In a bid to up the ante in the unconventional warfare against insurgency and other forms of violent extremisms, the Nigerian Air Force recently inaugurated its Geospatial Intelligence Data Centre in Abuja, Chiemelie Ezeobi writes
These days, the war against terror is intelligence driven as against use of brawn. This is because today’s warfare has become unconventional, and as such, best tackled with intelligence in contrast to physical strength. World over, militaries keep deciphering methods to keep abreast of insurgents and terrorists alike. One of such method is the Geospatial Intelligence otherwise known as GEOINT.
Although much ado has been said about Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) method, most militaries have moved past that to the GEOINT, which according to Wikipedia is the intelligence discipline comprising the exploitation and analysis of geospatial data and information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features (both natural and constructed) and geographically referenced activities on the earth.
On the other hand, some militaries compliment the efforts of ISR with GEOINT, because the former cannot totally be done away with given its inherent qualities.
However, the importance of GEOINT can’t be understated too, little wonder the United States has championed its use to gather intelligence about the human activity on earth. Also according to Wikipedia, although this was begun by the US government, today, the knowledge and related tradecraft is no longer confined to the U.S. government, or even the world’s leading military powers.
Still on this, Wikipedia stated that GEOINT data sources include imagery and mapping data, whether collected by commercial satellite, government satellite, aircraft (such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [UAV] or reconnaissance aircraft), or by other means, such as maps and commercial databases, census information, GPS waypoints, utility schematics, or any discrete data that have locations on earth.
There is growing recognition that human geography, socio-cultural intelligence, and other aspects of the human domain are a critical domain of GEOINT data due to the now pervasive geo-referencing of demographic, ethnographic, and political stability data.
Keying into this, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), on March 19, 2019, joined the world powers in the acquisition of geospatial intelligence. On the said date, they inaugurated a new state-of-the-art Geospatial Intelligence Data Centre (GIDC) at the Headquarters NAF in Abuja.
According to the Director of Public Relations, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, the GIDC is to further enhance the ongoing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) efforts in the North-east and other parts of Nigeria.
He said the centre, which is equipped with high-tech computer hardware and software, would improve NAF capacity for acquisition, exploitation, analysis and interpretation of imagery and geospatial information to provide actionable intelligence for the Armed Forces and other security agencies.
Value for Security Agencies
At the inauguration, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin, who was the guest of honour, commended the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for the laudable initiative. He stated that the new centre would undoubtedly add value to the efforts of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) in better securing the country and making it a safer place for all.
He also expressed delight with the readiness of the NAF to make the products of the centre available not only to the AFN but also to other security agencies like the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), who could use it to determine old and new border crossing points used by illegal immigrants or smugglers.
The CDS also noted that the centre could not have come into being at a more auspicious time than now with various areas of disturbance in the country, while adding that it was indeed a testimony of prudent management of resources by the leadership of the NAF.
Spectrum of Operations
While making his remarks, the CAS, Air Marshal Abubakar, stated that the establishment of the NAF GIDC was as a result of the resolve of the service to continue to build capacity across the spectrum of operations so as to bring the fight against terrorism and other forms of criminality in the country to an end as soon as possible.
He reiterated that the centre would employ and deploy satellite and other cutting edge technologies, including sophisticated and high-value computer software, to gather and analyse data to produce intelligence in support of NAF and joint operations across the country.
The CAS added that, in its effort to operate at par with militaries all over the world, the NAF embarked on the worthwhile endeavour by leapfrogging from traditional means of intelligence gathering to the use of space-borne platforms in the production of actionable intelligence for operational effectiveness.
He said: “The Nigerian Air Force has been in the forefront of the ongoing counter-insurgency/counter terrorism operation in the North East and other internal security operations in various parts of the country. One of the key areas in which the NAF has been playing a vital role in these operations is information gathering through the employment of Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Platforms.
“NAF has recorded tremendous successes in this area over the years; albeit with some challenges. Key among the challenges is the huge resources expended on daily basis in purchase of aviation fuel in our effort to maintain a steady eye over our vast areas of interest. Other challenges include weather constraints and the difficulties in flying over some of the areas.
“Now we are gathered here to witness the commissioning of the Nigerian Air Force Geospatial Intelligence Data Centre. This project is dear to our heart as it has been our foremost desire to continue to build capacity across the spectrum of operations. The Geospatial Intelligence Data Centre that is being commissioned today is an effort to overcome many of the challenges being encountered.
“The centre would employ and deploy satellite and other state of the art technology including sophisticated and high value computer software to gather and analyse data to produce intelligence in support of NAF and joint operations around the country. Military operations globally are becoming more intelligence-driven; hence militaries all over the world take advantage of satellites and other space borne systems in gathering actionable intelligence.
“It is against this backdrop that the Nigerian Air Force embarked on this worthwhile endeavour by leapfrogging from traditional means of intelligence gathering to the use of space-borne platforms in the production of actionable intelligence for operational effectiveness. The NAF Geospatial Intelligence Data Centre is the first of its kind in the Armed Forces of Nigeria and this underscores our commitment towards aligning with global best practices in addressing our peculiar security challenges.
“The centre is expected to support NAF operations as well as collaborate with other security agencies during joint operations and in the area of crisis and disaster management. This is in line with our collective resolve to protect and defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria.”
The CAS, who used the opportunity to express his profound gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his continued support and encouragement to the NAF, also thanked the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, the CDS as well as local and foreign partners, for their collaboration through which the project became a reality, while pledging to continue to build personnel capacity to utilise these equipment, so that they can get the best value for money spent on the facility.
The CDS, CAS and other dignitaries, including the Comptroller-General (CG) of the NCS, Colonel Hameed Ali (retired), were conducted on a guided tour of facilities in the GIDC. One of the highlights of the ceremony was the presentation of one of the products of the centre, printed satellite images of specific areas of interest, to the CDS and CG NCS.