Punch Newspaper - There are strong indications that the United States government may launch attacks against Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East, as a drone base being constructed in the Niger Republic would soon be completed.
According to reports, the American drone base is under construction in Agadez, a town in Niger.
The facility is expected to offer US military, greater ability to use drones against Islamist extremists in countries like Libya, Mali and Nigeria.
But some security experts told SUNDAY PUNCH that such drone attacks against insurgents in the North might kill innocent people.
The project, considered to be the United State’s most important military construction effort in Africa, according to secret files obtained by an online medium, The Intercept, will gulp $100m.
The construction of the base is an indication that the US is paying more attention to terrorist groups in Nigeria and other countries on the African continent.
“As the only country in the region willing to allow a US base for MQ-9 Reapers — a newer, larger, and potentially more lethal model than the venerable Predator drone — Niger has positioned itself to be the key regional hub for US military operations, with Agadez serving as the premier outpost for launching intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions against a plethora of terror groups,” The Intercept said.
The Americans have for years operated an air base in Niamey, Niger’s capital, but in September 2014 the US African Command announced plans to build a drone facility for “Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.”
The documents obtained by The Intercept and made available online stated, “The top MILCON [military construction] project for USAFRICOM is located in Agadez, Niger to construct a C-17 and MQ-9 capable airfield.
“Remotely Piloted Aircraft presence in Africa supports operations against seven (Department of State)-designated foreign terrorist organisations.
“Moving operations to Agadez aligns persistent ISR to current and emerging threats over Niger and Chad, supports French regionalisation and extends range to cover Libya and Nigeria.”
Reacting to the development, a member of the American Society of Industrial Security, Prof. Femi Adegbulu, told SUNDAY PUNCH that there was a possibility of collateral damage, should the US launch drone attacks against Boko Haram in the North.
He said, “There are two sets of drones, one for surveillance and the other for attacks. A reconnaissance drone is used for intelligence gathering, while the other kind of drone is used for attacks. There is no 100 per cent accuracy in warfare.
“You lose lives, money, time, and resources. The possibility of collateral damage cannot be ruled out, especially since Boko Haram terrorists are known to use humans as shields when attacked.”
Similarly, a former Director, Department of State Services, Mike Ejiofor, told one of our correspondents that he was concerned about the US military’s plan to launch attacks against Boko Haram from Niger.
“I am worried that the US military will be making such efforts to launch attacks against Boko Haram from outside Nigeria. If the US did not get the nod from the Federal Government to establish its drone base in the country, how could the US military launch attacks against Boko Haram from Niger Republic?”
When the spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, Mr. Charles Nwodo, was contacted at 3pm, he asked one of our correspondents to give him till 6pm to respond to the story.
However, when he was called again at 6pm, he did not pick the calls placed to his telephone line. Also, Nwodo had yet responded to a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.