In a move targeted at effectively stamping out the Boko Haram insurgency in the country, the Nigerian Army has started taking delivery of critical equipment, some of which include two sophisticated helicopter gunships with in-built night vision technology capable of neutralising the nocturnal manoeuvres of the deadly terrorist group.
Sources within the presidency told THISDAY that the special choppers come with night vision technology to enable soldiers monitor and take out the insurgents who move mainly at night to carry out their dastardly acts.
The helicopters, THISDAY learnt, are some of the highly sophisticated military and surveillance aircraft that have been ordered by the Federal Government.
The source explained: “The two helicopters, which are very expensive and boast of the latest technology were ordered for the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
“In fact, we now have the latest aircraft for surveillance and intelligence gathering. More of these weapons are on their way but these (helicopters) are for urgent purposes. I can assure you that more equipment are coming, serious ones,” the source said.
Confirming the arrival of new equipment, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, at a public function yesterday hinted that government was enhancing the capacity of the Nigerian Army to fight terrorism, with the procurement of more sophisticated equipment.
He said the army was adopting new measures to up the ante of its counter-insurgency in the North-east, adding that “a lot of gains have been made in the various operations.
“Yes, we have equipment and the federal government is also introducing fresh and newer equipment for us...”
To give more teeth to its arsenal against the terrorist groups, THISDAY also learnt that Nigerian Army is finalising the training of the newly formed 143rd Infantry Battalion, which has been set up as a “special elite force” to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency.
THISDAY had exclusively reported last month that Special Forces troops from the California Army National Guard (CNG) are currently in Nigeria training a newly formed infantry battalion designed specifically to counter the threat from Boko Haram.
According to one CNG Special Forces soldier who spoke on the condition of anonymity, a total of 12 California Guard soldiers from two Los Alamitos-based Special Forces units — Special Operations Detachment–US Northern Command and Company A, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) are involved in a two-month mission, the first is a three-phase plan to assist in the establishment of the battalion.
The Nigerian army’s 143rd Infantry Battalion which was formed from the ground up within the past few months, is said to be “a classic Special Forces mission — training an indigenous force in a remote area in an austere environment to face a very real threat”.
This was recently confirmed by a top military source who said that the training had reached an advanced stage at a location in Niger State.
According to the source: “The 143rd is receiving special training, kitting and equipment from the NA and US Army in Kontagora.”
The source revealed that the new battalion will help to form the core of the elite and strike force currently undergoing training in different parts of the country.
“The US is not the only country involved in this, the Israelis and other allies are also helping in various technical, tactical and operational training in the areas of intelligence, weapons handling and in general counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations,” another security source explained.
THISDAY also gathered that there is already a strike force in place in Borno State, specially trained for the possible rescue of the Chibok girls and other daring actions against Boko Haram terrorists.
The strike force was immediately put together in the aftermath of the girls’ kidnapping and the arrival of foreign military experts working alongside Nigerian security forces.
Minimah, on the other hand, yesterday added that contrary to the belief in some quarters, the ongoing military operations against the Boko Haram Islamic Sect in the North-east, does not involve foreign troops.
Minimah made this clarification yesterday at the opening ceremony of The COAS 3rd Quarter Conference 2014, which is the first under his leadership, with General Officers Commanding (GOCs) and other Operational Commanders.
Speaking to journalists against the backdrop of the popular belief that troops from the US, UK, France, Israel, and China were fighting alongside Nigerian soldiers to rescue the over 200 students of Chibok , he said: “There are no foreign troops on the ground.
Minimah added: “What the foreign nations are doing is sharing of intelligence with the Nigerian armed forces, noting that the military operations, were not being complemented by foreign troops.
“The foreign partners have not come with boots on ground; they have come to share some level of intelligence with us.”
The COAS also frowned at what he described as “the rising acts of indiscipline and unprofessional conduct by troops”, recalling the attempted mutiny by troops in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, against the then GOC 7 Division, Major-General Ahmadu Mohammed.
Minimah warned that “as a professional army, the conduct of our troops must be above board at all times”.
Accordingly, he directed all unit and operational commanders “to put measures in place to check acts of indiscipline and misconduct by personnel under their commands”.
On reported incidents of desertion, Minimah insisted that “desertion is part of warfare”, adding, “We must accept that desertions will continue to be there, we had desertions during the Nigerian civil war, ECOMOG and now, it will continue with this war.”
He also debunked claims that soldiers had destroyed some BRT buses in Lagos, blaming the incident on hoodlums.