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The Flying Coffins of Nigeria Armed Forces, Which Way Forward?

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By Moses Idika

All over the world, the Air Force is the power base of the military, modern warfare is fought in the air, the land forces merely “clear the debris.”

The ongoing Israel and Palestine Conflict is a testimony of what modern warfare looks like. Israeli military has recorded very huge and significant “victory” over Hamas terrorist group without deploying soldiers on foot into the Palestine territory simply because of strong Air Force backed by equally strong land troops and especially advanced technology.

In Nigeria, however, our Air Force is the weakest link of the armed forces.

It is unexplainable that within three months the Nigeria Air Force has lost three of its planes. More confounding is the fact that Nigerian authorities are clueless as to why the situation persists.

Nigeria government in the last six years has been in frenzy with regards to “acquiring” new technologies and especially aircrafts for the country, yet we keep losing precious airmen as if it was normal.

Taking stock of the last three air disasters involving Nigeria Military carriers reveals an unfortunate pattern enmeshed in an unfeeling corrupt cabal within a government that obvious gives no hoot if all the plane in its fleet crashes provided the Presidential Jet in unaffected.

On Friday night, the nation’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other military personnel perished at the Kaduna International Airport in an air crash involving a NAF Beachcraft 350 aircraft which burst into flames after it crash landed just few metres to the runaway.

According to the Spokesman of the Nigerian Air Force, the “air crash involving a Nigerian Air Force aircraft occurred this evening near the Kaduna International Airport. The immediate cause of the crash is still being ascertained. More details to follow soon,” the same story that has always been told each time the recurrent decimal takes place.

The latest crash is the third in the unfortunate series of crashes involving NAF planes with no convincing explanation as to what happened and how future crashes could be avoided.

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On Sunday, February 21, 2021, another NAF Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft crash landed just before the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja killing all seven NAF personnel onboard. The crew of the ill-fated plane was said to had earlier reported engine failure.

In yet another unfortunate and perhaps the most painful accident involving NAF aircraft, on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, an Alpha-Jet aircraft that was in the battlefront in the endless war against Boko Haram terrorists and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) was lost and till today nothing has been heard about what happened to that jet or its crew.

While the insurgents claimed responsibility for downing the fighter jet, the Nigerian military denied the “shutdown” story, but has been unable to give a credible alternative explanation to what happened to aircraft or its tow pilots.

Just within three months a total of 20 Nigeria military personnel have lost their lives to air accidents that cannot be explained.

Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo on two occasions escaped death by whiskers when his chopper went down. First in June 2017 when the presidential chopper crashed after take-off in Gwagwalada town in the FCT and on February 2019 when the VP’s chopper once again went down in Kabba, a sleepy town in Kogi State. The VP is the real cat with nine lives obviously.

The above sad fortune of the Nigeria armed forces has led to questions being asked about the safety of military aviation in the country, as civil aviation has recorded no crash involving commercial flights in about a decade now, thankfully.

What could be responsible?
On Wednesday August 30, 2017, the Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) released its report on the Nigeria Police Helicopter that crashed in a village near Jos, Plateau State that killed the then newly promoted Deputy Inspector General of Police, Haruna John and three other police personnel including the pilot of the chopper.

The report of the AIB was startling as it was revealing. That report gave insight into what may be happening to the Nigeria military as far as the recurring air crashes involving its aircrafts is concerned.

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According to the details of the AIB’s report presented by its Commissioner, Akin Olateru at the bureau’s headquarters at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, the two pilots, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Garba Yelwa and Alexander Pwol-ja (co-pilot) that were in charge of the helicopter had no business flying the chopper as at the time it crashed.

Both pilots were not qualified to man the aircraft; they had no adequate training on the aircraft in line with global aviation rules.

According to the AIB report, Yelwa’s medical certificate and simulator recurrency had expired at the time of the crash, while the co-pilot was not equally type-rated on the helicopter brand, meaning that he did not have the proper certification to pilot the helicopter. It beats all imaginations that the Nigeria armed forces put two of its personnel with no adequate training or know-how of a plane on the cockpit, more so as the bird was to ferry one of its most senior officers.

Also, the report revealed that the engineer that released the helicopter prior to the flight was similarly unqualified!

