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$1bn military helicopters: US trainers to spend two years in Nigeria

he United States Government has said the implementation of its proposed sale of 12 AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopters to Nigeria will require the deployment of three of its representatives or those of the contractors to reside in the country for two years for the purposes of training and logistics.

The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, on Thursday, said in a statement on its website titled, ‘Nigeria – AH-1Z Attack Helicopter Related FMS Acquisitions’, that the notice of the potential sale was required by law and that Congress had been notified of the possible transaction.

It said the State Department had “made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale to the Government of Nigeria of AH-1Z attack helicopter related FMS acquisitions and related equipment for an estimated cost of $997m.”The statement named the principal contractors as Bell Helicopter, Textron, Fort Worth, TX; and General Electric Company, Lynn, MA, saying the proposed sale would better equip Nigeria to contribute to shared security objectives, promote regional stability and build interoperability with the US and other western partners.

On the need to deploy representatives of either the US government or the contractors in Nigeria, the statement partly read, “Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of US Government or contractor representatives to Nigeria for mobile training teams and contract logistics support.

“The case will include special training on the law of armed conflict and human rights, and air-to-ground integration to minimise civilian harm in air operations. This proposed sale will also require multiple trips by US Government and contractor representatives to participate in programme and technical reviews plus training and maintenance support in the country, on a temporary basis, for a period of five years.

“It will also require approximately three contractor support representatives to reside in the country for a period of two years to support this programme.”

Meanwhile, the statement pointed out that the cost of the equipment could eventually reduce, depending on certain variables, adding, “The description and dollar value is for the highest estimated quantity and dollar value based on initial requirements. Actual dollar value will be lower depending on final requirements, budget authority, and signed sales agreement(s), if and when concluded.”

Security experts hail move

Some security experts, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, hailed the proposed acquisition, saying it could be a game-changer in the onslaught against terrorists. They said it would also enhance the capability of the military to deal decisively with the bandits-turned-terrorists, especially since the authorities appeared unwilling to deploy the Super Tucano jets against them.

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the sale includes the Bell-made Cobras; 28 General Electric-made T700-401C engines (24 installed, four spares); 2,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System used to convert unguided missiles into precision-guided missiles; M197 20mm machine gun; Night Vision Cueing Display; commercial variant GPS with Standard Positioning Service; communication equipment; electronic warfare systems; AN/AVS-9 Aviator’s Night Vision Imaging System and targeting and navigation systems. It also includes $25m for institutional and technical assistance to the Nigerian Armed Forces.

Reports had indicated that the US State Department approved the sale of military hardware to Nigeria after lawmakers lifted their objections over human rights concerns.

An intelligence and security risk management consultant, Kabir Adamu, noted that the nature of the threat elements in Nigeria required air capability that was ideal for urban warfare and precision-style interdiction attacks.

“These two requirements can be met by combat helicopters. This is in addition to meeting the requirement for rapid response as part of a light force capability that all modern military and security forces should have. I, therefore, welcome this acquisition and see it as a possible game-changer in the current conflict dynamics in the country,” he stated.

Adamu noted that drones would be a good addition to the military arsenal, both for intelligence gathering and the fact that there were multiple theatres of conflict the military was engaged in.

A former Director of the Department of State Services, Mike Ejiofor, said the attack choppers were good, but they must be put into effective use, especially in the North-West and North-Central, where there had been massive kidnappings and killings since the terrorists relocated from the North-East.He added, “Who knows when it is coming? If it’s something that is ready for delivery soon, it is fine. But the question is; where are the Tucano jets we bought earlier? However, they should help us in operating these platforms. We also need effective drones.

“The greatest challenge we have is that we can’t quickly locate them (terrorists) when they are coming; the Air Force could bomb them on their way, but that has not happened. What they have been doing is to come within an area view and tell us that a number of persons have been killed.”

The Chief Executive Officer, Agent X Security Limited, Timothy Avele, also said the choppers and drones would help in the fight against terrorism.

He said, “It’s a good move. I will advise that they should be used mainly as a quick response force immediately. They should be used especially in Kaduna, Niger Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto states, and other emerging volatile zones. It should be noted that, for better results, long endurance, all-weather drones for 24/7 aerial surveillance and monitoring must be used to complement these helicopters and of course, human intelligence is necessary too.”

A retired US Army Captain and security consultant, Bishop Johnson, said the Nigeria Air Force must be careful with the deployment of the attack helicopters to minimise collateral damage.

He stated, “With these kinds of military packages from the United States, they are usually very specific on how this equipment, especially aircraft, should be deployed. The most important factor they usually consider is that the aircraft is not used against innocent Nigerians and is not used to commit human rights violations.

“Other than that, I think they should be deployed where necessary and where they can add value to the Nigerian Air Force to tackle the security challenges Nigeria is facing right now.”

He said the Air Force had in recent times been more careful not to kill innocent persons, noting that the deployment would normally be based on operations and intelligence received.

Another security expert, Oladele Fajana, urged the military to ensure that the rights of people were not violated and that innocent persons were not killed.

“Without getting rid of these terrorists, Nigeria will not have peace; so, if those things can be hastened and delivered to Nigeria, they should be deployed immediately, because this war is not a conventional one. The enemies are within. The security personnel alone can no longer fight this war. We need technology. If deployed, they’re going to help,” he stated.

Also, a security consultant, Mr Yemi Adeyemi, said the military would need to exercise care in the way it handles the fighter helicopters when they finally arrive in Nigeria. “The Air Force should be careful so they don’t harm innocent lives. It is a delicate matter, which is why they should always be trained and retrained on how to tackle this war,” he added.

However, a Fellow of the International Institute of Professional Security and certified golden member of the International Security Association, Switzerland, Jackson Olalekan-Ojo, said all the government needed was the political will to flush out terrorists from Nigeria and not the acquisition of fighter helicopters.

He stated, “This is a colossal waste of our resources because it does not matter the kind of arms and ammunition you import into this country; the most important thing is the willpower to fight these insurgents. If they bring these fighter helicopters into this country, they still need the instruction of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Buhari, to deploy them.

“If there is no political will, they will bring in the helicopters and dump them in one of the Air Force bases. It is a way to siphon money to run the elections. Why are they serious about getting these helicopters now? It is a strategy to embezzle money, because they know it is in the defence sector that no one probes their finances.”

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