Nigeria’s evolving security challenge requires dynamic and pragmatic efforts to contain. TARKAA DAVID looks at the NAF’s capacity development efforts for enhanced internal security.
For over a decade, Nigeria has had to deal with terrorists which the military in fulfillment of its constitutional mandate, has been fiercely engaging. What began as violent protests degenerated to full-blown war. Over time, the war has taken a different dimension being asymmetric, requiring new techniques. Though the Armed Forces of Nigeria have liberated most of the zones hitherto under the control of the terrorists, yet more needs to be done. The air component remains the only advantage the military has over the terrorists following reports of the use of more advanced and sophisticated weapons by the terrorists. In order to leverage on this advantage, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), again on March 15, 2019, graduated another batch of Special Forces (SF) personnel to boost Internal Security (IS) operations in the country.
The force director of public relations and information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, said the 175 graduating students of SF Course 4/2019 successfully completed the 10-week rigorous and intensive training in asymmetric warfare at the Regiment Training Centre (RTC), Kaduna.
He pointed out that was the first time in the history of the NAF that SF personnel would be trained wholly by NAF Instructors thereby actualising one of the key drivers of the vision of the Chief of Air Staff, of “reinforcing a culture of self-reliance and prudent management of resources.”
He explained that before now, the NAF had engaged the services of an Israeli company, the Four Troops Team, to train NAF SF personnel, aside overseas’ training in various countries such as Belarus, China and Pakistan.
Earlier in his remarks at the graduation ceremony, Abubakar, stated that in the last 4 years, the NAF had made deliberate efforts to reposition the service into a highly professional fighting force, with the training of over 1,000 SF personnel as part of the overall strategy for its capacity building initiatives.
The CAS promised to sustain the training of SF personnel to enhance NAF force projection posture while also improving its base defence/force protection capability.
Abubakar, who expressed satisfaction with the quality of the training, added that the NAF SF personnel were making huge impacts in the fight against terrorism and armed banditry across the country.
He added that some of NAF achievements include the recent arrest of armed bandits at Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State as well as the professional conduct of NAF personnel deployed to support the Nigerian Police Force in providing security during the recently concluded general elections, saying these performances were indications that the efforts of the NAF toward building an efficient force structure, with the NAF SF as a vital component, were yielding positive results.
The air staff boss charged the graduands to do their best in all circumstances as their future assignments would require courage, good judgment and commitment even as he emphasized the need for the SF personnel to rededicate themselves to duties and conduct themselves in accordance with NAF’s core values of ‘Integrity’, ‘Service before self’ and ‘Excellence’.
He commended the Air Officer Commanding Ground Training Command, Air Vice Marshal Idi Amin, as well as the commandant RTC and his team of instructors for their tireless efforts in moulding NAF regiment personnel. He also assured the centre of the support of NAF headquarters to enable it effectively discharge its responsibility of training elite fighting personnel for the force and the nation.
The CAS thanked the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority attention given to the requirements of the NAF. “The support provided by the federal government has no doubt positively impacted on the force and led to increased aircraft serviceability and availability as well as improved training and enhanced facilities,” he said.
He also appreciated the efforts of officers, airmen and airwomen of NAF who participated in various airlift and other support activities during the recently concluded elections, saying it was instructive to note that despite allegations and cross-allegations of interference in the electoral process, the Nigerian Air Force was cleared of any involvement as its personnel performed according to global best practice, adding their achievement was a major logistics feat, contending that the airlift provided by the NAF in support of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other agencies was excellent.
Abubakar maintained the development was a clear testament to the improved support provided to the NAF by the federal government to the improved airlift capacity of the service, saying it was possible because of the serviceability status of the force’s eight aircrafts.
While unveiling the new accoutrements and insignia of the NAF regiment as well as the new nickname of the SF – ‘the PANTHERS’ -, the Director of Regiment NAF HQ, Air Commodore Babatunde Phillips, highlighted how the specialty had been transformed over the past 4 years with massive capacity building initiatives, saying it had resulted in raising the number of NAF SF personnel from less than 300 in 2015 to a well-trained, well-equipped and well-motivated force of over 1,000 along with 44 SF instructors also recently trained.
He noted that the ‘panthers’, who were currently deployed for internal security operations in 14 different states across the country, would continue to be models of professionalism displaying courage, valour, strength, swiftness, agility, adaptability and tenacity in the discharge of their duties.
In his address, the Commandant RTC, Wing Commander, Stephen Sekegor, highlighted the rationale behind the localization of SF training was to ensure prudent management of resources while still ensuring qualitative training.
