With security personnel becoming an endangered species in the fight against insecurity which has lingered over a decade, only technology will reduce the hazard and put the government forces ahead of adversaries.
Though airpower is considered a critical component in dealing with adversaries due to its efficiency and efficacies. The Nigerian Air Force has in this year alone has lost two fighter aircraft and one surveillance aircraft some with crewmen onboard. While the most recent one, the pilot survived and was rescued, it wasn’t so for the one-shot down by Boko Haram Terrorists in Borno State earlier this year. The fate of the two crewmen onboard the jet remains uncertain.
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) while confirming it Alpha Jet aircraft was shot down by bandits said the pilot was rescued after ejecting from the plane.
This is the fourth time a military plane has crashed this year.
The director of public relations and information Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet said the aircraft came under intense enemy fire after returning from a successful air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna State which led to its crash in Zamfara State on 18 July 2021.
He said the incident happened at about 12.45 pm but no human casualty was recorded.
He said the gallant pilot of the aircraft, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo, successfully ejected from the aircraft, and using his survival instincts, the pilot, who came under intense ground fire from the bandits, was able to evade them and sought refuge in nearby settlements awaiting sunset.
He said using the cover of darkness and his phone set for navigation, Flight Lieutenant Dairo was able to elude several bandits’ strongholds and maneuvered his way to a Nigerian Army Unit, where he was finally rescued.
He noted that the Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Oladayo Amao upon receipt of the news of the crash had directed that all efforts must be emplaced to rescue the pilot.
“Accordingly, NAF Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms and helicopter gunships provided close air support to NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops who were able to locate the crash site and the pilot’s parachute, while also combing nearby locations for any sign of the pilot.
“It is gladdening to note that while in hiding, Flight Lieutenant Dairo confirmed that the presence of NAF aircraft within the vicinity of the crash site helped in scaring the bandits who were after him, thus enabling him to find refuge and escape to a safe location.”
The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, had recently directed the Armed Forces of Nigeria to do all it takes to flush out criminal elements in Katsina, Zamfara, and Kaduna States.
“It is in fulfillment of this directive that the NAF, in conjunction with surface forces, has in the last 2 weeks mounted intensive day and night air interdiction operations against bandits and their hideouts, especially in these 3 states. Through these intensive air operations, hundreds of bandits have been neutralized and several of their hideouts destroyed,” he said.
Gabkwet said despite the setback of the Sunday crash, the NAF remains committed to fulfilling Mr President’s mandate as well as other constitutional roles assigned to it.
“The willingness, readiness and tested ability of the NAF remains unshaken and unwavering as it continues to carry out its assigned roles,” he said
While the Nigerian Navy recently launched falcons’ eye to ensure strict surveillance of the maritime domain, security analysts and commentators have called for the deployment of UAV, and other modern technology in the sky against terrorists and bandits to detect and destroy hideouts thereby minimising casualty.
President Muhammadu Buhari while commissioning the Falcon Eye system said it will enable the Nigerian Navy to generate a comprehensive intelligence picture of activities within the maritime environment for further analysis before, in appropriate cases, dispatching a Nigerian Navy Ship for interdiction, investigation, and/or subsequent arrest of erring vessels.
Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari said the maritime industry occupies a prominent position in Nigeria’s vital economic interests and it encompasses activities ranging from fishing and resource exploration to marine research and shipping among other endeavours.
“ Of all these activities, shipping stands out as a critical link in Nigeria’s international trade engagements because it is the cheapest and most efficient means of moving large volumes of goods.
“Given our economic aspirations and our commitment to international trade, ensuring the security of shipping lanes within and proximate to our waters is in our national interest.
“In addition, Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources which are largely domiciled in our maritime environment remain the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy as it accounts for 55 percent of our GDP, 95 percent of our export earnings, and about 70 percent of government revenue,” he said
He noted that the Falcon Eye system can spot, chase and interdict maritime criminals quietly and efficiently.
