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The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has been accused of prolonging the fight against Boko Haram terrorists in Sambisa forest and other parts of Borno state through alleged incompetence and badly informed decisions made by top hierarchy of the Air Force.
Some Defence personnel and residents of Borno said that the Nigerian Air force has been unable to make meaningful contribution to the counter-terrorism war in spite of the huge funding and other resources made available to it to complement its effort in the North-East.
Just yesterday, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said Nigerian Air Force operations against Boko Haram in the North East has gulped over 1.03 million litres of aviation fuel at the cost of N265 per litre from its reserve which totals N273 million.
However, DAILY POST, gathered that such resources may not have been judiciously deployed in support of Operation Lafiya Dole launched to combat insurgency in the region.
Some Borno residents said they expected the Air Force would have located and carpet bombed the convoy of dozens of Hilux Pickups that ferried away school girls that were abducted in Chibok over three years ago before they got the girls.
They added that the Air Force should have also carpet bombed members of the terror group as they continue to shuttle between Nigeria and neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon on a daily basis through the use of motorcades that are visible from the sky.
According to one Defence personnel, “the best practice is for the Air Forces of countries with similar security challenge to carpet bomb such convoys while troops hunt down the terrorists that are usually left in disarray after such operations.
“This method worked in decimating Islamic State terrorists, who become easy targets for Syrian and Iraqi troops in the aftermath of airstrikes from Russian and American aircrafts.
“However, the airstrikes launched by the Nigerian Air force has not yielded such benefits,” he said.
Similarly, another source in the armed forces queried why the Air Force is unable to deploy its resources for aerial surveillance and relay the information gathered from such exercises to ground troop that are in a better position to neutralize the terrorists.
“If the air support were what it should be the kind of Boko Haram ambush that killed several persons on the UNIMAID, NNPC oil exploration team in July this year would not have been possible.
“The other terrorists’ ambushes would have rather led to their destruction since aircraft would simply pound them from the air before they have the chance to do any crazy thing.
“You’ll agree that the counter-terrorism war would have had a better result if the recent talks emanating from NAF had been converted into action the terrorists would have become history by now.
“Instead, all we hear is talk and more talk. We are not seeing aircrafts delivering the needed advantage from the skies,” the source lamented.
DAILY POST also gathered from some Borno residents that the Nigerian Air Force may be wasting pricey ammunitions as some of the airstrikes are usually ill-targeted; hitting abandoned and disused structures in Sambisa Forest.
A source who volunteered only his first name as Adamu, for fear of being identified and victimized, noted that; “it is not unusual for aircrafts to repeatedly pound the same location even when there is no sign of life.
“We see empty shacks, abandoned places, and the next thing aircrafts will come and drop bomb. We will count, one day, two days, three days and there would be not the faintest trace of the smell of death.
“Even small animals in the bush will stench up the place it died but this people will drop bomb and nothing will rot. You look up in the skies later and don’t even see the (carrion) birds that follow death. We then tell ourselves that these airplanes do not want the war to end.”
On its part, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is however not accepting the damning verdict of Borno residents.
A source at NAF Headquarters, who is a close confidant of Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, claimed that the allegations against the Air Force are simply efforts aimed at tarnishing the good works the third arm of the military is doing to help nip Boko Haram insurgency in the bud.
He revealed that Abubakar is conscious of that negative effort and has increased his media appearances in recent times as part of the Air Force’s public relations effort and to fix the battered image of the service.
“We are aware of how Nigerians feel about NAF (Nigerian Air Force) but we also think it is important that people are made aware of the peculiar challenges that we face as a military organization,” the source who preferred anonymity because he lacks the capacity to speak on behalf of the Air Force explained.
Air Marshal Abubakar himself had publicly declared on September 1 that, “we must redouble our efforts to make sure that we cleanse the forest before they even come out to do harm”.
His reference to Boko Haram coming out (of Sambisa Forest) to do harm reportedly addressed incidents in the past when terrorists easily overran Air Force Bases in attacks that were blamed on poor leadership.
Observers believe Abubakar’s declaration was a subtle admittance of the fact that the Air Force has not been alive to its responsibility in the North East region.
They recall that the Chief of Air Staff once told a retreat through a subordinate that, “recent evaluations of the (Air Force) bases revealed that many commanders and bases were yet to imbibe and adopt the tenets of the new base Defence concept.”