He thanked the CAS for his visionary leadership which had resulted in the phenomenal enhancement of the capacity the NAF regiment specialty to better conduct base operations in both conventional and asymmetric warfare environments, even as he assured the CAS the RTC would continue to provide the requisite specialized training to meet the contemporary security challenges facing the nation.
In a related development, the Nigerian Air Force had trained 3600 personnel for base defence in order to tackle evolving security challenges in the last three years.
The CAS made this known while speaking at the maiden edition of Defence Seminar 2019 with the theme “Enhancing force protection of NAF bases for effective force projection.” He said the regiment specialty, which is at the fore front of securing NAF bases, has over the past few years, undergone far-reaching upgrade and repositioning in line with the current NAF Establishment (2016 – 2020).
Abubakar represented by the chief of policy and plans, Air Vice Marshal Emmanuel Anebi, said the move became necessary in order to tackle the ongoing security challenges prevalent in most parts of the country.
According to him, before now, troops were not trained specifically for base defence making it everybody’s business and vulnerable, saying the new base defence concept is a departure from the traditional mode of static base defence, being highly mobile in nature and has been fully implemented in some frontline bases.
He further explained that this will help checkmate possible occurrences such as the 2011 attack on AFCS Kano and the December 2013, attack on NAF Base, Maiduguri, which resulted in the loss of lives, platforms and other mission essential assets, explaining the roles of the Intelligence and Air Police in base defence were overlooked and underestimated, adding the current organisation has seen the regiment operate a defensive arm through its force protection elements and an offensive arm through the Special Operations Force (SOF), adding the best protection for any base remains at standoff distances where the SOF elements confront and neutralize such threats way before the base, and outside the effective ranges of enemy fire.
“To ensure that we have capable human resources to implement the Base Defence concept, we have trained over 3,600 personnel drawn from the Regiment, Intelligence and Air Police specialties in force protection in complex air ground environment with the assistance of the British Military Advisory Training Team from 2015 to date.
“This training has ensured that we develop base defence plans tailored to the diverse human and physical environments where our bases are located.
“In view of the evolving security environment, it is obligatory that we further enhance our defence to neutralize contemporary future threats, to the nation’s interests as well as security of our bases.
“The on-going situation, therefore, requires an integrated/coordinated approach from all base and independent unit commanders. Hence, field commanders are now required to continuously appraise developments in their areas of operations and take proactive measures necessary to defend NAF assets in their areas of operations,” he said.
Speaking further, he said, NAF has a quick response force, four quick response groups and two quick response wings under the special operations command spread over the six geopolitical zones which makes it imperative to beef up the manpower of the regiment to meet the manning requirements of this transformation. “As a result, the regiment has seen a recent increase in its strength from about 1,300 to over 4,000,” he added.
The CAS said combat troops are being issued mission essential kits and equipment to enhance their capability in neutralizing envisaged threats.
According to him, “Some of the equipment includes latest assault rifles such as the AK103 and Tavor as well as thermal imagers, night vision goggles and armoured fighting vehicles.”
He further said the collaboration of the Air Police and Intelligence with the Regiment culminates in an integrated detection and response system making the Base Defence Concept mobile and tiered (external, perimeter and inner defences) in nature to enable its counter threats through offensive action.
Earlier in his address, the chief of training and operations, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao, said the Nigerian Air Force requires secure bases for the employment of air power in ongoing various operations.
He noted that the force assets are currently deployed in the North East, North-Central and North-West to combat insurgency, armed banditry and cattle rustling among others, adding the new Nigerian Air Force Bases have been established in Gusau, Zamfara State; Ipetu-Ijesha, Osun State; Owerri, Imo State; Katsina, Katsina State; Nguroje, Taraba State; Agatu, Benue State; Doma, Nasarawa State; and Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State amongst others in order to provide military presence in these communities that have hitherto been plagued with insecurity.
“Unlike other arms of the Armed Forces, the Air Force requires secure Bases for effective employment of airpower. Indeed, security of Nigerian Air Force Bases’ has been a source of concern to its leadership in the recent past.
“Accordingly, the service recently developed and operationalized a Base Defence Concept that emphasizes integrated detection and response by leveraging trained manpower, intelligence and emplacement of appropriate technology. Currently, the concept has been successfully implemented in frontline Bases in Maiduguri, Yola, Bauchi and Port Harcourt with the leadership desiring to do same in the remaining Air Force Bases,” he said
He reiterated that success in military activities such as base defence requires military commanders to be able to assess their physical and human environment, make useful deductions and firm decisions to influence military actions in support of tactical objectives, saying human capacity remains a critical factor in the success of any endeavour, adding though wars are fought with weapons these weapons are operated by men hence the need to build the capacity of the personnel for optimal performance.
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