“So the Falcon eye system is a state-of-the-art surveillance facility that incorporates various sensors located along the nation’s enormous coastline, such as Radars, long-range Electro-Optic Systems with thermal or night vision capability, Automatic Identification System receivers, Weather Stations and marine Very High-Frequency Radios for communication.
“The integration of these sensors into the Falcon Eye system generates a real-time situational awareness of the activities of vessels in Nigerian maritime domain and some selected parts in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said the Falcon Eye System will serve as a force multiplier for the naval platforms tasked to effectively secure our maritime environment from external aggression.
“It will also enable the Nigerian Navy to effectively combat any maritime crimes that could disrupt the conduct of maritime trade,” he added.
The President said “in recent years some key identified threats within Nigeria’s maritime environment have taken on increasingly more harmful dimensions to our economy and even the safety of citizens and commercial entities who use the maritime domain these include, piracy, armed attacks on ships, kidnapping for ransom, crude oil theft, smuggling, as well as Illegal Unregulated and Unreported Fishing (IUU).
“It is estimated that Nigeria loses about $26.3 Billion annually to various forms of criminality particularly piracy and sea robbery.”
He said due to escalated risks in some of the nation’s maritime areas insurance premiums for commercial vessels coming to the country have risen sharply making maritime trade an unattractive proposition.
“This underscores the need to enhance our maritime security architecture. Consequently, a critical contribution of the FALCON EYE System will be the provision of actionable intelligence for curbing maritime threats to our economy,” he stressed.
He said his administration has demonstrated a clear commitment to building the capacity of the nation’s strategic institutions to secure our coastal waters and the precincts of our maritime neighbourhood.
He added that these initiatives have significantly increased our national capabilities in the areas of maritime surveillance and criminal interdiction within our territorial waters.
“ It is clear that this administration has invested substantial resources in steadily building our sovereign capacity for total spectrum dominance of our maritime environment. I urge all the relevant strategic institutions and stakeholders to collaborate in the pursuit of this all-important endeavour in the national interest.
Earlier in his remarks, the National Security Adviser Major General Babagana Monguno (Retired) said the project was inaugurated out of the need to combat the myriad of security challenges within the maritime domain such as kidnapping of oil workers, sea robbery and piracy, illegal oil bunkering and others.
He said the contract for the project was signed in 2014 and designed to provide Nigeria with an effective surveillance capability of her entire maritime domain particularly Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
On the training of personnel to man the facility he said consist tactical training center and conduct of eight cycles of training for personnel in six training categories such as technical training and training the trainer.
The NSA said the project includes a main control center at the Naval Headquarters and maritime operations intelligence centers and three regional command centers.
He stressed that the project is meant primarily to enhance the Nigerian Navy operations, adding that intelligence gathered could be shared with other domestic and international maritime stakeholders.
“It is for this reason that the project has a maritime stakeholders cell here in the main control center to accommodate representatives of NIMASA, NPA, marine police, and others” he added
He said the Falcon Eye will add value to the Navy’s maritime domain awareness capability and national security.
In his welcome address, the Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo said maritime threats necessitated the need for a maritime domain awareness system thus the establishment of Falcon’s eye.
He said the facility covers the entire nation’s coastline and up to 200 nm seaward.
He said the Nigerian Navy has recorded successes in its fight against illegalities at sea through the employment of the falcon eye facility.
He said the Falcon eye system has led to the seizure of over 300,000 bags of foreign rice valued at N9 billion and over 500 suspects arrested.
He said the facility also led to the arrest of 70 oil tankers laden with stolen products valued at 1 billion dollars.
He said it also led to the arrest of 30 vessels engaged in illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing as well as the arrest of 50 pirates.
The Senate recently called for the deployment of modern technology to curb incessant kidnapping, banditry, and other criminalities bedeviling the country.
For the safety of security operatives, the time is now to acquire and deploy unmanned aerial vehicles and other artificial intelligence gadgets to decisively deal with the threats holistically.