The recently held International Air Power seminar that was organised by the Nigerian Air Force, was an opportunity to deepen collaboration with allies, as over 20 forces from all over the world gathered in Nigeria to discuss and find practical ways to reinvigorate the fight against insurgency given the changing dynamics of warfare. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports
Without a doubt, the war against insurgency has gone beyond conventional warfare. Inevitably, the military keeps brainstorming on
and test-running various dynamics to counter such acts of insurgency. One of such measures was the recently held International Air Power seminar organised by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), which was an opportunity to engage allies from other nations, who have conquered or are also battling insurgency.
Although the maiden event might have come and gone, the gains still lingers in the minds of the participants, who were drawn from 20 countries of the world including
Pakistan, Jordan, the United States of America, Great Britain, Morocco, Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroun,
amongst several others.
It would be stating the obvious to note that the NAF is  constantly striving to maintain it’s strategic advantage through the evolution of new strategies for the employment of air power to more effectively prosecute the ongoing war against insurgency/terrorism in the North-east of Nigeria, as well as curb acts of criminality in other parts of the country.
With this imperative firmly in view, the NAF on November 19, 2018, organised a three-day International Air Power Seminar at the NAF Officers’ Mess and Suites, Kado, Abuja. The theme of the Seminar was “Air Power in Irregular Warfare: a Framework for Understanding and Responding”. The first of its kind in the country, the seminar attracted air power experts from around the globe who brainstormed with Nigeria’s foremost air power practitioners to develop innovative approaches for dealing with the challenges of irregular warfare and how air power  could be employed to address these challenges.
According to NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodire Ibikunle Daramola, immediately after the event was declared open, the president, in company of other dignitaries, toured the historical photo gallery, which displayed pictures showcasing the activities and achievements of the NAF over the years.
Two papers were presented after the Opening Ceremony. The first paper titled “The Role of National Power in Irregular Warfare” was delivered by Professor Usman Tar, from the Nigerian Defence Academy. The second paper, which was presented by Major General Yousef Al-Hnaity, the Commander of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, was on topic “Understanding Irregular Warfare and its Challenges to Air Power Application”.
The event, which had representatives from about 20 allied air forces, also featured a cultural night at the end of day one that  showcased Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage, while days two and three featured the presentation of papers from other air power professionals and security experts from Nigeria and other parts of the world.
Fighting Insurgency
While declaring the seminar open, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was also the Special Guest of Honour, commended the leadership of the NAF for bringing together air power  practitioners from all over the world to Nigeria to discuss and find practical ways to reinvigorate the fight against insurgency.
He noted that the seminar is quite timely, in that, since the outbreak of the Boko Haram crisis in the North-east of Nigeria, the NAF and indeed the Armed Forces of Nigeria have been engaged in conducting counter insurgency operations that have challenged the services’ doctrine, tactics, training, Order of Battle and Force Protection architecture.
According to him “seminars like this are necessary for Armed Services like the NAF to draw from the experiences of other armed forces that have either previously or are currently engaged in counter insurgency operations”.
The president, who used the opportunity to canvass for the “whole of the nation approach” for a successful counterinsurgency operation, noted that there must be unity of efforts across multiple Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Optimum Utilisation of Resources
Earlier in his opening address, the Honourable Minister of Defence (HMOD), Mansur Dan-Ali, extolled the  contributions of the NAF in the defence of the territorial integrity of Nigeria, while noting that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) was not unaware of both the kinetic and non-kinetic efforts the NAF has been expending in support of the counterinsurgency operations, which he stressed have been instrumental in curtailing the insurgents and making life more meaningful for the victims. The HMOD also seized the opportunity to reaffirm the readiness of the ministry  to continue to ensure the optimum utilisation of resources in the procurement of equipment and other requirements for the services in prosecuting the counterinsurgency operations.