The report revealed that the engineer did not have the necessary type-training and type-rating for the aircraft type he released to embark on the journey that eventually claimed the lives of the DIG, his orderly and the two unqualified flight crew. Imagine calling a radio technician to fix your car.

Nine years after that watershed AIB report, military aviation in Nigeria seem to have taken a deeper dip into chaos.

Despite the fact that the AIB, in its safety recommendations, called on the Nigeria Police Force, and by extension the military to provide the proper funding, to carter for proper training of its personnel and to provide a conducive working environment, and develop and implement a robust training program for its technical and operational personnel with adequate supervision and approved equipment to enhance safety, the question remains which part of that report was not clear to the authorities or have been implemented by our armed forces?

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From all indications, the situation has obviously worsened. If not why would the Nigeria military lose 20 of its bright stars within a space of three months in air crashes and nobody is taking responsibility?

It is only in Nigeria that military and police vehicles breakdown on the roads with reckless abandon!

They have started treating our military aircrafts like patrol vans.

I can imagine the people in charge of maintenance of these aircrafts wondering while the government will be “spending such huge amounts of dollars to carry out routine maintenance on a plane that is not broken down.”

While Nigeria top military brass and the police high command build mansions in choice areas across the capitals of Nigeria, buying palatial villas in Dubai and London, the work tools of our armed forces become decrepit, worn out and thereby exposing service men to their untimely deaths.

This inability to get Nigeria airpower to function obviously explains why the Boko Haram insurgents and bandits are fast overrunning parts of the country, or how else can one explain why a ragtag militia men on motorbikes can continually inflict such mortal blows on the Nigeria military.

The Federal Government should for once take responsibility, take charge and abide by the rule books in handling security in the country by ensuring that proper steps in line with international aviation safety regulations are taking to save our military personnel from the flying coffins that our armed forces planes have become.

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OPHK North-East: Air strike Targeted ISWAP Camp Not Fishermen – Defence

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The 2th September 2021 Air Strike by Operation Hadin Kai (OPHK) troops around the Lake Chad area targeted at the Islamic State of West Africa Province, ISWAP, not Fishermen, The Defence has said.

The Acting Director Defence Media Operations, Brigadier-General Benard Onyeuko, made this know as he debunked the misguided media reports trending on the social media alleging that Operation Hadin Kai (OPHK) troops killed 20 Fishermen in an Air Strike in Kwatan Daban Masara on Sunday 26 Sep 21, around the Lake Tchad area of North East Nigeria. “Contrary to the report, the interdiction targeted and neutralized clearly identified ISWAP terrorists and not fishermen”. he said.

In a press statement which was made available to our correspondent in maiduguri the Borno state capital, said “It is thus pertinent to make clarifications on the air interdiction recently conducted in the general area by OPHK”.

“Responding to credible Intelligence report on the movement and operation of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists massed up within the forested area, thorough analysis of the intelligence report was conducted between 19 August and 23 September 2021. Special Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission was also carried out, which confirmed the area as the terrorists’ staging area.”

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Further confirmatory reconnaissance revealed that the observed movements and
activities were of ISWAP, dressed in the usual ISWAP-styled uniform.

The terrorists used the thick foliage for cover and concealment to carry out their
nefarious activities. They disguised as fishermen, with canoes loaded with unidentified items, berthed along the river bank”.

“They were however observed not engaging in any fishing activity, but loading their canoes with unidentified items to be ferried to other locations”.

“It is also very essential to point out that the ban on fishing activities within that general axis is still in force. It is equally of importance, to note that there was no
presence of women and children in the area. Troops also ensured that civilian
settlements were not in any way along the line of fire and strikes in order to prevent collateral damage that may arise in the conduct of the air strikes”.

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“It was after all these considerations that an air interdiction was carried out on the terrorists’ camp on Sunday, 26 Sep, 2021”.

“The Defence Headquarters therefore wishes to unambiguously state that necessary steps were taken to ascertain the presence of the terrorists before the interdiction.

He added that OPHK will continue to safe guard lives and property of innocent civilians. We urge members of the public not to be swayed by the trending misinformation”.

“It is crucial to reiterate that the mandate of OPHK remains to conduct Counter
Terrorism and Counter Insurgency operations against all adversaries fighting the nation in North East Nigeria”.

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Statement added that “we will continue to remain focused and dedicated to that mandate in defence of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country, Nigeria. We call on the good people of Borno state, and the north east in general to continue to avail troops with credible information for operational enhancement”.

