The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao, recently spoke with Editors on the fight against insurgents and insecurity in Nigeria. Excerpts…
In the fight against Boko Haram, are air assets becoming more important than land assets? I
n any war, one major tactic is to exploit your adversaries’ weakness. Our monopoly of controlling the air space gives us a fighting leverage and advantage in the skies. The insurgents and terrorists do not have the means to purchase, fly or maintain aircrafts.
However, it may be inaccurate for us to conclude that air assets are now more important than land or sea assets. The fight is dynamic and all the services are building capacity not just for the present events but to protect Nigeria’s territory in the immediate- to-long term. At the moment, the Air Force is providing support across the country; not only in the North East and North West regions.
Perhaps the biggest investment in Air equipment this decade has been the Super Tucano Jets. So far, how much impact have these jets made?
In the last ten years, the Air Force has invested in several assets; not only the Super Tucanos. Some assets are classified and so the information is not in the public. It is important to emphasize that it is the effective collaboration of land, sea and air assets; especially human assets that is the ultimate game changer. The quality of human assets is often more important than the hardware. That is why the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, has led a new thinking and approach of human capacity development for the Armed Forces. We do not treat training as an expense, it is an asset
How much precision do the Super Tucano jets have?
First, the Nigerian Air Force is following the trends in the latest technology as they keep evolving. At the moment, the Super Tucanos have been created significant impact in deploying canons and bombs. We will soon optimize the night capabilities of the Super Tucano, while the precision strike equipment will be used to improve the accuracy of our operations.
The Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, recently confirmed that thousands of insurgents have surrendered. What is influencing the high rate of surrender?
Most of the self-acclaimed leaders of terror are gone. Most of the false ideologies are being corrected. Most of their funding has been cut off. Most of their hideouts have been discovered. So, some things are now more obvious to the terrorists; there is a higher probability to survive if they surrender than if they go on fighting. It is a war that they cannot win. Surrendering is the only way. More than 36,000 have surrendered. We expect thousands more to follow in the days ahead.
Despite more than 36,000 that have surrendered, we still hear of attacks every day. How many Boko Haram / ISWAP members are fighting?
Bandits and terrorists recruit quickly. As we take them out, they recruit. We are now taking them out faster than they are recruiting.
What is your assessment and outlook for the Niger Delta region?
I cannot give you the formula for success in the Niger Delta but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody. We have observed that some leaders in the Niger Delta have been trying to please everybody. This has created more problems than solutions. We believe that there should be more political will, followed by action.
There is a growing gap in exemplary leadership in some of the local government areas. Some leaders have been accused of sponsoring illegal crude oil refining sites.
There are more than 3,000 creeks in the Niger Delta. Illegal crude oil refining is a rising threat. What is required goes beyond a security only solution. Stakeholders have to dialogue, negotiate and design innovative means that leads to a Win- Win solution. For instance, development of modular refineries should be explored in partnership with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and communities. In the current – near term, our operations in the Niger Delta have more emphasis on Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).