He also used the opportunity to thank all officers, airmen and airwomen of the NAF for the consistent and professional manner in which they have been handling all the operations in which they are involved. He added that the International Air Power Seminar perfectly fits into the MOD’s vision of ensuring synergy and cooperation, not just within the services but across MDAs, in support of the nation’s political objectives.
Changing Dynamics of Warfare
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who welcomed dignitaries to the event, stated that the hosting of the maiden edition of the NAF International Air Power Seminar was necessitated by the security situation in Nigeria, the rapidly changing dynamics in the international arena and the evolving approach to warfare, which requires careful understanding of the threats and response options available for the projection of air power in addressing national security imperatives.  According to him, the changing character of warfare has emphasised the need for a change in the way armed forces approach warfare engagements.
“While the engagement in conventional or regular warfare remains a possibility, the global predominant threat to nations has become more irregular in nature”, he added. Air Marshal Abubakar took the opportunity to thank the Federal Government of Nigeria for creating the enabling environment for the enthronement of professionalism in the service, which has led to  enhanced operational effectiveness as well as the optimisation of local technology through research and development.
Deepening Collaboration
At the end of the three-day seminar, which attracted air power  practitioners and security experts from about 20 allied countries, lived up to its billing as it provided an avenue for fruitful interactions, exchange of ideas and analysis of the major issues built around three broad strands of Public Policy Making; Air Power Application as well as Training for and Ethical Application of Air Power, resulting in comprehensive resolutions on how to more effectively employ air power in irregular warfare.
In his remarks at the closing ceremony, the CAS expressed delight that the objectives of the seminar  had largely been achieved. He conveyed his profound gratitude to all participants, especially the heads of the air forces of the invited countries and presenters of papers, as well as former Nigerian Chiefs of Defence and Air Staff and other retired senior officers who attended the event.
He especially thanked the delegations from partner countries like Pakistan, Jordan, the United States of America, Great Britain, Morocco, Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroun, among others, for their continued support which had contributed in no small measure to the successes recorded in the fight against insurgency.
Abubakar also pointed out that, as firmly established, the war on terror was not local but global. Hence, the consequences of not adequately dealing with the irregular threat posed by Boko Haram would not only have negative effects on Nigeria and the West African Sub-Region but would also affect other parts of Africa and the rest of the world.
He said this underscored the need for international collaboration and cooperation between Armed Services and nations across the globe to adequately and decisively deal with the threat. He therefore solicited for increased support from developed nations, including the removal of bureaucratic bottle-necks that often hinder speedy acquisition of much needed military equipment and spares which are critical to enhancing capabilities to more effectively prosecute the war against insurgency.
The CAS also seized the opportunity to thank the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the National Assembly for providing the necessary resources that had enabled the NAF improve its operational effectiveness and efficiency within the past 3 years.
Chairman’s Remark
The Chairman, Organising Committee of the Seminar, Air Vice Marshal Charles Otegbade, expressed sincere gratitude to all delegates from the invited countries for their immense contributions towards ensuring that the NAF enhances its Air Power application in combating the irregular threats facing the nation. He also appreciated the CAS for continually providing leadership and resources for the enhancement of professionalism and efficiency in the service.
The epoch making seminar featured 10 presentations in five sessions delivered by presenters from countries with similar threat situations as Nigeria as well as two  specialist presenters. Each session was followed by an open and candid discussions, which led to the articulation of practicable solutions to identified problems. Some of these include, the need for greater exploitation of defence diplomacy, improvement in intelligence gathering capability as well as the need for adoption of measures to deny adversaries the use of the cyber space to generate and disseminate fake news.
Others were on the need for investment in more precision strike capabilities and unmanned aerial vehicle technologies, sustainment of Research and Development (R&D) efforts towards developing indigenous solutions to meet equipment needs for irregular warfare, enhancement of guidelines on the ethical implications of employing air power in irregular warfare and emphasis on integration of training involving personnel of all arms of the Armed Services to engender Air-Ground Integration.