An investigative journalist has revealed that many Nigerians are not happy with the Air Force over its handling of the war against Boko Haram.
A recent directive by the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for Sambisa Forest, the stronghold of the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists, to be cleared by the Military, has drawn the anger from different quarters of the country.
Many Nigerians are disappointed in the Air Force and blame it for the continued existence of the Boko Haram terror group.
According to investigations by an Abuja based journalist, Dave Agbo, the anger against the Forces is not unconnected with its inability to make meaningful contribution to the counter-terrorism war against Boko Haram, which citizens expected would have been the case since the Air Force first failed to locate a convoy of dozens of Hilux Pickups that ferried away school girls that were abducted in Chibok over three years ago.
"The terror group continue to shuttle between Nigeria and neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, often using convoys that are visible from the sky.
The practice for the Air Forces of countries with similar security challenge is 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 [IS] terrorists, who become easy targets for Syrian and Iraqi troops in the aftermath of airstrikes from Russian and American aircraft.
Airstrikes launched by the Nigerian Airforce has not yielded such benefits. Claims that it has hit terrorist targets are called into question within a short time as they [Boko Haram] are able to advance without the ground troops being able to ambush them.
Revelations by locals are that the service may be wasting ammunitions as some of the air strikes usually target abandoned and disused structures in Sambisa Forest.
One of the locals who volunteered only his first name, Adamu, for fear of being identified, noted that it is not unusual for aircraft to repeatedly pound the same location even when there is no sign of life.
Adamu noted thus:
'We see empty shacks, abandoned places, and the next thing is that aircraft will come and drop bombs. 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 these people will drop bombs and nothing will rot.
You look up to 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.'
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has, however, refused to accept the damning verdict of citizens. A source at NAF Headquarters who is a close confidant of Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar revealed that the recent escalation of media presence by the CAS was part of recommended public relations effort to repair the battered image of the service.
"We are aware of how Nigerians feel about the 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 said.
Air Marshal Abubakar had publicly shrugged off the possibility of the Air Force facing any challenges when he ordered, on September 1, 2017, that the Sambisa Forest should be completely cleared out.
"We must redouble our efforts to make sure that we cleanse the forest before they even come out to do harm," he had declared.
"His reference to Boko Haram coming out of Sambisa Forest to do harm addressed incidents in the past when terrorists easily overran Air Force bases in attacks that were blamed on poor leadership.
The Chief of Air Staff had in turn passed on the blame. He 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 defense concept.'
But another source in the Armed Forces warned that the decreased capacity of the Air Force under the leadership of Air Marshal Abubakar is mostly responsible for Boko Haram's ability to continue carrying out attacks.
The source queried how it was possible for the Air Force to have resources to clear Sambisa Forest when it had not deployed these same resources for aerial surveillance and relay the information gathered from such exercises to ground troop that is in a better position to neutralize the terrorists.
The source said:
'If the air support were what it should be, the kind of Boko Haram ambush that killed several persons at the University of Maiduguri and abducted members of the 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 had 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."