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Drug war: Assets confiscation will weaken cartels – Marwa

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Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (Retd) has charged other Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies in Africa to consider targeting the assets of drug cartels as a veritable tool that will weaken criminal narcotics networks.

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He gave the charge while delivering Nigeria’s statement at the virtual extraordinary session for Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies to share experiences and best practices in efforts to address and counter the world drug problem, on Tuesday, September 21.  

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According to him, the disruption of the traditional criminal trafficking routes means that law enforcement personnel must be familiar with new technologies, techniques and strategies employed by organised criminal groups and traffickers. adsbygoogle || []).push({});

In order to proactively deal with these new challenges, there is therefore, an urgent need to strengthen international cooperation in identifying and managing evolving challenges in drug trafficking. 

“We must continue to weaken criminal drug networks through effective asset tracing and confiscation.” Marwa said.

The NDLEA boss added, “We should therefore, deepen international cooperation to address the increasing links between transnational organised crime, corruption, illicit financial flows, trafficking in drugs and related crimes. Let us not spare any effort in eliminating barriers to effective collaboration as we demonstrate commitment to our shared responsibilities.”

While stating that Nigeria has remained dynamic in her counter narcotic operations in line with the global challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire by drug trafficking cartels to explore new markets and routes in furtherance of their criminal activities, Gen. Marwa told the global audience that;

“We are taking steps to tackle the online distribution of narcotic drugs, which has become prevalent among organised drug trafficking criminal groups, particularly since the global shut down last year. “In the last eight months, Nigeria has made over 8,634 arrests with 1,630 convictions.  Over two million kilograms of drugs seized with over N100billion in cash and seized drugs.” He said.

He listed other proactive steps taken by Nigeria to address and counter the various aspects of the drug problem. “We have developed the 4th edition of our National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) 2021-2025, with four strategic pillars namely: Supply reduction, Demand reduction, Access to Controlled Medicines for medical purposes, Governance and Coordination. 

“As part of our control programmes, the country recently launched the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) to further amplify the national drive on both drug supply and drug demand reduction. As a result, we are collaborating with all levels of government, civil-society groups, Non-governmental Organizations, schools and relevant institutions, he added.

He emphasized the importance of strengthening international cooperation in addressing drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organised crimes, especially on the African continent. “Nigeria is committed to strong regional alliances which in the short term could be fostered through Memoranda of Understanding between our different agencies in the African Continent and beyond. 

A good example was the recent Memorandum of Understanding signed between the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Drug Law Enforcement Agency of the Gambia (DLEA), he assured his counterparts.

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UNILAG Crisis: FG Dismisses Media Report Indicting School’s Management

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The Federal Government has dismissed media reports that a visitation panel report had indicted the management of University of Lagos (UNILAG) following the leadership crisis that engulfed the university in 2020.

The Permanent Secretary of the Federal ministry of education, Arch Sonny Echono, during a press briefing in Abuja on Monday, dismissed the allegations.

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He stated that the Federal Government was in the process of issuing a white paper on the regular visitation panel committees to address all findings and recommendations, including that of UNILAG.

Echono explained that the Federal Government had earlier issued a White Paper on the report of the 2020 Special Presidential Visitation Panel to UNILAG which brought about the dissolution of the former Governing Council and the reinstatement of the Vice Cancellor, Prof. adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.

He said that the claims in the media was false, unfounded and mischievous, as they have no bearing with the report submitted by the Panel.

“When government sets up panels, they are usually for a specific purpose articulated in the terms of reference of each panel which guides the direction the panelists are to carry out their functions.

“In 2020, there was a crisis in UNILAG and a special visitation panel was set up to look at the issues.

“The Federal Government had removed the Vice Chancellor and was given 10 terms of reference to establish the removal of the Vice Chancellor and the appointment of an acting Vice Chancellor.

“The special panel submitted its report which the government considered for a white paper,” he said.

Echono added  that the report of a special visitation panel was submitted to the ministry on Aug. 31, adding that the report in the media was distraction, unnecessary and a complete forgery.

“It is unfortunate this is coming from the media, we do not deserve this distraction. We should be allowed to focus on restoring our university systems.

“The white paper for the special visitation panel to the schools in the public domain and the media can request for it,” he said.

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