- Acquisition of military equipment is good, but we must address other factors responsible for terrorism
Some military experts have enthused that the delivery, last week, of six of the 12 A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets ordered by the Federal Government to prosecute the ongoing war against insurgency, and other violent crimes across the country, could well mark the beginning of a game changer in the battle to restore normalcy and peace in the various theatres of conflict. The protracted war has been going on for over a decade now, with the Nigerian military often incapacitated by inadequate equipment, even as the insurgents and other criminal elements have continued to significantly enhance their own capacity.
Some new military equipment, including 10 Super Mushak aircraft, five M1-35 helicopter gunships, two Bell 412 helicopters, four Augusta 109 Power Attack helicopters, two M1-171 E helicopters and three JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft were reportedly delivered and inducted in May. These aircraft, encompassing fighter planes as well as training and support platforms, should significantly boost the capacity and morale of the armed forces in vigorously prosecuting the war.
Equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons like the AGM-65 Meverick and precision-guided bombs, the Super Tucano fighter jets are able to utilise laser range finders and laser-guided weapons. It also has integrated weapons and laser fighting technology which enable the aircraft to identify targets for accurate precision strikes as well as offer defensive and offensive support to advancing infantry on the ground. Apart from having long loiter time in the air and being able to engage the enemy at close quarters, the jet is designed to operate in a close-knit way with troops on the ground, has special facilities to safeguard the pilot and is suitable for counter-insurgency operations.
But then, apart from procuring high quality equipment, no less critical is the acquisition of the capacity to maintain them effectively and efficiently as well as ensuring the competence and proficiency of the personnel who will man the aircraft. This is particularly important given the frequency of loss of our fighter planes and those manning them in recent times.
The procurement of sophisticated equipment for the military in recent times suggests a growing awareness of the fact that the enemies we confront can no longer be dismissed as just bandits or miscreants. They are full-fledged terrorists who, as demonstrated recently, have even acquired the capacity to shoot down sophisticated fighter jets. It is important that the capacity of the enemy is re-appraised so that there can be an adequate response to the threat that they pose to the country. Again, as important as the air component of the war is, no less attention should be paid to the equipment needs of the infantry troops who are equally indispensable in the quest for victory.
We must also address the causal factors of insurgency. Principal among these is the protracted economic crisis that has led to deepening mass poverty and ignorance over the years, and which is compounded by the gross inequality between an inordinately wealthy few and the severely impoverished majority. There is also the continuing problem of widespread corruption by some public office holders who divert into private pockets resources that could have been used to cater for the welfare of the citizenry as well as boost the capacity of the state to safeguard lives and property.
Again, the inadequate funding, staffing and equipping of the police have resulted in the military being drafted into task forces in virtually every state in the country to help maintain internal security, which ought to be the responsibility of the police. Consequently, the military is distracted from its constitutional responsibility of maintaining and protecting the country’s territorial integrity. In this wise, the police must be restructured and decentralised to enable more efficient and effective policing of the country and thus free the military to concentrate on its core constitutional responsibility.
Significantly, it is high time we enhanced the capacity of our experts to manufacture our own military equipment domestically. This is the route that many of our contemporaries at independence have travelled and which has paid off for them.