By Stephen Ubanna
Two days after a Nigerian Air Force Authorities raised alarm of the disappearance of its Alpha fighter jet on an interdiction mission in Borno state as part of the ongoing counter insurgency operations in the north east, the Islamic Fundamentalist group , BokoHaram, insurgents , has claimed responsibility for shooting down the fighter Jet.
The fighter Jet which was last seen flying around Goni Kurmi and Njimia villages after attacking the BokoHaram insurgents Locations at the Sambia forest was said to have crashed around the Konduga Local government Area of the state, described as one of the strong holds of the insurgents, confirming the fear of the AirForce Authorities that it might have crashed.
Many see it as a major set back to the c ounter insurgency war in the north east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as the NAF, lose two of its best pilots- FLT. LTs. John Abolarinwa and Ebiakpo Chapele, in one operations in Borno state.
The initial rumour making the rounds when the NAF Alpha Jet disappeared from the radar and the Crew could no longer be contacted was that the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, fighters who occupy the Lake Chad region bordering three West African countries-Nigeria, Niger, Chad and the Central African country of Cameroon ma have developed engine fault and subsequently shot down by the ISWAP fighters.
The thinking may have been informed because of the mrecent activities of the ISWAP fighters attacking military bases and carting away military equipment and gun fitted vehicles, thus, becoming a major threat to the Nigeria Army and the Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF, which now reports directly to Leo Irabor, an army General and Chief of Defence Staff, CDS.
The Boko Haram insurgents, who occupy the Sambisa forest in Borno state may have shocked Nigerians when it released an unverified videothat it had been shot down the Nigerian Fighter Jet. Many believe that the loss of the NAF fighter Jet with registration No.475, was a big blow to the ground troops who relies solely on air power to stop the spread BokoHaram and ISWAP, from spreading to other states of the Federation , particular, the northern states.
There is no gain saying the fact that the ground troops had for years reied on the NAF, Alpha Jet bombardments of the sambisa forest and the Lake Chad region to turn the tide of the battles against the insurgents. The BokoHaram unverified video, which was reported by Reuters on Friday, April 2, 2021, had shown the wreckage of the fighter Jet aircraft on the ground and the charred fuselage bearing the inscription NAF.
A masked BokoHaram fighter was said to have been found atop the aircraft wreckage and was bold enough to identify the crashed plane as the Jet fighter of NAF475, the footage of the video further shows. The unverified BokoHaram video released by SITES Intelligence group which monitors the Jihadist activities had shown the mangled Corpse of the suspected two Crew members in military fatigues.
In spite of the fact that the BokoHaram insurgents had released an unofficial video to claim responsibility for shoting down the NAF Jet fighter, Isiaka Olayo Amao, an Air Marshall and Chief of Air Staff, CAS, and his men, would not take it. Edward Gabkwet ,an Air Commodore and Director , NAF, Public Relations and Information had reported that the AirForce Jet fighter AF475, disappeared from the radar with two Crew members on board on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 and might have crashed in an undisclosed location.
Given the intensified search for the missing Alpha Jet, the Air Force Authorities are optimistic that the two Crew members of the Alpha fighter Jet would still be found and resued. Gbbkwet, the NAF, spokesperson who had issued a statement had assured other Air Force Pilots that the two Crew members of the Alpha fighter Jet would be rescued to sustain the bombardment of the sambisa forest and the Lake Chad region.
Recall that last February, a NAF, air craft , which was on its way to rescue the 42 people kidnapped by bandits, in the north central state of Minna, but crashed shortly after leaving the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport over alleged engine failure, killing all seven people on board, including the Pilot and Co-pilot.
This is an indication that most of the NAF, Alpha fighting Jets have engine problem and needed to be properly serviced to put aircrafts in good air-worthy condition before taking them on any interdiction mission in the mission in Borno or any part of the country in the future.
Although, the Nigerian soldiers and the MNJTF, are doing everything within their capacity to contain the spread of the activities of the insurgents from spreading to the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and the Central African country of Cameroon but that was how far they could go.
The insurgency which had started in Nigeria in 2009 , had already spread to these neighbouring countries to Nigeria, fueling speculations making the rounds that there those who want to Nigeria to be balkanized.
This is where Presidents Buhari, Paul Biya , Cameroon and Marshall Idris Derby Itno, of Chad Republic, may have to bury their differenes and swallow their pride to work as a Team, to be able to defeat these Jihadists who have crippled the economic activities in their respective countries over the last decade.
Abdulsalami abubakar, a retired Army General and former Head of State , who incidentally is the Chairman of the National Peace Council, NPC, a Non-Profit Organisation, comprising of Rev. Father Kuka, Bishop of SokoDiocese, Aliko Dangote, a business mogul, among others, may have read the handwriting on the wall that there is danger ahead.
As a prelue to the NPC, plnned meeting to address the insecurity situation in the country, Abubakar, was said to have met with the Katsina state born Nigerian President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Fedral Capital Territory, FCT. The duo were said to held a closed door meeting to the high level of insecurity across the country, and the issues discussed remained a closely guided secret as neither Garba Sheu nor Femi Adesina, both Media and Publicity Aide, to the Nigerian President maintained a closed lips to what was discussed at the top level meeting.
Political analysts who have been following the activities of the NPC, over the last six years said the meeting may not be unconnected to the escalating spate of insecurity, banditry, kidnapping, regional agitations, killings of innocent people and other forms of violence across the country.
The retired army General, who had midwifed the fourth Republic, may have sounded a note of warning to the Nigerian President who has been under intense pressure from different quarters to Negotiate with these bandits, described as heartless people in security circles, never to do so.
He has made it clear to those that cares to listen that ‘’Negotiating with the bandits is not the best option to combat banditry in the country but would worsen it.
This may have informed why he has urged the state governors that all hands must be on deck to ensure that the insecurity menace in the country is tackled appropriately. The NPC Chairman may have been forced to speak out after a meeting with the governors in his Minna home, Niger state, last Tuesday. The former military Head of state , who is not over what is happening among the governors was said to have pleaded with to bury their hatchets and work as a Team, to support the Federal government efforts to bring an end to the insecurity situation in the country.
Abubakar, who could not hide his feelings had said that the nation’s security situation is overstretched, noting that the Force, under the close watch of Mohammed Adamu, is underpopulated, an indication that there is need to recruit fresh hands into the Force to strengthen their ability to maintain peace and order in the country.