We are in the last phase of this operation – Air Force spokesman
Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa is the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Director of Public Relations and Information (DoDPRI). In this interview with KARLS TSOKAR, he spoke on the efforts of the NAF in the Operation Lafiya Dole and how much has being done to bring the insurgents to their knees.
Why did it take this long to overcome the insurgents?
There is nowhere you expect the challenge of insurgency to end just in one day or one year. We are not strangers in this country; there are lots of factors that are responsible. But what is important at this stage is that the present government is doing everything humanly possible to ensure that the challenge is put behind us. And we can see that tremendous achievement that is being recorded in that regard.
A number of settlements or locations that were under the control of the insurgency have being recovered by the surface forces. I think that is a tremendous achievement on the part of the present government, apart from the fact that, while the military operation is going on, government is also making efforts to make sure that the victims were returned to their communities. If you go to Bama, you see a lot of rebuilding efforts. Like the Chief of the Air Staff would always say, the capability of the insurgents are substantially degraded, but the truth is that we are in the last phase of this operation and we all can see this. The ability and capacity of the insurgents to be able to operate enmass, go to villages and kill people is not there anymore. What you find now are pockets of suicide bombing here and there, and it is difficult for you to attribute that maybe to ineptitude or inability on the part of the military. I think what we have now is that the military operations should be winding up now.
The situation calls for the collaboration of everybody, military and non-military components of the society, to ensure that those that behave strangely, or those that are not known in a community should be reported to the security agencies. Like my Chief would say, there is no way an aircraft can sight, say a 13 years old girl that is strapped with IED, it is not possible. This girl belongs to somebody; she’s probably going to be moving from one location to another, thence the need for the enhanced cooperation.
Are we getting this cooperation from the communities?
I think they are cooperating to some extent. But there is always room for improvement. Part of the avenue for getting the cooperation from the communities, is our involvement in a lot of humanitarian activities. And the military has being able to endear itself to these people, to the extent that they can confidently say that we are not there against them. The entire military operation in the Northeast is for the good of the people. While we go after the bad eggs, we also care for the life and comfort of the good ones, which is the whole essence of the humanitarian activities that we undertake to ensure that the people are fine and can on their own give you the desired information, because we need the locals to be able to achieve anything in the Northeast.
What is required, that is presently not there to end the insurgency?
On the part of the NAF, I am not a politician, so I cannot speak on the political aspect of it. But speaking for the military, I think government is making enough efforts to support the fight against insurgency. We have seen that, they have continued to do that. But again, we may not have all that we need. Lets not forget that different sectors of the economy are begging for government’s attention, the money is not there, but the challenges are there. So, government has to rationalise, so whatever government is able to provide for any sector of the economy is what we’ll make do with. For us in the Military, we are making the best use of what is available, and I think that is enough to be able to address this problem.
What has being the significant contribution of the Air Force in the war against insurgency in the Northeast?
The surface forces launched the Operation Rescue Finale, which enabled them enter into Sambisa. That cannot be done without the input of the NAF. We conducted series of operations to create the enabling environment for the surface forces to operate. So, with respect to Operation Rescue Finale by the surface forces, we are providing the usual intelligence through our Intelligence
Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR). The aircrafts for this purpose are there, day and night getting information about the movement o the insurgents. With what is happening now, you need the air component to be ahead of the troops during their advance. So, we use the ISR platforms for that and looking out for any possibility of ambush. Sometimes, you find the insurgents lurking somewhere, the aircraft is able to pick them up. The man who is on the ground may not be able to know the danger spot until he gets there. But the man who is on the air has the advantage of height. The Air component has identified over time various targets, like the logistics bases the insurgents have used to conduct their attacks. So, we look out for anywhere the insurgents have used as their fuel dump, their vehicle clusters, because we are sure that if you take out such targets, you are going to incapacitate their movement.
There is a whole lot that the NAF is doing. When troops get injured, we provide the helicopter that quickly moves them to where they will receive medical attention. We also provide close air support. Sometimes, when troops are advancing, the ISR platform can pick the insurgent clusters in a particular location. You call in either the attack helicopter or the alpha jets to such location to clear the path of the troops. In recent times, we have released videos and press statements on some of these activities.
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