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Navy, Air Force clarify misconceptions about operations

By Opeyemi Babalola
10 October 2021   |   3:01 am
The Nigerian Navy as an entity is rarely in the news negatively. But of late, it has been battling to clear its name off the controversy trailing the siting of a base in Kano State

Chief of Defence Staff Major General Leo Irabor addresses troops at the theatre command operations Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri, Nigeria, on January 31, 2021. (Photo by Audu Marte / AFP)

The Nigerian Navy as an entity is rarely in the news negatively. But of late, it has been battling to clear its name off the controversy trailing the siting of a base in Kano State, which is also the state of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo.

So, it was not out of place when the issue came for discussion during a meeting between service chiefs met and some journalists recently. And the Chief of Training and Operations, Nigeria Navy, Rear Admiral Abraham Adaji, who represented the Chief of Naval Staff, Gambo, clarified why the base was sited in Kano, insisting it was not the product of politics.

Explaining, Adaji stated that the Nigeria Navy has a Finance and Logistics College in Owerrenta, Abia State, responsible for the training personnel in the area of logistics and finance. He added that due to growth and development imperatives within the Nigerian Navy, it was considered that the finance and logistics bodies should be separated from the logistics unit of the college moved to Kano.

“What we are establishing in Kano is the Logistics College, while the Finance College will remain in Owerrenta. Before now, Owerrenta was not the only landlocked location with a navy establishment. We have provost and regulating schools in Makurdi where we train personnel in Naval provost duties. I also like to clarify that it is not only these bases that mark our presence in the north.

“The Nigeria Navy is heavily involved in anti-insurgency, anti-terrorism and internal security operation across the north. In the northeast, where we have the joint task force, Operation Hadi Kai, the Navy has over 170 personnel fighting alongside the Army and Air force to combat insecurity.

“Equally, in the North West, where there is a joint task force, Operation Hadarin Daji, the Navy has over 250 persons fighting to counter banditry and other issues of insecurity. In North Central, we have about 100 men working alongside our colleagues to combat banditry, kidnapping and issues relating to insecurity. Operation Safe Corridor, the outfit responsible for the management of surrendered bandits and terrorists, the Navy is represented with about 15 personnel. We also have our presence in Operation Safe Haven. The operation in Plateau and Southern Kaduna, combating issues relating to herder/farmers clashes.”

He disclosed that for about 10 years, the Navy has been in the Northeast and since the operation started in the northwest, it has been there, including north-central and all the areas with security challenges.

Adaji added: “Like the Chief of Defense Staff explained, beyond defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria, the armed forces have a responsibility to offer support to the civil authority to maintain law and order and this secondary role, the armed forces have been doing everything to develop its capacity. But of course, law and order is a governance issue and we are working closely, not just with the government, but also with other security agencies and civil societies to deliver the much-desired security in the country.

“Also, the Logistic College that was established in Kano was set up alongside two other naval bases that will be performing fully maritime operations. At the Oputa Lake, the Nigeria Navy is establishing a forward operating base, because of the increasing activities of IPOB, ESN and sabotage of oil and gas facilities. Also, on the Lekki axis in Lagos, the Nigeria Navy is also establishing a base. Lekki is a stretch with a lot of investment critical to the economic well being of Nigeria. The petro consumed in Nigeria lands in the Lagos offshore and it is from there it is transported to other towns and distributed for consumption. Significantly, the Dangote Refinery is coming on-stream, not just a refinery, it is coming with a fertilizer plant. And there are other several investments along that corridor worth hundred of billions of dollars that require protection and the Navy is establishing a base to attend to this.”

He maintained that the siting of the Logistic College in Kano and the Chief of Naval Staff hailing from Kano was just a coincidence. “Nation-building is part of the roles of the Nigeria Navy, and serving in the navy are Nigerians from the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and if there is anything we can do to endanger a sense of belonging, not just by these men volunteering to serve their country, but others that are still there and contribute to enhancing security, the Nigeria Navy will not shy away from doing that.

“The naval establishment in Kano was established for purely administrative and operational reasons. It is to give vent for proper development of the two colleges, one for finance, which is being retained in Owerrenta and the logistics college moved to Kano. The Kano base will offer support to naval operations in the north. The operations in the Northwest currently are being supported from locations farther down south; Lokoja, Abuja and sometimes Lagos. The Air force has been providing a lot of support, but with a base where some logistics and materials required for the sustenance of operations could be stored, the operations in the northwest, central and east will greatly be enhanced.”

Also at the parley was Air Vice Marshal James Matty Daniel Gwani, the Chief of Training and Operations, who represented Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao.

Speaking on the accidental airstrike in Yobe, where some residents lost their lives, Gwani said the Air force is still investigating the incident. “It is a painstaking process, and we are in constant communication with the Yobe State government. Once the investigation is completed, Nigerians will be told the outcome.”

Commenting on the use of super tucano aircraft in tackling insecurity, Gwani said there is a misunderstanding of airpower and its role in the kind of operation the Air force is conducting.

“Yes, the super tucano aircraft have brought in a lot of bites into the fight and I can tell you the airplanes are operating in the northeast. Just yesterday, I had a meeting with the commander and the vendors who supplied the airplanes, to review the operations of the aircraft, and I can tell you that there are very positive responses as to the effectiveness of the airplanes in the theatre of operation.

“But airpower alone cannot win this war, it will take a collective effort like the Chief of Defense Staff has said; the military, civil society organisations and all other stakeholders must work together. While the super tucanos are going to play a prominent role, let us not sit back and think that the super tucanos will end this war, it is going to be a collective effort.”

On Air force denying that no place crashed in Kaduna, Gwani said when the news broke about the crash, the information was that the aircraft was coming from Yola. “And we came out to tell Nigerians that we did not have any airplane from Yola heading to Kaduna. Of course, we knew we had an airplane leaving Zamfara for Kaduna and the combat, search and rescue team was already launched.

We knew the pilot was alive and the bandits were searching for him. So, it would have been improper to come to say where the airplane landed, we would have put the lives of the pilot and those conducting the combat and rescue operation in danger.

‘Thus, we had to delay to ensure that the people conducting the search and rescue were not compromised, but eventually we got the pilot out. We did not have the desire to deceive anybody, it was not our intention to refuse to release information, but for operational conditions and safety of the pilot and those conducting the search and rescue was more preeminent, which informed why we reacted that way.”