What We Saw In Sambisa Forest – BBOG
The Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement, whose members joined local and foreign media organizations on a guided tour of the Sambisa Forest, has given an account of what it saw. The Federal Government delegation on tour, which held on 16 and 17 January, was led by the Ministers of Defence and Information.
The BBOG delegation was led by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili (Co-convener), who was accompanied by Aisha Yesufu, Ibrahim Usman and Dr. Manasseh Allen, representative, Chibok Community and uncle to some of the girls abducted by Boko Haram from Government Secondary School, Chibok, by on 14 April 2014.
The account of the group’s observations was contained in a report jointly signed by the four members of its delegation to Sambisa.
The group reported that members of its delegation interacted with the leadership of the Nigerian Air Force, which enabled them to assess the quality of Air Force personnel and were impressed with what they saw.
“We can confirm that the air component of the counterinsurgency war is being prosecuted by a highly professional, capable, motivated and committed team of the Nigeria Air Force (NAF).
Furthermore, the presentation by the Chief of Air Staff on the training and human capital development strategy of the NAF enabled us to appreciate its plans for the future. We saw that Data, Knowledge and Information Analysis play a significant role in the strategy of the Nigerian Air Force prosecuting the air component of the war. Our exposure to the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform and the technical room of NAF indicated the level of adoption of technology in the prosecution of the war,” said the report.
The BBOG team also said it was presented with data on the growing fleet of ISRs, fighter jets, helicopter gunships and other tools and equipment available to prosecute the air component of the war by NAF. It similarly claimed to have observed the synergy between the NAF and the Nigerian Army, which prosecutes the ground component of the war.
“We were provided data and imagery evidence to show that the search for our Chibok Girls and other abducted citizens is a daily activity by NAF. The data sheet showing the summary of all search operations was displayed with the following key data points over the last eighteen months by NAF: Total Missions to Sambisa General Area–2,105, Number of Sorties— 3,534, Time/Hour of flight— 6,323, Fuel Cost: Over N2.4 billion,” added the report.
According to the group, the day sortie (the three-hour search flight on the ISR platform in which the delegation participated on 16 January) had them being flown at as low as 15,000 feet. This said the BBOG enabled its members to see the theater of war in Sambisa and to clearly observe activities on the ground via the technology platform within the aircraft.
“We observed cases of human movement and saw a woman running with a child. When our Day Sortie report was later analyzed, it showed that 14 women were gathered around a suspicious location which the NAF designated as the “Tree of Life” because it has been suspecting enemy movement around that spot. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) stated that they would probe the result further with their army colleagues in order to determine the appropriate response,” the report stated. For the night sortie, which took place at 2.41 AM on 17 January, the group experienced a similar flight search of the theater of war like it did during the day.
“We were told by the NAF that until the acquisition of more equipment by our military since July 2015, the terrorists used to be most active at night time as darkness offered them advantage. It was usually during the night that they moved their captives who are mostly women, girls and children across locations. Interestingly, our Night Sortie only revealed one movement on the ground– an animal foraging for food,” the group disclosed.
The searches, it explained, also enable the NAF to sight enemy activities and to determine appropriate response jointly with the Nigerian Army. It added that the NAF presentation revealed its missions in which it sighted Boko Haram terrorists (BHT) as well as abducted persons fleeing from their captors, especially during the operation that led to the capture of Camp Zairo. “For example, some dates on which sightings were made are Kangarwa: 1st and 6th January, Dogon Chiku: 6th January and Chikun Gudu: 8th, 10th, 12th and 16th January,” said the BBOG report.
In addition, the report said data trends such as the level of NAF’s equipment and their direct impact on the volume of observed enemy activities within the Sambisa General Area proved the correlation between adequate resourcing of the troops and results.
It added that the delegation’s flight into the Sambisa General Area on the ISR platform showed low suspected enemy activities compared to the data of previous year. The group explained that it has acquired a better grasp of a key military language like the celebrated “capture of Camp Zairo”, which it and the general public previously construed to mean the capture of the entire vast land of Sambisa General Area.
“We now also know that the capture of Camp Zairo is significant because it used to be the operational base of the terrorists. With its capture, the military has achieved a major degradation of the capacity of the terrorists to launch attacks on our country.
“We became aware that our troops must remain in Sambisa General Area which the NAF data presented as 60,000 square kilometers and equivalent to 18 times the size of Lagos.