Time for Boko Haram Insurgents to Escape Almost Over – Air Force

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*Says no intelligence can tell you where Chibok girls are

* ‘We won’t bomb Niger-Delta’

Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Paul Obi in Abuja

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) said on Sunday that the war against the Boko Haram insurgency and other acts of terrorism remain on course, and that the time for the terrorists to escape is almost over.

For now, it explained, the Air Force’s main focus is to degrade Boko Haram terrorists and as well destroy their logistics base.

“What we want to achieve is to degrade Boko Haram and destroy their logistics base. Towards the end of the year, it is going to be possible. The time for Boko Haram to escape is almost over,” NAF said.

Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, at an elaborate briefing with Editors in Abuja on the recent activities of the Air Force, took time to shed light on the fight against terrorists in the North East, stating the determination of the military to rout all forms of terrorism against the state.

He said: “Our strategy is to ensure that we degrade the capacity of Boko Haram so that the Army can conduct ground operations. All over the world, air power is very important, so we have to do all that to ensure success.”

He explained that the challenge in ground operations lies in the difficulty in accessing Sambisa Forest, particularly for the Army, “you can see there is the difficulty in covering every inch of Sambisa Forest, we still fly over Sambisa Forest. The terrain is very difficult for the land force, for us we can fly anytime. On a whole, it is difficult to say the place can be occupied now.”

On Chibok girls, Abubakar told the Editors that there was no clear-cut intelligence on the whole matter about the whereabouts of the girls, stressing that the military are working round the clock to find a lasting solution and possibly rescue the Chibok girls.

“There is no intelligence that can specifically tell you that the girls are here or there. Honestly, there is no intelligence; we are working round the clock. When civil societies criticise, they say there is nothing happening. It’s not too nice, we are working, I believe that we will get there,” the Chief of Air Staff said.

He also denied allegations by the Boko Haram sects that the Air Force bombed some of the Chibok girls kidnapped by the sect, “there is no military operation without collateral damage, but what we are saying is that we have taken steps to avoid civilian casualties.”

Abubakar further dispelled speculations about a possible military operation in Niger-Delta, to stop the Niger Delta Avengers and other militants’ activities, particularly, the bombing of oil facilities.

He said while the political approach should be pursue with seriousness, it is incumbent on the military to protect the national assets in the region and across the country.

“Talks are political issues; our own mandate in the constitution is to protect the territory integrity of Nigeria. We already have base there that is supporting the operation. What I can tell you is that we are not going to bomb the Niger-Delta. But we are going to protect the Niger-delta, the people and oil installations,” Abubakar stated.

The Air Force boss said under his watch, the Nigerian Air Force was looking inward, restrategising and focusing on research and development for an effective and efficient Air Force that is capable of withstanding any aggression.

To that effect, the Air Force now has about 25 doctorate degree holders and over 50 master’s degree holders trained abroad on aerospace engineering. He added with this manpower, the Air Force is now partnering with Nigerian universities to train more officers of the Air Force.

“Our research and development project address our aircraft maintenance issue without going abroad, so we need to look inward and save cost. Therefore, research and development is the most important in our quest to innovate and improve our air power,” Abubakar said.