired aircraft include ten (10) Super Mushshak trainer aircraft, five (5) new Mi-35M helicopter gunships, and two (2) Bell 412 helicopters.
Others include four (4) Agusta 109 Power attack helicopters, two (2) Mi-171E helicopters, and more recently, three (3) JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircraft.
“On 30th August 2021, we would witness the induction of six (6) A-29 Super Tucano aircraft out of the twelve (12) already purchased by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. It is expected that the remaining six (6) A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, as well as some Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles which will arrive the country before the end of the year, will boost NAF’s air power employment capabilities in support of joint operations.
“In the same vein, through the unwavering support of President Buhari, twenty (20) previously grounded aircraft including the Falcon 900, ATR-42, Beechcraft, Super Puma, F-7Ni, EC-135, Do-228, Mi-24V, Mi-35P, C-130H, L-39ZA, and Alpha Jet aircraft have been reactivated. Additionally, for the first time in its history, the NAF successfully conducted multiple in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) on two (2) C-130H, 3 L-39ZA aircraft, 2 Mi-35P helicopters as well as three (3) Alpha Jet aircraft,” the information posited.
Also, the acquisitions and reactivation as well as the emplacement of robust logistics support structure have enabled the NAF to raise the serviceability status of operable aircraft from about 35 percent in 2015 to about 72% as of 2 August 2021.
Other military source shows that to ensure the sustainability of the newly acquired platforms, the Federal Government in the last six (6) years invested substantially in the training and retraining of NAF personnel both locally and abroad.
“The NAF has winged over 133 pilots while 233 other personnel of various trades are currently undergoing training. Similarly, the enhancement of training facilities at the 401 Flying Training School (401 FTS) Kaduna has improved the training capacity of the school. As a result, for the first time in about three (3) decades, 401 FTS was able to complete ab-initio flying training for cadets of the Nigerian Defence Academy before their commissioning as officers.
“In the aspect of aircraft serviceability, the NAF has trained and retrained engineers and technicians to ensure adequate maintenance of its fleet. These efforts at enhancing NAF’s fleet as well as building the capacity of personnel have no doubt reflected on NAF’s operational output. Coupled with the renewed and enhanced synergy among the Services and other security agencies, the acquisition and employment of these platforms has yielded tangible results in the fight against insurgency in the Northeast while recording gains in the fight against armed bandits, kidnappers, and other criminal elements in the Northwest and North Central theatres,” the sources explained.
While enumerating some of these visible gains, the available record shows that “from January 2021 till date, the Air Component elements of Operation HADIN KAI (OPHK) conducted 1,015 missions in 1,357 sorties and logging 1,861hrs. The most recent achievements recorded in the OPHK Theatre included the provision of Close Air Support (CAS) to ground troops in combat with ISWAP forces equipped with twelve (12) GTs and two (2) Armoured Personnel Carriers at Damboa, Borno State on 3 June 21. Here, NAF aircraft prevented the troop’s location from being overrun and inflicted heavy casualties on the ISWAP forces leading to their eventual withdraw.
Air interdiction and CAS missions were also conducted at Lamboa on 20 June 21 against ISWAP elements with all five (5) of their gun trucks destroyed and several terrorists neutralized.
“Similarly, on 27 June 21, CAS provided for ground troops in combat with ISWAP forces at Bula Yobe on 27 Jun 21. The air operations destroyed three (3) gun trucks, neutralized many terrorists, and prevented our troop’s location from being overrun. The successes recorded by NAF’s air component also extended to Operation HADARIN DAJI (OPHD) in the Northwest as well.
“Indeed, from January 2021 to date, the air component of OPHD conducted 591 missions in 692 sorties with 943 hours flown. These operations led to the rescue of some kidnapped students whilst providing CAS for troops on clearance operations in various locations resulting in the destruction of bandit camps. Within the same period, the air component of Operation THUNDER STRIKE (OPTS) conducted 500 missions in 630 sorties with 975 hours flown with tangible results in the areas of curtailed cattle rustling, kidnapping, and banditry.
“The NAF also made significant contributions to the results achieved in Operations WHIRL STROKE in the North Central; DELTA SAFE in the South-South and AWATSE in the Southwest. These efforts and successes recorded no doubt were realizable due to the improvement and enhancement in NAF’s air fleet inventory that comprises aircraft of various capabilities required for different types of operations”.
The statistics further stated that while the NAF had sustained its kinetic operations, it has also continued to devote resources to non-kinetic operations aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the civil populace.
These it also posited was achieved through the provision of medical facilities and school feeding programs in IDP Camps in Borno State, the conduct of medical outreaches to host communities of NAF Units across the country, provision of airlift in support of the National COVID-19 response, and availing host communities of NAF schools and medical facilities.
Pointing out some of the things the Nigerian Air Force has done to address of some the anomy highlighted in the preceding paragraphs, the verifiable records shows that the Service has dedicated significant time and resources to capacity building of personnel of other support trades, whilst placing a high premium on the welfare of personnel and their families to ensure enhanced performance in the field.
“The welfare of personnel has also received close attention as the NAF have renovated/remodeled and constructed new blocks of classrooms and hostel accommodation in existing NAF schools across the country. In the same vein, the NAF has vigorously engaged in massive construction and renovation of residential accommodation to reduce the accommodation challenges in our bases.
“The NAF has also sustained its efforts at expanding the post-service housing schemes to ease the burden of post-service life settlement for our personnel. All these were done as part of efforts to bolster morale by improving personnel welfare for effective and efficient service delivery. Healthwise, the NAF unveiled the telemedicine portal to ease personnel’s access to quality healthcare that transcends borders,” the information added.
While noting that the Nigerian Air Force College of Nursing was also upgraded and accredited to offer HND programs, an insider source equally revealed that the NAF has also continued to invest heavily in Research and Development especially in Unmanned Aerial Systems technology, rockets, and rocket launchers, heat shield protective cones for the Alpha Jet rocket pods, among others.
At this juncture, it is also important to conclude by agreeing with the American journalist and former British Prime Minister that airpower is the game-changer in conventional and unconventional warfare. The terrorist fighters in the northeast are not surrendering to state forces because they have repented but because they can no longer withstand the rain of bombs falling inside their hideouts from Nigerian Air Force fighter jets and helicopter gunships.