- Nigerian airspace security is suspected of conniving with terrorists to allow the helicopters go undetected
- NAMA says it has all Nigeria’s airspace covered: Thus, unknown copters should not be able to fly undetected
- Is Nigeria’s north under attack from its government?
NewsRescue-Helicopters have been reported to have been ferrying attackers and weapons around the north of Nigeria, most recently seen in the Katsina genocidal attack that claimed over 100 lives and destroyed whole towns. Choppers have also been seen carrying arms and fighters for Boko Haram in the northeast. Nigeria’s Aviation authorities are being quizzed on how these crafts can possibly be flying unidentified in the nations airspace. Are these army choppers and is that why they fly “undetected?” DailyTrust reports:
Helicopters reportedly flying in bandits and weapons into parts of the North could not have been doing that unless if their operators connive with officials, aviation experts told Daily Trust.
They spoke in the wake of revelations made in the Senate last week that helicopters were seen landing at certain parts of the North, dropping attackers and their weapons.
“We have reports that helicopters were used to ferry the people who carried out attacks. They land in the forest and dropped the attackers,” Senator Abu Ibrahim said last week, days after bandits killed more than 100 people in his zone in Katsina State.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Captain Daniel Omale and Captain Mohammad Joji said with the total radar coverage in Nigeria, there is no way helicopters would come into the country’s airspace undetected.
Captain Omale of the Aviation Resource Service said the recently installed Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) covers the whole of Nigeria’s airspace.
“Each of the TRACON cost the country 60 million euros…. The entire Nigerian airspace is covered,” he said.
“The TRACON in Abuja covers the whole North and parts of our neighbouring countries while the one in Lagos covers the whole South and parts of Benin Republic.
“So how would they use helicopters without these equipment picking them? Anything is possible in this country. Our military are spending 1.3 trillion (naira) on security and yet we are in this problem.”
Omale said apart from the TRACON, the Federal Government years back purchased surveillance aircraft for the Nigerian Immigration Service and the Nigerian Customs Service for aerial patrol.
“About N8bn was spent on the aircraft but now they are rotting away in Kaduna without these organisations using them,” he said.
“If they are truly ferrying weapons and attackers with helicopters, one day they will kill all of us. Let us be honest, what are the military personnel doing despite huge budget?”
For his part, Captain Mohammad Joji, a former Managing Director of the defunct Nigerian Airways, said with total radar coverage there is no way the helicopters would fly in without officials knowing.
He said Nigeria possesses three equipment to pick objects flying in its airspace. Joji, who is the CEO of Skypower Airways, listed them as satellite, radar coverage and surveillance aircraft of the Immigration and Customs.
“From the scope, they can know where the aircraft are coming from, where they are going and what have you,” he said.
“If this thing is happening it means we are in serious danger. Does this means that these equipment are not working? Are our agencies conniving with these people? Answers must be provided for the posers.”
But Managing Director of Finum Aviation Services, Engr. Sheri Kyari, said the lateral component of the radar in Lagos and Abuja are just being installed “so that it can pick any flying object at the height of about 2000 feet. But then helicopters can be extremely difficult to capture if they decide to fly at 1000 feet above ground level, it’s quite difficult to pick.”
Asked if the TRACON presently installed is not capable of picking objects flying at 1000 feet, Kyari said: “It is after they have installed the other component that it is supposed to pick lateral objects, it might but they will still have limitation.”
When contacted, spokesman for the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Mr. Supo Atobatelen, said the installed radar equipment cannot detect low-flying helicopters.
He explained that the radar currently installed is only designed to pick objects high up, “not helicopter that is flying below 9000 feet. The design of that radar can’t pick something that is below 9000 feet or 800 metres. The design of the radar that we have now cannot pick low flying aircraft.”
He said because of the shortcomings in the radar design, NAMA was planning to introduce a system in the Niger Delta area that “will capture low flying aircraft.”
Also, when contacted, spokesman for the Immigration service Chukwuemeka Obuah confirmed that the service’s aircraft are grounded.
“We have two aircraft which we use to carry out our activities before, they are now grounded in Kaduna,” he told Daily Trust by telephone.
“Therefore the issue of border security, especially in the situation the country is presently, surpasses the capability of the Nigerian Immigration service.
“In the operation of the JTF the Comptroller General of Immigration is an administrative head for his officers but the operational command lies with the military.”
Obuah added that there are efforts to tighten the border security.
“Nigeria is on the road to sign some pacts with Cameroon and other neighbours and very soon we might have joint operations with those countries to secure the boarders and hopefully stop the insurgency across the borders,” he said.
Residents in Borno and Yobe villages had been saying they do see helicopters dropping weapons and other supplies to insurgents operating in the areas.
Daily Trust learnt also that some people who were once held in Boko Haram bases had also related the stories of helicopters landing and taking off at the camps, providing arms and ammunition to the insurgents.
When contacted for comments on the claims about helicopters ferrying in weapons, Director of Defence Information Major General Chris Olukolade said in a text message on Thursday: “The relevant security and intelligence network in the country are already working on this information. The extent of the effort cannot be the subject of news or public discourse for now please.”