Drones are unmanned, remotely controlled aerial vehicles fitted with guns and missile launchers.
Investigations in the last two weeks showed that northerners in North-West and North-East regions are worried about the presence of the drone base in Niger Republic and the implications of likely drone attacks on Boko Haram targets in their states. This, it was learnt, was the reason behind the current pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan to grant amnesty to the insurgents.
Many Arewa leaders are said to be particularly worried that recent killing of foreigners and increasing kidnapping of expatriates may in due course justify international intervention in the ongoing Islamic insurgency in northern Nigeria.
Niger Republic has just announced the arrival of US MQ-1B Predator unmanned drone aircraft on its territory. The spokesman of the Nigerien government, Marou Amadou, was quoted as saying that the American drones would enhance the capacity of Niger in terms of intelligence and help combat the threat of Boko Haram Islamists operating in Northern Nigeria.
“It is very crucial for us to possess this kind of aircraft to better secure our borders. Our intelligence capacities are very weak,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.
Amadou added that without the drones and the reconnaissance flights, the Nigerien army would not be able to ensure the security of the border, which is a large one and not far from where the Malian military operations are currently carried out.
Security experts had variously reported that the drone aircraft had extensive coverage area, a capability said to have put the entire northern Nigeria under coverage of the sophisticated unmanned craft.
The reality of drone station next door is also said to be known to many in the North as Aljazeera television, said to be the most popular in the region, covers drone warfare in Pakistan on regular basis.
Saturday Tribune investigations further showed that leaders from the North had calculated that an amnesty for the Islamists would facilitate the resolution of the insurgency and thus save the region any future possibility of drone action on Nigerian territory, with or without the approval of the Nigerian government.
A leader from the region, who spoke with the Saturday Tribune on Thursday, noted that while the United States cannot treat Nigeria like Pakistan or Yemen, “nothing can be put off the table if the insurgency continues,” adding “that is why we are worried.”
While the American government has described the drone craft in Niger as unarmed, the gradual expansion of its military activities around Nigeria is seen as encircling Nigeria from both Niger and Cameroonian sides. A contingent of American military just commenced joint exercise with the Cameroonian armed forces.
It was reported that Islamic militants are operating in Northern Cameroon with a Cameroonian Boko Haram commander. Recently, some French citizens were kidnapped in northern Cameroon and taken to northern Nigeria.
The climate of fear in the North is said to have been compounded by a statement credited to the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Terence McCuley, that Islamists move freely between Nigeria and northern Mali – regarded as an indirect comparison between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The ambassador, who did not elaborate on the utility of drones vis-a-vis Nigeria and Niger Republic, was also said to have confirmed many official reports linking the Nigerian Boko Haram with al-Qaida international networks.
“The drone thing is a source of concern. We want the insurgency to end to avoid this drone problem. We are in a bad state already; we don’t want it to get worse,” a moderate Islamist from Bauchi said.
culled from Tribune